Preparing for Your Placement in Critical Care

Critical care areas will include Intensive Care Units or High Dependency Units.

Matt Bodell
8 July 2015
Working nurses in the CCU

Your Critical Care placement will be a unique opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and gain confidence in caring for a critically unwell patient.

It is likely that you will undertake this placement during your final year of study to ensure you have the required depth of knowledge and experience needed to thrive.


Critical care areas will include Intensive Care Units or High Dependency Units.

What to Expect From Your Placement

Critical care will include a variety of patients from a variety of specialities who will be suffering from a variety of conditions – critical care, if nothing else, is varied.

You should expect to look after a mixture of level two and level three patients.

What is a level three patient? Patients who requires a ventilator or multi-organ support. These patients may be sedated or awake.


What is a level two patient? Patients who are being invasively monitored, requiring drugs to maintain cardiac stability or those requiring non-invasive ventilation.

First and foremost, do not worry – you will be surrounded by very experienced Nurses, Doctors and allied healthcare professionals. Critical Care, generally speaking, is a very safe and controlled environment.

You’ll be allocated mentors, like every other placement you’ve had, the main difference however is that you will be spending your whole shift with your mentor. You won’t be left unsupervised for any significant period of time with a critically unwell patient. Your mentor won’t expect you to have an in-depth knowledge of critical care interventions or treatments but they will expect you to ask questions and participate in care.

RELATED: How to Ace Your Management Placement


Preparing For Your Placement

There are a few things you can do to prepare for your critical care placement;

Try and visit your placement before you start. Intensive care units can be intimidating places. Visit the area you have been assigned to before you start and ask if there is anything you should be aware of prior to starting.

Identify your learning needs and outcomes. Identify these early and be aware of the skills you want to develop or learn – this will help you get the most from your placement.

Brush up on your anatomy and physiology. Familiarise yourself with the physiology and function of core systems, it will bode you well.

Look at ABCDE assessments and their importance. This systematic approach is used for everything within Critical Care – everything from handover to invasive treatment is based around an ABCDE model.


Getting The Most From Your Placement

Most of you won’t be working in critical care after you qualify. So it is important that during your placement you focus on transferable skills you can learn and/or improve on in this area, relish the opportunity to deliver global (holistic) care in an environment where there is time.

The final and most important piece of advice I can give you is to ask questions and get involved. 

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments