The Stress of Critical Care Nursing
Critical care nursing is challenging. Not only mentally stressful, but physically demanding, it’s ideal for the twenty-something and thirty-something nurses. Yet the average age of an ICU nurse has continually increased in recent years. Today it’s forty-seven or forty-eight. The level of experience of those nurses is phenomenal, and makes one wonder how they are able to keep hanging in there.
Night shift in a critical care unit carries its own set of issues, and a constant sense of fatigue is one. Being tired is one of the hazards of the job and one of the reasons many nurses never adjust to a night shift schedule. On the flip side this is also part of the reason that one of the perks of working nights is a considerable increase in pay, amounting to an extra $5 an hour in most cases. This typically adds up to an extra $10,000 a year, so once a nurse is used to that extra income it can be difficult to give it up. Many night shift nurses remain on that schedule years longer than originally anticipated.
Some hospitals have nurses splitting shifts but typically today critical care nurses work separate shifts, unless they do overtime on the other shift. This is not something that happens often, but in some cases, a nurse can be persuaded to do so.
Even though nurses in a critical care unit are all working toward the same goal, improving patient care, saving lives, and making a difference, a competitive climate frequently exists between the shifts. And this can cause tension sometimes, adding to the stress of critical care nurses. At the end of the day, an in an ideal situation, keeping the patient in focus helps alleviate these issues, but every day is not ideal.