Psychiatric Emergencies in the Intensive Care Unit

Author(s): Andrea New, PharmD, BCPS, Sarah Nelson, PharmD, BCPS, Jonathan G. Leung, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP

Contact Hours 1.00

CERP A 1.00

Pharmacology Hours 1.00

Expires Oct 01, 2019

Topics: Behavioral/Psychosocial, Pharmacology

Population: Lifespan

Role: Staff, APRN

Member: Free
NonMember: $10.00

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Activity Summary

Nurses have a unique opportunity to be the first to identify developing complications in critically ill patients, and in this regard, recognition of the signs and symptoms of psychiatric emergencies is crucial to avoid potentially fatal outcomes. These emergencies can be apparent following an overdose of psychiatric medications but also may occur in the setting of standard therapeutic dosing. In addition, the withdrawal or discontinuation of psychotropic medications can precipitate a psychiatric emergency. Substances of abuse are also implicated in the development of psychiatric emergencies, in the setting of both intoxication and withdrawal. Complicating the recognition of psychiatric emergencies are signs and symptoms that are present with other medical illnesses, for example, fever, seizure, tachycardia, and diarrhea.


  • Describe what constitutes a psychiatric emergency and how to differentiate between various disease processes.
  • Recognize and manage 4 specific psychiatric emergencies.
  • Identify the signs and symptoms of psychiatric emergencies that may have potentially fatal outcomes.

Continuing Education Disclosure Statement

Successful Completion

Learners must attend/view/read the entire activity and complete the associated evaluation to be awarded the contact hours or CERP. No partial credit will be awarded.


This activity has been reviewed by the Nurse Planner. It has been determined that the material presented here shows no bias. Approval of a continuing education activity does not imply endorsement by AACN or ANCC of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with the activity.


The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC's) Commission on Accreditation, ANCC Provider Number 0012 (60 min contact hour). AACN has been approved as a provider of continuing education in nursing by the California State Board of Nursing, California Provider number CEP01036 for 1.2 contact hours (50 min contact hour).

AACN programming meets the standards for most states that require mandatory continuing education contact hours for license and/or certification renewal. AACN recommends consulting with your state board of nursing or credentialing organization before submitting CE to fulfill continuing education requirements.