What is an ICU Nurse?
The first step to become an ICU nurse is to receive a bachelor's degree in registered nursing, and then taking any exams or applying to be licensed in particular region by the nursing board of that region. In places like the US, this is usually done by state, and requirements on what is required to get a license may vary slightly. The bachelor's degree, though, is mandatory. It can help while studying for this degree during practicum to take advantage of any training offered on ICU or critical care, since building expertise in this area is vital.
There are actually different paths people take to become an ICU nurse. Sometimes upon graduating nursing school and getting a license, people find immediate employment in this area. Most hospitals, unless they are severely understaffed, are disinclined to hire an inexperienced nurse for any type of critical care job. This may lead to two different tactics in hiring practices.
One practice is to only hire nurses who have at least a year or two of experience working in a hospital. Alternately, some hospitals have training programs for a person who wants to become an ICU nurse. People would join these programs and get paid to work, generally, while they are under supervision of more experienced critical care nurses. Provided their skills represent a certain level of competency, in a year or two years' time, these training nurses would then be reclassified as ICU or critical care nurse.
These last two steps aren't necessary for most people who would like to become an ICU nurse. Yet they can be attractive because they raise base level of pay, give the nurse greater responsibility in the ICU setting, and open up possibility of jobs in nursing management. Nurse practitioners can additionally diagnose and prescribe. Ultimately, the most important part is to begin with nursing studies leading to an RN, after which nurses will have numerous ways to develop their careers in intensive care.