I have been an Agency nurse for 20+ years, and I have worked just about every area there is! ICU/CCU/NICU/L&D/Nursery/Med-Surg/Tele/Outpt Surg/Morhs Surg/Trauma ER/Occpt Health...the list goes on. It was through the agencies, that I received most of my experience, after working L&D/and NICU, at a county hospital.
While working at this hospital, a nurse came thru the L&D, and told us about doing agency work. Advised me to get one years experience, and then go for it! I did, and I have never been sorry!
For the last 10yrs, I have been a travel nurse. I'm currently in Seattle, but I have been from one end of the country to the other end. My housing is totally paid for, except my phone, and cable. But I have had assignments where even that was paid for! I have even had maid service provided! I have a webpage, you could visit if you're interested in Travel, and I can reccomend several agencies, depending on where you are.
But you will need one years of acute care experience. Several of the post gave excellent information of agencies. But let me say, that there are agencies, that will pay your travel expenses, such as placing you in a hotel, while you do per diem, if you travel a ways from you home. Say you travel 50 miles from home, and want to do several days work. The agency would place you in a hotel, and pay for your travel to the hospital, and back.
I always say what areas I want to work at, and stick to my guns, if they offer anything I don't want, or anywhere I don't want to go to. I have used agency/per diem work, to check out a hospital before I take a contract with them. This way, I have an idea of what to expect, before signing on the dotted line, for the industry standard of 13 weeks.
Before you travel, or sign with an agency, check out, and "interview" several, and they can very greatly with pay, and benefits. Yes, you can have benefits, and work agency also. Most require that you work at least 32 hrs a week. Some agencies require you pass a test for each area you wish to work in. Some hospitals require you have IV cert., and even ACLS, just to work on med-surg floors. I would definitely get some ICU experience before starting to work Agency, as most of the time, there is a great need in these areas.
I hope this helps!web page