Hello everyone! I am a NICU nurse in a very large level IV NICU in the only freestanding children's hospital in my home state. I truly love NICU and tiny people are my passion, I am eager to learn and grow. I have a little over a year of experience and I am very interested in travel nursing. (Part of my passion as a student was to become a traveler.) I took this job straight out of school, therefore I have no other nursing experience. I am wondering if I need to have two years of experience before applying, or if the level of care I am required to deliver currently on a daily basis will hold any kind of merit in the application process. I know this field is extremely competitive, but I am very eager to grow and willing to compromise on certain things. Any input on this topic is welcome, please share your stories and advice regarding traveling. Thank you all!!
Personally, I would wait until you have 2 full years as staff before traveling. You will be more comfortable with your skills overall (you will be surprised how much one more year makes a difference) and you will also be more competitive for assignments with that amount of experience. I also recommend starting out at one of the best hospitals in the country as a traveler, as that makes your profile shine more for future assignments (The first three hospitals I worked for as a traveler are currently in the top 10 of US News and World Reports and although that sounds sappy to have it did impress future nurse managers enough to interview/offer me contracts quite readily).
I agree with Paco, name brand hospitals are impressive on your resume, even though you may know from working there they are not so great. Duke, Stanford, Hopkins, and UCSF were early assignments for me. Some of the others were not national brands in the eyes of average people, but were well thought of for open heart, my primary specialty. One look at my work history is enough for most managers. That was almost accidental for me though as I generally picked location first.
Level 4 experience is also a valuable resume enhancer, but a dark secret for many NICU travelers is that you may not be able to use your skills fully on assignments. The new hospital doesn't know you or trust you. You will get mostly easy babies and the most acute babies will go to the most experienced staff, or for training the less experienced staff with support. Just so you are not surprised. But the managers will still take someone with your depth of experience over a level 2 nurse even though that may be what the need actually is. On some assignments, you could be the most experienced nurse on the unit and take the toughest assignments, but that is rare. On others, you can work your way up to better assignments building trust as they see what you can do.
Some hospitals care, some don't. Just make sure you have a good recruiter/agency to work with.
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