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What role do nurses play in the intensive care unit (ICU)?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The nurse on the critical care team plays a crucial and vital role in the care of a critically ill person. The nurse needs additional education in critical care nursing to care for patients in a critical care environment.  The nurse's job is to carry out treatment orders, prevent complications, serve as advocate for patient and family and is that person who keeps the physician informed in any change in condition. In the typical ICU setting, the nurse usually has one to two patients. These patients often have specialized monitoring equipment, intravenous medication and ventilators to assist breathing. Often the patients are on heavy sedation or unconscious. It is up to the nurse to provide for every need of the patient in addtion to medical treatment such as bathing, feeding brushing teeth, turning, etc.

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

The nurse plays a very important role within the critical care setting. Much of the care delivered while the patient is in the intensive care unit, will be delivered by a nurse. Nurses assess patients and report that their findings to coordinate care. Nurses also recommend changes that impact patients, provide for patients needs, administer medications and prescribed treatments. Evaluation of the patient is a large part of the nurses role.       

The role of the nurses in the intensive care unit (ICU) is to run blood tests, give medicines, change the patients' position to make them more comfortable, bathe them, brush their teeth if they can't do it themselves, and other things. Each person in the ICU has a nurse who just looks after him or her.

ICU nurses can administer sedatives, which are medicines to help people sleep, and painkillers to take away any pain. Nurses will give the right amount of medicines so that people in the ICU are as comfortable as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.