We are one of the lagest dedicated cardiothoracic critical care units, with 46 beds for adult patients who have complex cardiovascular and respiratory needs.

Based on our first floor, critical care is modern and purpose-built. It is located next to our theatres and cath labs, making it easy to transfer patients recovering from surgery. Visitors are welcomed to a dedicated critical care visiting area on the ground floor to ensure they receive sensitive and appropriate support during what it is often a difficult experience. 

Letters spell Royal Papworth in the foreground. Looking at window, there are trees, a busway and grassy areas.

The view from one of the large, floor-to-ceiling windows in critical care.

The majority of our patients have undergone cardiac surgery such as coronary heart bypass surgery (CABG) or heart valve replacements or repairs. We also admit patients after complex aortic surgery, thoracic surgery, and after a highly-specialised operation called pulmonary endarterectomy for which we are the only centre in the UK. 

Our unit is home to one of only five ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) centres in the UK which is commissioned to support patients in acute respiratory failure. We retrieve these patients from their local hospital and bring them back to Royal PApworth Hospital.

We also support patients pre-heart transplant on mechanical devices such as BiVADS, post heart and/or lung transplant, and admit cardiology patients who may have had an out of hospital cardiac arrest or life-threatening arrhythmias.

Our values

Why become a nurse in our critical care unit?

We are proud to staff our unit to at least 1:1 nursing ratios, meaning our nurses are able to provide outstanding, holistic and indivualised care, getting to know patients and their loved ones. 

With floor-to-ceiling windows, curved walls and rooms with sliding doors to allow the delivery of safe care, our unit is light, welcoming and has a sense of community for staff and patients. 

Critical care is a highly technical place of work, but we take training and education seriously to ensure all of our staff have the knowledge they need to look after patients requiring organ support often from multiple devices. 

We care for the most complex patients in the hospital and their loved ones and have the privilege of supporting them during a difficult time in their lives.

We are a large and multi-disciplinary team and enjoy working together to provide excellent care for our patients. 

Training and development

There are many opportunities for learning and development. We run in-house research and are always looking to deliver service improvements to deliver the best standard of care for our patients.

Our nurses attend conferences to present our work, network and share and educate with other experts across the world, both in nursing and other professions. 

Five people standing either side of a pull-up banner which says UK ECPR summit - London June 2023

Some of our critical care nurses and consultants at the UK ECPR Summit

There is the opportunity for career progression into different roles within cardiothoracic critical care that suit your skills and personal areas of interest. Staff are supported and encouraged to progress through apprenticeships and post-graduate course at local universities.

Apply now

How we will support you 

You do not need previous cardiothoracic nursing experience to work here. If you are a registered nurse or nursing associate with or without experience in critical care, and have enthusiasm and compassion, we will provide you with the training and support to thrive. 

We have our own dedicated critical care education team who can provide a detailed induction and supernumerary/supervised programme.

We run regular weekly training sessions and roadshows to keep staff up-to-date with the evolving practice and introducing new devices. 

All new registered staff attend core study days and complete the national Critical Care Step 1 competencies. 

Experienced critical care nurses are encouraged to apply to study for a Post Graduate certificate in Critical Care at a range of universities, supported by the hospital. During this period, Step 2-3 competencies are completed.

For staff progressing in their career to specialist and deputy sister/charge nurse, roles we support them with specialist educational courses such as the deputy sister/charge nurse course and step 4 competencies and the ECMO or Cardiac specialist course.

Sisters and charge nurses are supported to continue their study to achieve MSc in advanced practice or equivalent.


The technology is fascinating and it's hugely rewarding to support patients through their journey.
Andrew Hadley-Brown
Charge Nurse and ECMO Specialist

Staff case studies

Yunxia Xie, Senior Staff Nurse

I have a long-standing interest in working with cardiothoracic patients. I was excited when I successfully applied for the job in Royal Papworth Hospital's critical care unit.

During my five-year nursing career in critical care, the team equipped me with the high-level skills, knowledge, and experience to enable me to provide compassionate care to our patients. Numerous career paths are available to progress and I joined the teaching team this year, which I am really enjoying. 

Working here has allowed me to grow professionally and personally while caring for patients, as part of a fantastic team.

Ramona Nyiri, Nursing Associate

I have been working as a healthcare support worker on critical care for five years and really enjoyed my job, but I knew I was ready for more so I decided that I would like to further develop my career. After completing my Nursing Associate Apprenticeship at the start of 2023, I am currently working as a registered nursing associate, providing and monitoring care that requires life-saving actions and the close observation of patients. i have now applied for the Nurse Degree Apprenticeship.

I have gained several transferable skills, always felt supported, and my individual needs were considered through personalised education and training. I cannot praise the team enough for all the help and support I have received, helping me to grow in confidence.

I find it such a rewarding job with an incredible amount of responsibility, but where you can see the outcome of enhancing the quality of life for these patients in a very short period of time.

Two nurses in blue scrubs crouching either side of a patient in a chair.

Ramona (right) with colleague Kerry and patient Nicoleta, who was on ECMO for 11 months

What you will get from us

People provide the best care in a supportive environment, where they are given the time to care in a compassionate and inclusive culture. At Royal Papworth Hospital, we are proud to have some of the best nursing ratios, alongside our values which were created by our staff, for our staff.

Find out more about the benefits we provide, from 50% off delicious food and drink in our restaurant to free gig tickets, as well as enhanced annual leave, a gold-standard pension and free tea, coffee and milk. 

Our staff benefits

Get in touch or apply

If you have any questions about our critical care nursing roles, please feel free to get in touch with our nursing recruitment team who will be happy to help or register your interest

Or you can start your application now.