How to get a critical care position after med-surg



I am a new grad working on a surgical floor in a level I trauma hospital, and I am trying to see my path to becoming an ICU nurse. It looks like some residency programs would still consider me as a new grad since I have less than one year experience, but most of them require 2 years of commitment. Is there another way of getting into the specialty? Internal transfer is not really an option because a) my hospital has already invested into my training, therefore, I have a very small chance of being transferred; and b) I want to move to another state. When I look at the job postings, all critical care positions require prior critical care experience.

How do people get into critical care? How did you get your ICU position?

Please share!

Thank you.

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

If you have less than one year of experience, why aren't you staying until you get that one year? Is your family relocating? Can you delay the relocation until you have a year of experience?


5 Posts

I got into ICU after 2.5 years of med/surg experience. At that time, I volunteered to float to various departments including ED, outpatient care, pre-op and step down units. No training involved, just self determination. I have now been an ICU nurse for 2.5 years and I feel that my med/surg background has proven me to be one of the strongest nurses in our ICU unit. I became a core ICU nurse in less than a year. Just be patient and hang in there.


916 Posts

Specializes in Critical care.

I started in ICU after 1.5 years on a telemetry unit. I did cardiac drips, my own rhythm monitoring, etc.

You will be more marketable after gaining at least a year of experience. You also should be open to starting on a step-down unit and working your way to ICU- especially since it seems you have no tele experience.

Specializes in SICU,CTICU. Has 9 years experience.

i agree with the others - stay for 1 year at least and then just apply, you shouldn't have a problem finding an ICU position after 1 year of experience.

You need telemetry experience as well as at least a year of medsurg. Some hospitals have a residency or training program for the ICU that may include new grads even, but the requirements are usually experience with telemetry and 1-2 years in another department.

Yes, I can delay my relocation, but I won't qualify for residency programs after one year. Now I still do.

My hospital does not allow floating with less than one year experience. Neither it allows floating to critical care departments of non-critical care staff. Moreover, we don't even have a step-down unit - all ICU transfers go to either tele, or medical, or to us.

Call me inpatient, but I do not want to spend years on a med/surg unit. Looks like switching to tele could be more useful.


916 Posts

Specializes in Critical care.
Yes, I can delay my relocation, but I won't qualify for residency programs after one year. Now I still do.

You won't need to qualify for a residency program after 1 year because you will be an experienced nurse. I didn't get my ICU position through a residency- those are just for new grads. I did have a formal orientation to the ICU with online modules, some classroom days with our critical care nurse educators and other new hires, plus many weeks with a dedicated preceptor. None of the nurses that were hired into the ICU at the same time as me were new grads- everyone had some type of acute care experience. In fact my facility doesn't hire new grads directly into the ICU at all- they start on a step-down or tele unit for a year before being transferred to the ICU and getting the exact same orientation to ICU that I received (I was new to the hospital and health system- worked for a competing one).

ETA: You should also be looking for leadership opportunities within your current unit and hospital to build your resume. When I was a tele nurse as soon as a spot on a committee opened up I volunteered to fill it right away- I knew it would look good and help me to get where I wanted in the future.

Haha I meant impatient of course.

Thank you for all the helpful tips!