CTICU Nurse New to Traveling, Seeking Advice on First Assignment

Specialties Travel


Specializes in Cardiothoracic ICU.

Hi everyone,

My name is Rachel & I've been a critical care nurse for just over two years now, with the latter year and change being in the CTICU and my experience prior to that being MSICU/PCU. I absolutely love the nursing aspect of the CTICU, recovering hearts and transplants, working with the sickest of the sick, but am simply looking for a change in environment and to pay off some debt/bulk up savings prior to (hopefully) beginning a master's program next fall. I've researched the traveling process extensively, am in contact with multiple recruiters, and am simply waiting for my multi-state license to be approved at this point, and for the right contract to come along. The topic, though, that I keep getting hung up on is what type of unit I should seek out (or not) for this first assignment or two.

As stated above, I truly enjoy the work I do in the CTICU; I've progressed in my knowledge/skills, obtained a specialty-specific certification, and am extremely proud of this. In general, I simply love hearts. However, I'm noticing the scarcity of CTICU/CVICU positions in the regions I am hoping to travel to. This opens up the door for venturing into a different critical care specialty, such as MSICU, SICU, or something of the like, which I know I am capable of and would be a great learning experience. However, my fear lies in losing my CTICU skills as I won't be encountering the Swans, VADs, ECMO, IABPs that I see daily on the unit I'm in now. I do plan to return to CTICU/CVICU eventually, and therefore do not want to start back at the bottom of the food chain because I stepped away from the specialty for a few months. Granted, I am aware assignments are not for a prolonged amount of time.

I am just hoping to to see what the experiences of others in similar situations have been. Thank you so much for your time and help!

My suggestion to you is not to be picky on your first assignment. I'd recommend staying within your clear comfort zone recovering hearts no matter the location. A careful choice should lead to a successful first assignment which automatically make you more competitive with experienced travelers. Then you can do other kinds of ICUs and more easily find CVICU assignments later. More risky to go out of your comfort zone, potentially not complete, and now what?

You can do it the way you suggest, CVICU nurses should be able to adapt readily, especially to a community hospital ICU. Do be honest in filling out a skills checklist and discuss patient populations in your interviews.

Personally, I think losing skills is a myth (at least if your learning curve has flattened), and those who actually appear to perform worse after some absence from a super specialty were suffering from a self induced mind trip (or never mastered their skills). I do CVOR and have had no trouble returning after extended absences (different to be sure from CVICU). That is not to say that interviewing managers won't believe this myth, so keeping your work history current is important. Just don't worry about lost capabilities after not being in the CVICU for a year or two.

A bit more food for thought for not going CVICU for a whole year. I would assume your plan while getting a masters is to work at least part time concurrently? If so, that is a staff position and the facility will insist on a lengthy orientation. That makes recent experience virtually irrelevant. You even have a great reason for travel, a fun year before getting your masters, similar to deferred college entrance.

Finally, you will find something of value in any location. Could be clinical, or memorable patients or staff, new friends, or local culture or sights. I've not hated any location in 22 years of travel. Of course I have a bucket list, but I had much more time that you to work on it.

Good luck!

You are smart to save up some cash before CRNA school. That's what I am doing too. You'll be glad you did. Plus the variety you gain while traveling will look good once you're applying.

I traveled for years and loved it. My main comfort zone was MICU, so I took plenty of those assignments but in my years doing this, I also took CICU assignments, NSICU, float between MICU/SICU/CVICU, etc. I was up front and clear on my skills when I interviewed but stressed that I learn fast and learning new things is a perk for me. With numerous assignments under my belt, it was easy to prove I was skilled and adaptable. They still may hang back and assign you the easy patients on the unit for the first month or two, but just be helpful, get in there with critical patients and most will ease up and start giving you the sicker ones once you are tested. This is also the best way I found from "losing" skills while traveling, otherwise they will just give you the soon to be transferred out patients. Ask if you take the CRRT for example or other classes at their hospital (so they have "proof" you are trained in their way) if you can take those patients, I did that twice on assignment. It shows initiative and shows you are willing to do more than the minimum, which most appreciate. If money is your objective, many companies have a rapid response division, which have higher pay rates, but you have to be willing to start in 2 weeks. Fastaff has super great pay, but hearsay says sometimes poor working conditions, and or 48h/week assignments but you'll make bank, over 2000/week on many assignments. Best of luck!

or 48h/week assignments but you'll make bank, over 2000/week on many assignments. Best of luck!

That's what I make as a staff nurse working 48hr/week, so I lost some motivation to travel.

agreed enter your comfort zone and then progress toward other avenues. Youll do great

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