Patients in the neuroscience intensive care unit are in really bad shape. They’ve undergone traumatic experiences with things like spinal cord injuries, aneurisms, neuro-degenerative disease treatment or traumatic brain injury. And they need special attention from the nurses on duty who possess the level of skills necessary to keep them comfortable and alive.
Understand What’s Going On
Nurses working in the neuro-ICU may be able to perform the necessary tests and procedures without any problems, but those that understand why they're doing them are more likely to spot an error or catch vital changes in the patient’s responses. Those nurses who undergo the extra coursework required to earn a certified neuroscience registered nurse credential learn these things, making them more competent and desirable to have in the ICU. Many hospitals require the additional certifications to hold the position or at least prefer candidates with specialized certificates.
Stay on Your Toes
Patients in the neuro-ICU can go from bad to worse in a matter of seconds. While most intensive care units follow a set guideline of how often nurses must check on patients, those with tenuous conditions often need continuous monitoring. The ICU is no place for a nurse who’s easily distracted or forgetful. In addition to being able to recognize sudden or slight changes in breathing or temperature, nurses must react just as quickly when emergencies occur.
Many patients admitted to the neuroscience ICU have difficulty communicating. They may be on a ventilator or partially paralyzed. Nurses can’t always find out the pain level or needs of their patients just by asking. ICU nurses have to develop creative ways to communicate with patients, such as recognizing pain when it happens and asking patients to blink or squeeze their hands. They must be able to clearly tell doctors and other nurses the progress of their patients when shifts change or when asked by doctors that may be streaming in and out of the room. Finally,attending nurses often need to apprise family members of their loved ones’ conditions.
You may or may not have other patients to tend to in the neuro-ICU, but you'll have other duties that may call you away from your patients. At the same time, patients in intensive care need extra-special attention, and even the most qualified, skilled ICU nurse needs help occasionally. Handing off tasks to other nurses or nursing aides takes a special kind of critical thinking skill, especially in the neuro-ICU. Nurses need to have a clear understanding of the patient’s needs and care plan, be able to assess the amount of risk involved in letting someone else do a job and discern how much the interaction may stress the patient.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."