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What is an ITU nurse?

Let’s begin by clearing something up: an ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) nurse, an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse and a CCU (Critical Care Unit) nurse have pretty much the same role. They’re caring for patients with an acute (rapid onset) injury or an illness that needs specialist support, including mechanical intervention. ITU nurses will also find themselves caring for post-operative patients.

Typical life-threatening trauma includes head injuries, or gunshot injuries, and burns. Serious acute illnesses may include heart attack (myocardial infarction), stroke, an asthma attack, organ failure, sepsis, and severe pneumonia. Patients with cancer may also be in an ITU as they recover from infection or transplant surgery.

What does an ITU nurse do?

The role and duties of an ITU nurse can vary from unit to unit. But all ITU nurses are fully qualified NMC or NMBI-registered nurses, who specialise in looking after critically ill inpatients. ITU nurses may even be assigned to care for one or two seriously ill patients (such as a patient with complex needs including multi-organ failure and advanced respiratory difficulties who needs the highest level of Level 3 care).

ITU nurse duties can include:

  • Assessment, observation, monitoring and charting of vital signs; care planning, treatment implementation, and patient evaluation
  • Making sure all the medical equipment is working correctly – including ventilators, drains and catheters, as well as IV lines and pumps
  • Communicating effectively and supporting patients, relatives, staff and others
  • Maintaining accurate and comprehensive patient records
  • Acting as a role model to others in the hospital

What training is required?

As a registered adult nurse, with an up-to-date NMC or NMBI registration, an ITU nurse will typically have studied nursing to degree level and completed at least a clinical placement in an intensive care (or high dependency) unit. Having an ITU/Critical Care and/or Mentorship qualification is also helpful. You’ll typically be required to have a theoretical knowledge of acute nursing, as well as a set of technical skills such as discharge planning, the ability to perform CPR, and a working knowledge of the life-support equipment used in an ITU unit.

 Check out the requirements to work with the Scottish Nursing Guild team here.

Where can ITU nurses work?

In the UK and Republic of Ireland, most ITU nurses work in an NHS or HSE Hospital (i.e. in the public sector). However, there are a small number of private hospitals with intensive care beds. The Scottish Nursing Guild works with both private and public sector employers across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. ITU nurses can also support patients living at home with long-term conditions, maintaining a high level of care and helping to avoid hospital admissions.

What makes a good ITU nurse?

Here are just some of the skills that can help you in your career as an ITU nurse:

  • Staying calm when you’re working under intense pressure (including in an emergency)
  • Being flexible, able to prioritise and use your initiative
  • Being reliable, self-motivated and highly organised
  • Enjoying working as part of a team, with good interpersonal and communication skills (it’s vital to have empathy when working with patients and their families)
  • Enjoying problem-solving and working towards improving standards of care
  • Being caring and compassionate
  • Being willing to work within the hospital’s standard practices
  • Feeling comfortable frequently checking and documenting vital signs

Roles with the Scottish Nursing Guild

We are always looking for ITU nurses to join our team to work in temporary, last-minute placements in NHS, HSE and private hospitals, or to support patients in the community. You’ll need to work to our high standards, and in return, you’ll receive full professional support from us.

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