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Saturday, March 14, 2015

8 Drugs Every ICU Nurse Needs to Know

ICU, Nurse, Nursing student, Nursing school, Emergency, Urgency, Critical Care, IV push, Arrhythmias, Distress

8 Drugs Every ICU Nurse Needs to Know

These drugs are used frequently in the ICU setting. It is imperative that you understand what these drugs are and when they are to be used.

When I started on my current unit I had no idea what these drugs were. I had a vague idea, but really, I was pretty clueless. I had spent the last few months just trying to pass class. Unfortunately, I didn't have a critical care class. (Which I really wished we would have!)

Here's a quick guide to 8 drugs that we use frequently in emergency situations. ALCS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support).

  1. Adenosine
    An endogenous nucleoside, slows conduction down through the AV node. Treats tachycardia. Extremely short half life- <10 seconds.
  2. Amiodarone
    Antiarrhythmic that effects the sodium, potassium, and calcium channels.Vasodilates. Used in V tach, V fib, and sinus tachycardia.
  3. Atropine
    Anticholinergic, enhances the conduction in the AV nodes. Drug of choice in treating bradycardia.
  4. Epinephrine
    Potent catecholamine. Increases heart rate, blood pressure. Used to treat Asystole, V tach, V fib, bradycardia.
  5. Lidocaine
    Antiarrhythmic use alternatively to Amiodarone. Treats V fib, and V tach,
  6. Procainamide
    Antiarrhthmia, This is used to treat sustained V Tach.
  7. Sotalol
    Beta Blocker. Treats A fib or A flutter.
  8. Vasopressin
    Synthetic antiarrhythmia. Used to treat asystole, v tach, v fib.
Whoo hoo. Spring is around the corner! I can feel it. :)

Also, thanks for being patient with me. I'm in an area with limited internet accessibility, so posting has been nearly impossible. I'll get back in the swing of things soon.


HEY, YOU GUYS!!  {Done in my Goonies voice} I just updated this post so that it includes a lot more information than the minimalist post here. If you'd like more information here is the link to the new and improved post: {UPDATED} 8 Drugs Every ICU Nurse Needs to Know.  Thanks!




  1. Atropine treats bradycardia, not tachycardia... ;)

    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you!! This is why I shouldn't write these in the middle of the night! Thank you thank you thank you! :)

  2. Nurse Nightingale, can you please update this post (or create a new post with the same drugs) listing patient education, nursing interventions including monitoring etc? Thank you!!!!

    1. Thank you for the wonderful suggestion, Peter. I just made a new post that expanded on this one. Let me know if this was helpful!

      I will point out, I didn't really put anything in this new post about patient education. Mostly because if you're giving these drugs in code situations the patient isn't responsive, so you wouldn't be able to educate them anyways. My suggestion is that once the patient has recovered and you're talking to the family, just explain to them what was happening, "The patient had X arrhythmia and we gave X drug to treat it." Explain to them how the drug works and what some of the side effects could be. Which I included the common side effects for those drugs. I hope that helps. Thank you for reading! :)

  3. A good tool for us ER nurses as well :)

    1. That's great to hear, Teresa. The ER sounds like it could be fun, but it also terrifies me. That is one tough job, indeed. Thank you for reading and happy nursing! :)

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  5. You should add the common brand names with the generic drugs.

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