What does an Acute Care Nurse do?

Provide advanced nursing care for patients with acute conditions such as heart attacks, respiratory distress syndrome, or shock. May care for pre- and post-operative patients or perform advanced, invasive diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.

Jobs Roles

  • Analyze the indications, contraindications, risk complications, and cost-benefit tradeoffs of therapeutic interventions.
  • Diagnose acute or chronic conditions that could result in rapid physiological deterioration or life-threatening instability.
  • Distinguish between normal and abnormal developmental and age-related physiological and behavioral changes in acute, critical, and chronic illness.
  • Manage patients' pain relief and sedation by providing pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions, monitoring patients' responses, and changing care plans accordingly.
  • Interpret information obtained from electrocardiograms (EKGs) or radiographs (x-rays).
  • Perform emergency medical procedures, such as basic cardiac life support (BLS), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), and other condition stabilizing interventions.
  • Assess urgent and emergent health conditions using both physiologically and technologically derived data.
  • Adjust settings on patients' assistive devices such as temporary pacemakers.
  • Assess the impact of illnesses or injuries on patients' health, function, growth, development, nutrition, sleep, rest, quality of life, or family, social and educational relationships.
  • Collaborate with members of multidisciplinary health care teams to plan, manage, or assess patient treatments.
  • Discuss illnesses and treatments with patients and family members.
  • Document data related to patients' care including assessment results, interventions, medications, patient responses, or treatment changes.
  • Treat wounds or superficial lacerations.
  • Set up, operate, or monitor invasive equipment and devices such as colostomy or tracheotomy equipment, mechanical ventilators, catheters, gastrointestinal tubes, and central lines.
  • Obtain specimens or samples for laboratory work.
  • Order, perform, or interpret the results of diagnostic tests and screening procedures based on assessment results, differential diagnoses, and knowledge about age, gender and health status of clients.
  • Participate in patients' care meetings and conferences.
  • Prescribe medications and observe patients' reactions, modifying prescriptions as needed.
  • Refer patients for specialty consultations or treatments.
  • Administer blood and blood product transfusions or intravenous infusions, monitoring patients for adverse reactions.
  • Assist patients in organizing their health care system activities.
  • Assess the needs of patients' family members or caregivers.
  • Collaborate with patients to plan for future health care needs or to coordinate transitions and referrals.
  • Read current literature, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional organizations or conferences to keep abreast of developments in acute care.
  • Participate in the development of practice protocols.
  • Perform administrative duties that facilitate admission, transfer, or discharge of patients.
  • Provide formal and informal education to other staff members.
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