By Ken Ye, PharmD, RPh

Critical or intensive care units (ICUs) are invaluable to healthcare in Canada. They are the last hope for many as their specialist teams manage medically unstable patients and complex cases. There are three types of ICUs in Canada:

  • General ICUs care for patients after major surgeries or with serious medical issues.
  • Specialized ICUs care for conditions such as burns, trauma, and respiratory or cardiac issues.
  • Pediatric ICUs care for children and newborns.

ICUs are staffed with multidisciplinary teams that may include physicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and, of course, nurses. Critical care nurses, called advanced practice nurses (APNs), work in ICUs across Canada. They are registered nurses (RNs) with additional training and education who carry one of two designations:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with expertise in one of many clinical nursing specialties.
  • Nurse Practitioners (NP) receive advanced education and experience, allowing them to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform specific medical procedures.

Nursing can be one of the most rewarding careers in Canada; seventh on Indeed’s top fifteen most fulfilling jobs1 list. But in the past three years, a sharp increase in demand, intensified by COVID-19, has severely impacted front-line workers, especially those in critical care. Stress and burnout, now at an all-time high2, may continue for some time while we clear backlogs and battle the consequence of new variants.

Can you help? Of course! Visit the Canadian Association of Critical Care Nurses (CACCN) website to support Canadian Intensive Care Week and acknowledge a critical care worker with a kind word or note of encouragement. They’ve likely had a difficult day!