Training to Work in the Intensive Care Unit

Numerous healthcare workers are needed to staff an intensive care unit and treat patients in critical condition. Explore some of the job options in this unit, and check the education, licensure and certification options for several positions. Get info on the specific training you'd receive for working with critically ill or injured patients. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kinds of Intensive Care Training Programs Are Available?

An intensive care unit (ICU) is a well-oiled machine, staffed by a variety of different people that, together, complete a team specially trained in providing care to critically injured patients. As such, there are a variety of careers available to you, including acute care nurse practitioner, physician assistant, physician, surgeon and anesthesiologist. Each is integral to the running of an ICU.

All of these careers require advanced degrees. Both nurse practitioners and physician assistants require master's degrees, and physicians, surgeons and anesthesiologists require not only a doctorate degree, but several years of on-the-job training as well. Additional specialties in critical care, acute care or emergency medicine are also available for all of these careers, often necessitating an additional residency or fellowship for specialization.

Since all these careers require direct interaction with patients, very few, if any, courses are offered online. In all these cases, you will spend time directly in an ICU environment, which must be done in person.

Programs Available Master's and doctorate degrees
Prerequisites At least some undergraduate education, preferably bachelor's degree; work experience for fellowships and residencies; licensure/certification in state where you practice
Common Courses Courses in specialty or subspecialty like cardiopulmonary, pediatrics, or shock-trauma; building on knowledge from previous medical study
Career Prospects After training and certifications, work in an intensive care environment including hospitals or private emergency facilities

What Are the Prerequisites?

All of these careers require you to have at least a few years of undergraduate education, if not an actual bachelor's degree. For example, you will need to be a registered nurse with the equivalent of a bachelor's degree before you will be able to be admitted to a graduate-level nurse practitioner program. In all cases, before you can be admitted to a critical care or emergency medicine specialty you will need to be accredited in the field of your choice.

Most critical care residencies or fellowships assume you already have received your degree and may even have a few years of experience under your belt. Some programs require you to have a few years experience before application. Since many of these professions require you to be certified before you can be licensed in the state where you practice, these programs will also expect you to have passed your certification exams.

Acute care nurse practitioner certifications are proctored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (www.nursecredentialing.org) and physician assistant exams are run by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (www.nccpa.net). Physicians and surgeons must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and may take an additional test from the American Board of Medical Specialties to be certified in a specific subspecialty.

What Will I Learn?

While there is some variety depending on your specialty, you will learn how to work with patients that are critically ill or injured. You may be asked to offer an initial diagnosis and to begin treatment. You may also be in charge of a patient's care from the time they are admitted to when they are discharged, including creating care plans and updating them as necessary. You may be taught a subspecialty, such as cardiopulmonary, pediatrics, or shock-trauma. In all cases, the critical care or emergency medicine training builds upon your previous medical background.

What Can I Do With My Training?

Once you have completed your critical care training and passed any certifications (aside from the above, the American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Surgery and American Board of Internal Medicine offer critical care subspecialty certification upon completion of your fellowship), you will be able to begin work full-time in an intensive care environment, whether it is at a hospital or a private emergency facility. Depending on your specialty, you will be able to work unsupervised, whether it be performing emergency surgery, anesthetizing a patient, or prescribing medication.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Miller-Motte College

    Miller-Motte College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Miller-Motte College:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • The Chicago School

    The Chicago School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The Chicago School:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Howard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
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