Career Development

What Does a PICU Nurse Do?

Find out what a PICU nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a PICU nurse.

A pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse is a specialized type of nurse who cares for children in the PICU. They are trained to handle the unique challenges that come with caring for this population, including knowing how to properly administer medications and perform procedures like intubation.

PICU Nurse Job Duties

PICU nurses have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Administering medications or performing procedures to maintain quality care for patients
  • Educating patients’ families about their loved one’s condition and treatment plan
  • Preparing reports on patients’ conditions, vital signs, and lab results to assist physicians in making decisions about treatment plans
  • Educating patients and their families about their conditions and treatments 
  • Monitoring patients’ physical conditions to identify any changes that may require a physician’s attention
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families during difficult times such as surgeries, life-threatening illnesses, or deaths
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as EKGs, EEGs, and CT scans
  • Administering medications through feeding tubes or other medical devices
  • Monitoring infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) for signs of illness or stress

PICU Nurse Salary & Outlook

The salary of a PICU nurse can vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of hospital or facility they work for.

  • Median Annual Salary: $95,000 ($45.67/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $120,500 ($57.93/hour)

The employment of PICU nurses is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for PICU services is projected to increase as healthcare providers continue to treat more critically ill patients in these units. As the population grows and ages, there will be a greater need for PICU services. In addition, the increasing complexity of medical treatments and procedures may lead to an increase in the number of critically ill patients.

Related: PICU Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

PICU Nurse Job Requirements

A position as a PICU nurse may require the following:

Education: All PICU nurses are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The most common degree for this field is nursing, but you can also earn a degree in health science, pre-nursing or another related field.

Many employers prefer to hire nurses with a master’s degree in nursing. Earning a master’s degree takes two to four years and includes coursework and clinical practice.

Training & Experience: Most PICU nurses receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training is usually part of the orientation process and may last a few weeks. During this time, the nurse will learn about the hospital’s policies and procedures, as well as the equipment and medications used in the PICU.

Certifications & Licenses: A PICU nurse is required to be certified in Basic Life Support (BLS). This can be achieved by completing a BLS certification course from an accredited institution and passing the BLS certification exam.

PICU Nurse Skills

PICU nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Communication is the act of exchanging information. As a PICU nurse, you may be responsible for communicating with patients, their families, other medical professionals and hospital staff. Effective communication can help you to relay important information, answer questions and resolve issues.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to make quick decisions based on the information you have. As a PICU nurse, you may be responsible for making life-saving decisions regarding a patient’s treatment. Critical thinking can help you make the best decision for the patient’s health.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. As a PICU nurse, empathy is an important skill to have because it allows you to connect with patients and their families. You can use empathy to help patients and their families understand their treatment plan and to help them feel comfortable during their stay.

Organization: A nurse in a PICU should be able to prioritize their tasks and organize their work accordingly. This can help them ensure that they are providing the most urgent care to their patients. They should also be able to organize their work space and patient files to ensure that they can access the information they need when they need it.

Multitasking: A nurse in a PICU may be responsible for caring for several patients at once. This requires the ability to multitask, as they may need to move between patients quickly to ensure each patient’s needs are met. This may include checking on patients, administering medications, changing bandages and monitoring vital signs.

PICU Nurse Work Environment

PICU nurses work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment. They are responsible for the care of critically ill or injured children, who may be suffering from a wide range of conditions. PICU nurses must be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure. They must be able to handle a high volume of work and be able to work well under stress. PICU nurses typically work 12-hour shifts, which may include nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work overtime.

PICU Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how PICU nurses work. PICU nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce

The healthcare industry is becoming more diverse, and this is having a significant impact on the workforce. In particular, the need for more diversity in the PICU nurse population is growing as hospitals strive to provide better care for their patients.

As the PICU nurse population becomes more diverse, hospitals will be able to better serve the needs of their patients. This includes providing culturally-sensitive care and understanding the unique challenges that come with being a member of a minority group in the healthcare field.

Patient Demands Are Increasing

Patients are increasingly demanding more from the healthcare system, which is putting pressure on nurses to meet their needs.

As patients become more informed about their options, they are looking for nurses who can provide them with the best possible care. This means that nurses need to be able to not only provide excellent patient care, but also communicate effectively with patients and their families.

A Greater Focus on Patient Safety

Nurses are increasingly being asked to focus on patient safety in order to reduce the number of medical errors that occur each year.

This trend is leading to an increased demand for nurses who have experience working in areas such as critical care or emergency medicine. Nurses who are able to work in these areas will be in high demand, as they will be able to provide the level of care needed to keep patients safe.

How to Become a PICU Nurse

A career as a PICU nurse is rewarding and challenging. It requires dedication, hard work, and compassion for patients and their families. As a PICU nurse, you will be responsible for the care of critically ill children. This can be an emotionally demanding job, but it is also very rewarding.

To become a PICU nurse, you must have a nursing degree and certification in pediatric nursing. You should also have experience working with children who are critically ill.

Advancement Prospects

There are many ways to advance your career as a PICU nurse. One way is to obtain additional education, such as a master’s degree in nursing or a related field. With further education, you could become a nurse practitioner, a clinical nurse specialist, or a nurse educator. You could also move into a management position, such as a nurse manager or director of a PICU. Another way to advance your career is to obtain certification in pediatric critical care nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. With certification, you could become a certified pediatric critical care nurse, which would give you more responsibility and authority in your current position. You could also use your certification to move into a different PICU position, such as a charge nurse or a nurse practitioner.

PICU Nurse Job Description Example

The PICU at [HospitalX] is a high-acuity, high-intensity environment that requires the very best nurses to provide care for our patients and families. We are seeking an experienced PICU nurse to join our team. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of two years of PICU experience, as well as experience with ventilators, ECMO, and other high-acuity interventions. He or she will be a skilled communicator with the ability to work collaboratively with other members of the healthcare team. The PICU nurse will provide direct patient care, as well as support and guidance to families during their time in the PICU.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • To provide comprehensive nursing care to patients in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • To collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals to plan, implement, and evaluate patient care
  • To utilize the nursing process to assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate the care of pediatric patients with critical or life-threatening illnesses and injuries
  • To provide age-appropriate care to infants, children, and adolescents
  • To educate families about their child’s illness or injury, treatment plan, and expected outcomes
  • To advocate for the best interests of the child and family
  • To maintain a high standard of professional practice and ethical conduct
  • To participate in quality improvement initiatives
  • To maintain current knowledge of advances in pediatrics through continuing education and professional development opportunities
  • To serve as a resource to other nurses and health care professionals
  • To provide leadership and mentorship to less experienced staff
  • To perform all duties in accordance with hospital policies and procedures

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Registered Nurse (RN) with valid state license
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 3+ years of experience working in a PICU setting
  • Current CPR certification
  • Demonstrated ability to work well under pressure in a fast-paced environment
  • Excellent critical thinking, assessment, and decision-making skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 5+ years of experience working in a PICU setting
  • Specialty certification in PICU nursing
  • Experience working with infants and children with congenital heart defects
  • Familiarity with ECMO therapy


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