Patients undergoing major thoracic surgical procedures are generally a high-risk, specialty patient population. After undergoing a major surgical procedure such as an esophagectomy, a pneumonectomy, a pleurectomy, or a lung transplant, patients require admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) for advanced monitoring and a broad range of procedures performed by members of the thoracic surgery and critical care teams. The care of such complicated patients requires critical care nursing considerations that vary and necessitates guidelines that are tailored to the specific patient and procedure. Currently, a gap exists in the literature regarding standardized nursing care of these patients in the initial postoperative period in the ICU.

In this article, we describe the role of the critical care nurse in the management of thoracic surgery patients, in an effort to establish protocol-driven care guidelines. Our experience is based on a 10-bed thoracic surgery...

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