Critical Care Nursing Wrap-Up

I am officially ONE class away from graduation!! It feels so surreal! This term I took Critical Care Nursing (Med-Surg 4) and it was a challenge! However, I am happy to say I conquered yet another class in nursing school and finished with an A! Today, I’m sharing my experience on this class and things to help you be successful!


The theory portion of this class was LOADED with information. I printed out the power point’s for lecture and they were always FULL of notes by the end! During my study time I would incorporate and organize all my class notes with what’s on the power point into my own “study guide.” Just the process of writing out the study guide is a great way to study. Then when I go to review everything is nice and organized in a logical fashion which makes studying that much easier! You can find helpful visual aids for things like hemodynamics, ABGs, and mechanical venelation on Pinterest of all places!  So check that out too.

What To Study:

  • Review what you learned about heart/lungs in your earlier Med/Surg classes. This will give you a much better basis to learn the advanced material if you know the basics.
  • NEVER EVER PROCRASTINATE! Seriously. You aren’t going to learn this information in a night. Start early, and ask questions before the test if you have them.
  • Know your medications! Test, ATI, and NCLEX all love pharmacology. Study up!


We had a lot of simulation built in to this class which I thought was great. You can learn the theory but things are different when it comes to hands on and real life scenarios. Simulation was a good way to put the things we were learning in lecture into practice in a safe setting. At the end of the term we had a final simulation where we walked in to the room with a fellow student and had to work whatever situation we were in (most likely something requiring a code or rapid response.) My partner and I had a patient that went in to respiratory depression from a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump then v-fib. We had to start chest compressions, defibrillate, administer narcan, and call the doctor to give report on what had happened as well as get a new order for non-opiod analgesia. I felt awkward the whole time and what was even more fun- they recorded it! So not only did the rest of the group get to watch you- you had a debriefing with an instructor where you also got to see what you did! It was embarrassing but it was also a really great experience to get the opportunity to discuss what you did right and what you can do better next time.

What to study:

  • Know your rhythms! Seriously! You don’t want you patient to be in v-fib and you can’t figure out what rhythm their in. Also, study what you need to do for each (CPR? Meds? Cardiovert vs Defibrillate.)
  • Pretend this is real life! It is so easy in stimulation to begin to verbalize what you would do rather than actually do it or to move slower in an emergency than you would in real life. Now is the time to practice without an actual life in your hands! Make it as real as possible.
  • Accept the feedback with an open mind. Don’t get defensive or offended when your instructors tell you things you need to work on. Appreciate the information and make a change!


Oh, what to say about clinical. I’ll be honest, clinical is not my favorite part of nursing school, never has been in either program. Yes, I enjoy it, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn, but I will be happy when it’s over. My anxiety always gets to me when I have an instructor looking over my shoulder while I work. This term we were on a respiratory step-down/tele unit and it did provide some great opportunities to learn. We took two patients and did all the nursing care including medications and treatments to those patients on our assigned days.

Now, I am an LPN who had done a med-pass for up to 30 patients, but I will tell you having two patients in clinical can be rough. For medications and treatments you are on the instructors schedule because you need them to be with you to do these things. You also have to depend on the nurse to call pharmacy if something is missing or to pull a narcotic from the pixus. There are patients going to tests and procedures, doctors coming in and out, and many times family is at the bedside. You can come up with a routine, but again, in real life if I am ready to give a med at 8:30 I give it. In nursing school, your instructor may show up until 9 or later. It’s not bad, it’s just different. Also, you have to be prepared to be quizzed before giving a medication so you spend a lot of time looking up medications. I knew most of them luckily, but still would look them up to make sure I knew the details like the mechanism of action. Another necessary step as a student but it is time consuming.

What to know:

  • Know about your medications your giving as well as any pertinent labs that go with that medication! (Example: coagulation studies for Heparin.)
  • Try to make yourself a schedule and get a routine going. Mornings typically are the busiest so stick with medications, assessments, and basic ADL care in the morning. If you can, wait until after lunch to give baths and showers. Afternoons usually have less medication and less people on the floor.
  • Communicate with your nurses and techs!! I can’t say this enough. Make sure you get a full report and ask about procedures and test. Also ask about charting things like I&O, hourly rounds, and pain assessments. I found each nurse had their own way of charting these things and some preferred to do it themselves.
  • Utilize the techs. We all know sometimes they hear a patient is assigned to a student and we never see them again (but some are awesome and help the students!) However, they are their to help and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask!
  • Work as a team with your fellow students! My clinical group worked great together and it made the day so much better for everyone! Team up for baths, help get vitals if you have extra time, organize and get it done!
  • Again- listen to any critique or advice you receive from your instructor! It will make you a better future nurse!

This is a summary of my experience in this class! If you have any questions, as always, please ask! I hope everyone enjoys a wonderful holiday break and gets some much deserved rest and relaxation! I worked 65 hours at work last week, but I am making up for it this week as I spend Christmas in the Sunshine State with my parents and grandparents! To everyone who is working the holidays- THANK YOU!! You are amazing and please know that what you do is appreciated!

Do you have any tips to add? Any question?