I started a new job as an ICU RN in January, and I'm still on my 6 month probation. I work for a large University State hospital and mostly it's a good place to work, but now I'm starting to think otherwise. Last week I worked 6 12hr night shifts in a row by choice as I pushed all my shifts together so I could arrange a few days off to go home to England and see my family. On the morning of the last shift, 2 hours before I finished, they told me I was mandated to return at 3pm, although I only finished work at 7.30am. I told them that I was due to leave for the airport and had a flight, hotel and car rental booked and spent $2000 on my trip, and everybody knew I was going on vacation. They told me that they didn't care and that I had to return to work from 3-7pm or I would be in trouble. I refused as I thought this was unfair. I know we may get mandated on occasion but I thought there should be some leeway if you have mitigating or unavoidable circumstances. Anyway, I went on my trip as I hadn't seen my parents in 6 months and I wasn't going to miss it.When I returned nobody said anything to me, but on the the very first shift I got mandated again, this time to work from 7am to 11am after a night shift, so I effectively worked from 7pm until 11am...a 16 hour shift! I had no breaks at all in 16 hours, and I kept on getting more and more patients. During that shift I had about 5 ICU patients, and even though I managed to transfer all but one of them they still didn't let me go home. The last patient was not intubated and was waiting for a transfer, and for some reason they'd drafted in a floor nurse and a 1:1 that the patient absolutely did not need, and yet they still demanded that I stay and take responsibility for this patient, even though the floor nurse was more than capable of caring for her. It didn't seem to make sense to me. I can not understand why a low level non-ICU patient needed an ICU nurse, a floor nurse and a 1:1 all to herself when we were so short staffed. Madness! At 10.10am they even had the cheek to give me another patient, after working nearly 16 hours with no break. The worst thing was, I was required to return that night at 7pm for another shift, and by the time I got home that day, I'd only had 3 hours sleep. I felt terrible and now I've very annoyed at the whole situation. It seems very unfair.It appears that they use mandation as an answer to every day staffing problems instead of solving the problem in other ways. They never cancel scheduled open heart patients if they don't have the staff...they just mandate people to come in instead. In England this would never happen. In my old unit in London if we didn't have the staff we would not accept the patient, and if there was no bed then scheduled (non-emergent) surgery would be cancelled. Also, this unit appears to accept any old thing into ICU. In England patients had to fulfill criteria in order to be accepted into ICU. Here we take anything. The other night I had a post surgical hip arthroplasty. When asked why he was coming to ICU I was told because "he was bilateral"! I mean what's up with that? He wasn't even intubated or even very sick. He went out the next morning. I work with a travel nurse who wants to become part of the staff, and yet they tell her there are no vacancies, despite us getting mandated all the time. I don't think I can live like this as I play in a band that travel all over the US, and if I have a plane ticket to a show I won't be able to stay at short notice. I believe a day off is a day off unless it's an emergency. I need to be able to have a life and plan things and not live by the phone waiting for the call from work. I am seriously considering leaving and becoming an agency nurse.