One or two new grads were hired into ICU last year, so 1 year of stepdown experience should be even better in my line of thinking. AT GUH they do have a orientation/ preceptor time on all units where you are not counted in the staffing and have a 1:1 preeptor. Anytime you switch to a new area or higher level of care you should receive this.( They usually want 2 years of service in exchange for the training but it is a 'verbal understanding,' not a contract that you sign.) I am not sure the length of orientation time for ICU. Also, there 3 ICU's Neuro, Medical, and Surgical. I am not sure how 'strict' the segregation of pt's is, but they are physically seperated, not one long unit. GUH is a "srtoke center" and patients are flown in from outlying areas. I would suggest visiting and shadowing. They will let people shadow so you would need to get in touch w/ the manager or have nurse recruitment set it up. Then you can talk to the RN's on the floor and get the real skinny. Also, at this time of year spots may already be filled by newbies, so I would call.
DC affordability depends on wether you are supporting only yourself, single parent, have a spouse who is working also etc.. Most of the nurses live in Arlington. You can get a feel for the high rent rates on Craigslist. Goodluck!