Cath lab vs IR travel

Specialties Travel


  • Specializes in 3 years MS/Tele, 10 years total ICU, 5 travel.

Hello all! I have about 10 years in ICU, 5 of them traveling, and while I won't go into why, I'm about ready to get out (of ICU, still love travel). I know that I will have to stop traveling for at least 2 years to switch specialties. That said, there are 2 hospitals within 30 minutes of home base. Both have openings in cath lab, one has openings in interventional radiology. I find the idea of either one fascinating.

 I'm aware that cath lab generally has lots of call, and that seems to be the biggest thing people dislike about it. But I would eventually want to return to traveling after I get enough experience, and I have always seen postings. Cath lab folks, is call really that bad?

It also seems from what I've heard, that IR doesn't have as much call and has more varied cases. But I don't recall having seen a lot of travel needs in that field. For the IR folks here, do you tend to have lots of call, and have you had problems finding assignments? Or are assignments only in the bigger metropolitan areas?

Thank you all for any answers or advice.


1 Article; 5,770 Posts

In the past, demand for cath lab has been so high that they will take ICU travelers. So you might be able to shortcut the staff job. Not trying to talk you out of that, it is the best way to go. Still, not sure about current demand, but again historically huge, which also meant it paid better than most specialties (if you are into money).

Cardiac experience is pretty much a must for the cath lab. One traveler described it to me as CVICU on steroids! Which he loved about it, the challenge of recovering open heart patients wasn't enough.

IR, no heart experience needed at all. To my mind, (other than the clinical heart stuff), both just require some knowledge of sterile back fields (very poor sterile technique in cath labs when I float there), some ability to follow what is happening on the radiology screen, and some knowledge of common procedures and actions to take if things go south.

You are completely correct about call. And you will get called in a lot on call to the cath lab. And yes, that can be quite painful. If you take call at nights (scheduled cases will all be daytime), you may get called in every night. Depends on your tolerance for missed sleep which could be age dependent as well.

And of course, you have to be willing to wear heavy and hot lead overcoats (or jacket and skirt) and thyroid protection much of the time. Some wear lead glass eye protection as well. And a mask and head covering (to maintain sterile field).

And work in a darkened room watching monitors. You certainly have to love the work! I'd suggest shadowing a nurse to figure that out before agreeing to a staff job. I've never actually talked to a cath lab nurse who hated it, so my thoughts are based on normal prudence for such a big change, not really negative.

Specializes in ICU nephrology.

very interesting and realistic comments above.


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