How did you get into the ICU?

Specialties MICU


I'm a new grad in my third month in Med/Surg. I was not one of the lucky ones who got to start out in the ICU, even though I did everything I could in nursing school (right tech job, icu preceptorship, ACLS, PALS, and a member of AACN) to start in the ICU. I miss the ICU so much. I'm so busy at work, but bored. Most of my patients are walkie talkies, and I feel like I'm basically babysitting them over night, until they are discharged in the morning. I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I am really glad to have my job. But I'm starting to get a little nervous; most of the nurses that I work with have never left med/surg. I'm afraid that I am going to get stuck on med/surg.

So, I'm looking to allnurses for some inspiration and advice.

How did you get into critical care? And do you have any advice to help me get into the ICU when I finish that magical one year of med/surg experience?

Thank you all in advance.

Specializes in critical care, PACU.

I was very lucky to go straight into ICU but I just wanted to let you know that we have several nurses who just crossed over to ICU from medsurg and tele. There is hope for you yet.

They didnt do anything special to do so. Getting ACLS certified if you havent already may help.

Specializes in Critical Care/Coronary Care Unit,.

hey i was a cardiac telemetry nurse for 2 yrs and just got a job in trauma icu. i'm doing the training program and am taking a critical care course on my own as well. they definitely want you to have bls and acls, preferably telemetry experience and it looks good if you take a critical care course on your own and join a professional nursing organization as well. best of luck to you.

It sounds as if you were doing everything to plump you up on paper. I went straight to ICU after working in the hosp for 3 years, doing my practicum there, doing an externship. What I think really helped me was that I knew the manager and I told my preceptor that I had applied and I'm pretty sure she put in a good word for me.

If this is what you really want and have your heart set on, you'll get it! You won't be stuck if you refuse to settle for a job you aren't happy in. But you are getting experience (great!), you have a job (better!), and you have the heart.

Have you looked at other hospitals around you? Or just the one you are at now?

Thank you so much for your kind responses!

I was one of those new grads who took a job 100 miles away from anything. The hospital that I'm at is a very small one, but it's sort of a rural outpost for a much larger system. My hope is that in a year or so, when the market is hopefully better and I have my magical year of experience, I'll be able to transfer to a much larger hospital in my home city. But, since it is so small, the ICU is a general one and half of the beds are designated as telemetry, so there is not separate telemetry or step down unit where I am.

@himalayaneyes - I didn't know that there were critical care courses that you could take as an individual. I know about AACN's ECCO, but I thought that that was only accessible through hospitals. Do you know how I could find a course in my area? Do you know what they are called, or what kind of institutions offer them? That sounds like something fun that I would like to do. Thanks for the tip!

Specializes in Critical Care/Coronary Care Unit,.

there is a company called critical care concepts that offers critical care courses...they may be in your area. you can always just google a course or ask some of the icu nurses where you work. good luck.

Specializes in ICU.

I am one of those lucky new grads who went straight to ICU, but I must admit I had the connections to get me there. I started at the hospital in June and have actually been working on the unit for about a month now. We actually have a lot of nurses transferring into the unit from all around the hospital including med/surg, tele, and L&D. I would agree with the others, it seems you have a lot of determination and that is a what is going to get you to ICU eventually! If you can't get straight in after the year, then I would try for tele, it's a great stepping stone, you will learn more, and it's could be a little more challenging than med/surg so maybe you'll be a little happier for the time being. Good luck!!

My first year was in LTC, the next 16 ICU. Networking and making myself known to the ICU managers did the trick. My background helped in that it piqued interest on thier part.

You will find that people get "stuck" by comfort and familiarity rather than by necessity.

I was able to get hired directly into ICU because I had worked as a respiratory therapist at the same hospital for 5 years prior. When I started nursing school, I spoke with the Nurse Mgr of ICU and informed her that I'd like to work there after graduation. Since I worked in ICU all the time as an RRT, I already knew all the RN's and the attendings, so it was an easy transition into ICU.

I've always worked critical care.

Maybe you should go talk to the manager of the ICU or ICUs at your facility and ask them if you could pick up some extra hours with them....mind you....with the understanding that you aren't there to necessarily take care of unstable, ventilated, titrated patients but that you would be able to care for those that have transfer orders, or those who've been there for a while.

What about applying at another facility in their ICU for part time?

Specializes in burn ICU, SICU, ER, Trauma Rapid Response.

My first RN job was in a 9 month, paid Critical Care Nurse Residency program for new grads going directly into the SICU. I had to move across the state to get it and I had a big advantage of being an ADN and applying to a hospital that prefered ADNs for it's SICU (currently they have stoped accepting BSN new grads into the nurse residency for the SICU, still take them for ER, PACU, MICU, PICU & NICU).

I think the best thing you can do, other than what you have done already is be flexable on where you are willing to go to get that ICU job.

My hospital prefers either ICU experience or new grads and does not like to hire nurses with med-surg experience. The thought is that they have too many bad habits to unlearn and have difficulty ajusting to the take action role vs the call for MD help role. I don't know if I buy it but it is the thinking at this particular faciliety.

Specializes in Cardiothoracic ICU.

im curious as to why they would prefer ADN to BSN, havent heard that before?

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