The Critical Care Difference.

By Tony Paterniti, RN, PhD
Director, Department of Education, Methodist Health System

I’m lucky. In my role as a nurse educator, I get to work with a wide variety of caregivers. Experience has taught me that individuals’ personalities often determine the area of nursing they decide to pursue. All are called to care, to heal. But each is motivated by different factors. Those factors determine the success they have in the career they have chosen, the career that they love.

One group of nurses, in particular, thrives on excitement, on change, and on challenge. They welcome the opportunity to care for some of the sickest, some of the most vulnerable patients who come to Methodist Health System hospitals. I’m speaking of critical care nurses.

What draws individuals to this highly stressful, yet highly rewarding nursing niche? Most feed off of the adrenaline rush associated with fast-paced, life and death situations. They function well under long periods of stress, but it’s exhausting. They enjoy technology, such as IV pumps, ventilators, and more, and how it has transformed patient care. They thrive on the challenge of helping those who have been severely injured. They know how to balance empathy with realism such as when they care for patients whose injuries may affect them for a lifetime. But most of all, critical care nurses have a deep desire to help people at their very core. Critical care nurses know their capabilities and are confident that their skills, judgment, and insight are saving lives every single day.

There’s no question that critical care nursing has experienced revolutionary change over the years. Advanced technology has enabled many critical patients to survive and return to productive lives. Today, nurses, as well as other members of the patient care team, have a much better understanding of nutrition and the critical role it plays in a patient’s recovery. Patients are in the intensive care unit and hospital as a whole for a much shorter period of time. And some who may not have survived their illnesses or injuries 30 years ago are being discharged to their homes within a matter of days, rather than weeks or months. Nurses are surrounded with a much broader support system of resources including chaplains, respiratory therapists, and many others. Perhaps the biggest change for critical care nurses is the active role played by the patient and his or her family in the patient’s care plan. Compared to 30 years ago, patients are coming to the hospital much more informed, many with advanced directives already in place. In addition, family members are asking questions and supporting their loved one’s recovery.

Even though critical care nurses are some of the most difficult to recruit and retain, Methodist is fortunate to be positioned as the employer of choice for many seeking this special area of care. There are several reasons for this:

  • Methodist offers internships in critical care.
  • The nurse mentor program establishes an ongoing relationship between a new critical care nurse and an experienced nurse, offering guidance and support.
  • Our level II trauma center provides an opportunity to care for a variety of acutely ill and injured patients.
  • We have extremely supportive physicians who have developed a deep level of trust with critical care nurses, knowing they are their eyes and ears when they are not at the hospital.
  • Our focus on employees’ health and their physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being is one of the reasons Methodist was recently recognized as one of the healthiest places to work in North Texas by the Dallas Business Journal.
  • And, perhaps most important, there’s a spirit of team work and camaraderie that creates a supportive family environment.

If you’re a critical care nurse looking for a new place to call home, then it’s time to choose Methodist. Learn more by visiting

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