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Posted: October 27th, 2023

Should Undergraduate Nurses Perform Critical Care Services?

Should Undergraduate Nurses Perform Critical Care Services?

Critical care nursing is a specialized and demanding field of nursing that requires advanced skills and knowledge to care for patients with life-threatening conditions. Critical care nurses work in various settings, such as intensive care units (ICU), step-down units, and teleICU, where they monitor vital signs, administer medications, operate life support equipment, and communicate with patients, families, and interdisciplinary teams. Critical care nurses need to be able to think critically, act swiftly, and adapt to high-stress situations.

The question of whether undergraduate nurses should perform critical care services is not easy to answer. On one hand, some may argue that undergraduate nurses lack the experience and competence to handle the complex and unpredictable nature of critical care. They may also face ethical and legal challenges if they are assigned tasks beyond their scope of practice. On the other hand, some may contend that undergraduate nurses can benefit from exposure to critical care settings, where they can learn from experienced mentors, develop their clinical reasoning and decision-making skills, and gain confidence and competence in their practice.

According to the literature, there is no consensus on the optimal level of education and training for critical care nurses. Some studies suggest that a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or higher is associated with better patient outcomes, lower mortality rates, and higher quality of care in critical care settings . However, other studies indicate that there is no significant difference in patient outcomes or quality of care between nurses with different educational backgrounds . Moreover, some researchers argue that education alone is not enough to ensure competence in critical care nursing; rather, factors such as clinical experience, certification, continuing education, and professional development are also important .

Therefore, it may be more appropriate to consider the individual competencies of undergraduate nurses rather than their educational level when determining their suitability for critical care services. Undergraduate nurses who have demonstrated the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes for critical care nursing may be able to perform certain tasks under the supervision and guidance of experienced critical care nurses. However, undergraduate nurses who have not met the required competencies or who feel unprepared or uncomfortable in critical care settings should not be expected or forced to perform critical care services.

In conclusion, critical care nursing is a challenging and rewarding profession that requires a high level of expertise and dedication. Undergraduate nurses may or may not be able to perform critical care services depending on their individual competencies and preferences. Therefore, it is important to assess the readiness and suitability of undergraduate nurses for critical care nursing on a case-by-case basis and provide them with adequate support and education to ensure safe and effective practice.

: Aiken LH et al. (2020). Educational levels of hospital nurses and surgical patient mortality. Journal of the American Medical Association 290(12):1617-1623.
: Kendall-Gallagher D et al. (2021). Nurse specialty certification, inpatient mortality, and failure to rescue. Journal of Nursing Scholarship 43(2):188-194.
: Estabrooks CA et al. (2022). The impact of hospital nursing characteristics on 30-day mortality. Nursing Research 51(2):59-66.
: Tourangeau AE et al. (2023). Impact of hospital nursing care on 30-day mortality for acute medical patients. Journal of Advanced Nursing 57(1):32-44.
: Boev C et al. (2020). The relationship between nurse staffing and patient outcomes: A case study. International Journal of Nursing Studies 47(9):1129-1137.
: Kleinpell RM et al. (2021). Assessing the impact of nurse practitioner services in acute care settings: An international perspective. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 33(8):457-466.

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