A Day in the Life of a Trauma ICU Nurse

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Career Analysis - Trauma ICU Nursing Responding to an overhead page, nurses and doctors rush to the emergency room or intensive care unit stat. Once they arrive, they work furiously to save a patient’s life.

If you have ever watched a medical drama on television, you may be familiar with the scene above. But does TV provide an accurate picture of what life is like for nurses and doctors? Not exactly. Continue reading to find out what a day in the life of a trauma ICU nurse is really like.

What Makes Trauma Care Unique?

Trauma patients come into the intensive care unit due to a variety of reasons. For example, car accidents, assaults, or falls can all result in injuries that require treatment from a trauma team.

Members of a trauma team often include trauma surgeons, respiratory therapists, and nurses. Trauma nurses are trained to deal with patients who are critically ill due to traumatic injuries.

Trauma patients can arrive with several different types of injuries. For example, head injuries, fractures, and internal bleeding are common injuries due to trauma. In many instances, patients may have multiple injuries and complex medical issues.

Injuries affecting one organ or area of the body can impact other organs. For instance, it’s common for problems such as a traumatic brain injury to lead to problems breathing. Also, internal injuries can lead to shock due to blood loss.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of a Trauma Nurse

Trauma nurses start their shift by getting report on the patients for whom they will be caring from the nurse going off duty. Information in report often includes a brief history, vital signs, and ventilator settings if the patient is on life support. Lab and x-ray results, tests ordered, as well as any concerns are also discussed.

Trauma nurses may care for a few patients during their shift or only be assigned one patient. The specific responsibilities may vary, depending on the injuries a person has. In general, duties of a trauma nurse include providing interventions in emergency situations, such as assisting with intubations or resuscitation, administering meds, drawing blood, and changing dressings.

Nurses working in trauma may also have to deal with the unexpected situations. New patients with life-threatening injuries can arrive in the unit at any time. Nurses must be prepared to switch gears and juggle several things at one time.

Employment Opportunities

Trauma nurses typically work in medical centers with neuro or trauma intensive care units. They may also work in emergency rooms and on flight teams transporting critically injured patients. Most hospitals work 12-hour shifts. Because hospitals don’t close, nurses may work overnight and weekend shifts.

Do you Have What It Takes to Work in Trauma?

So, do you have what it takes? Trauma nursing is sometimes challenging. It can be tough physically and emotionally. How do you know if you have what it takes?

Although you don’t need to have every trait listed, ask yourself if you have at least some of the following:

Confidence: As a trauma nurse, you’ll be working with a team of professionals, including trauma doctors. You may deal with a lot of people with strong personalities. It’s helpful to be confident and not easily intimated.

Good time management skills: Trauma patients are often a lot of work. There are many duties to juggle at once. If you have more than one patient, the work is even a little more challenging.

The ability to handle stress well: In some cases, you’re dealing with critically ill patients. Handling life and death situations is often stressful. Consider if you can deal with stress well and stay sane.

Flexibility: Trauma nurses never know what will come through the door. Being flexible and someone who can change gears without freaking out is essential.

If you think you have what it takes, working as a trauma nurse can be exciting and rewarding. You have the chance to help someone on possibly one of the worst days of his or her life. That’s not bad for a day’s work!


If you are interested in trauma/ICU nursing you may browse current job openings at this link: https://www.hospitalrecruiting.com/jobs/Nursing-Jobs/?q=icu.

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