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3 Tips on How to be a Critical Care Nurse for New Grad Nurses

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By Jeris Nichols, BSN RN

I knew from the moment I decided to pursue nursing as a career that I wanted to work in as a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit, better known as ICU, when I graduated.

The prospect of a new job in critical care nursing can be quite intimidating. When taking care of intensive care patients you have to be aware that these patients are inevitably sedated and many will be attached to a ventilator to support their breathing.

Due to the nature of these patients your patient interaction may not be what you think it would be if you were on another unit. It can feel quite unnatural, as the patients usually can’t talk back to you. As we have always been told although they are sedated, patients can potentially still hear you!

“There is a very steep learning curve when trying to figure out if the ICU is right for you…”

The ICU is very different and you will encounter all sorts of medical conditions and equipment that’s not on your general nursing floors. There is a very steep learning curve and when trying to figure out if the ICU is right for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you enjoy constantly challenging myself?
  • Do you handle stress and sudden changes well?
  • Are you confident with interdisciplinary collaborations?
  • Do you enjoy complex situations and being able to think critically to solve problems?

If your answer was yes to these questions then a career in the ICU would most likely be very rewarding.

Applying for an ICU job

Let’s say you already know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ICU is where you want to work. Well, when it comes to applying for these positions as a new grad there are various things to consider and things that could allow you to be at an advantage.

Here are some tips that will be helpful for you in your search for an ICU position as well as helping to secure the job!

Google for that perfect job.

When trying to find positions to apply for make sure you are using phrases such as “New Grad RN ICU,” “New Nurse Residency Program,” or something similar. This helps to narrow your search.

Back yourself with references.

When you are applying to job opportunities that interests you, many will ask you to list references. Since you’re new to and have no prior experience, it is important that you list someone of the following:

  • Dean of your nursing program
  • A clinical instructor that has seen you in clinical
  • A nursing instructor that has taught you
  • A nurse you may have worked with during clinical

Polish that resume.

Your resume will be the only thing that hiring managers look at before they even see you and it will be a huge determining factor as to whether they interview you. Your resume should have a picture of you, one in which stands out among the rest and including this other tips for resume making. Hiring managers love to see if you have dedication and passion for nursing even as a student. Some important things to include on your resume are:

  • Unique skills
  • Any nursing certifications you hold (e.g., BLS, ACLS, etc.)
  • Locations and hours for clinical or your related learning experiences (very important, especially your senior practicum location and hours!)
  • Nursing clubs or organizations you are a member of.

Resumes should be kept clean and to the point. Never sell yourself short and always be confident in yourself and your abilities!

If the ICU is where you want to work I encourage you to pursue your passion, and I hope these tips will be beneficial!


My name is Jay Nichols, a BSN graduate of University of South Carolina. During my undergrad study I was very active in SNA and served as the Community Health Director for SNA-SC. Upon graduation, I moved to Minnesota to pursue my first nursing job in the ICU at the Mayo Clinic. I plan to further my education and become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist! My hobbies include traveling and spending time with my family and friends. I hope to share my experiences as a new graduate, and ICU nurse here on Nurseslabs and be able to provide encouragement to individuals that are interested in nursing.

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