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Travel nursing advice

by icu_nurse2016 icu_nurse2016 (New) New

Hi everyone! I need advice on becoming a travel nurse. I'm not asking any specific questions, I would like any kind of general advice in regards to becoming one. I am going to give you background on my nursing career.

I am 25 year old (26 in march 2017) single female. I graduated with a BSN in December 2015. I started as a graduate nurse in a level 2 ICU January 2016. The only nursing I have worked in as a nurse is an ICU. I was a student nurse tech on a Telemetry floor from Dec 2014-Dec 2015 before moving to ICU. My ICU is level 2. We do have a CVU. I am floated to the CVU and the Step-down ICU. I do not receive fresh heart patients. I receive patients with chest tubes/external/internal pacemakers/cardiac drips in CVU. Our icu is pretty sick in regards to a lot of sepsis/copd exacerbation/cardiac arrests. We are certified in stroke & stemi. We do NOT have a lot of neuro besides stroke & decrease in LOC. If they need constant EEG monitoring we have to transfer to another hospital and no patients with neuro type surgery. We have CCRT/Balloon pump/Impella patients. I do a lot of titration of drips.

My goal is to become a Travel ICU nurse in 2018. I am preparing for this by studying for the CCRN. I also am considering transferring hospital's. I would like experience in a Level 1 ICU. I am going to get certified in balloon pump this year and also see if I can become CCRT and impella certified. I have ACLS and BLS.

I also own my own home. I have a 45lb dog. I own my own car. I do have student loans. I have a missouri RN license.

I have been networking with several icu travel nurses to learn what places to work for & how to go about the travel nursing life. Two I have heard of is RN network & American mobile.

What else can you recommend?

What has helped you become an icu travel nurse?

Your planning is superb in my opinion. I will say that you can travel successfully from your current hospital after two full years (likely required by your contract anyway), but expanding your knowledge and experience never hurts and will expand your opportunities, especially if you like challenges. After 20 years of travel (not ICU), one thing you will like about travel (given your post) is that you learn something new most every day and on every assignment. You will not fall into a rut, which can happen with less ambitious nurses than you in a staff job.

You happened to name two of the three largest agencies (Cross Country is the other one) so it is not surprising that you have heard of them. You may be picturing working for only one agency, and lots (perhaps even the majority) of travelers work for only one agency (or practice serial monogamy) and it is the path of least resistance usually. That is easier to do with a large agency as they have more available assignments.

There are some caveats here though. Larger agencies need a higher gross profit margin (the part of the hourly bill rate that is not paid directly to the benefit of the traveler) to support their higher costs of doing business and paying more shareholders (those big three are all public companies). Thus as a general rule of thumb, smaller agencies pay more than larger agencies.

Good financial planning requires diversification (this is my analogy). So does travel nursing. That is my philosophy but single agencies fans will obviously differ. One reason is simply common sense. If you read through posts here and on other travel nurse sites, you will read many terrible stories of things gone wrong. If you only work for one agency, you have no Plan B that can be executed quickly if things do go wrong. Also, you will not be able to determine a fair market compensation package from talking to just one agency.

Regardless of the strategies you employ, whether a single agency or multiple agencies (and what size mix if multiple agencies), a particular agency brand should be way down on your list of things to consider. The most important thing are your recruiters, your relationship with your recruiters, communication style, and if they have your best interests in mind (all the best recruiters do for their own career - if their travelers are happy, they will do other assignments - thus more money for them). The only way to find good fitting recruiters for you is to call lots of them, and pick the best three to five to fully sign up with and work with. If you must do only one apparently fabulous recruiter, communicate frequently with the other best contenders just in case. If nothing else, they will lend you some perspective about your current experiences that your current recruiter may not be able to.

For your first assignment or two, other than the right recruiter, not much of what I said matters. Forget about compensation and beaches and dog parks, what you want is a successful first assignment or two to put on your work history while you learn about travel. Hitting the ground running at a new hospital is hard enough with different flow, software, and completely unknown personalities you have to work with. You want a traveler friendly unit, and a patient population, dx, and acuity well within your current comfort zone. So focus on recruiters with whom you communicate well with and who promise credibly to have such assignments ready to go - that includes a frank discussion about real assignments which many agencies and recruiters are unwilling to do until you do all the paperwork. Forget about them and move on!

By the way, trust your recruiter but verify as best you can. You will have a chance on most assignments to interview the manager and have a good chance to figure out if an assignment is a good fit for you beyond the info your recruiter can provide. You may get lucky and get relevant feedback on social media (very rare). Sometimes you can't know until you actually start no matter what you learn, and someone else's good or bad experience can be completely different for you.

By the way, do not take your first few assignments where no manager interview is offered at all. That is becoming more common. That is a sign of a vendor managed assignment (something else for you to learn about) where lines of communication between you, your agency, and the hospital is blurred by a third party. It is also a sign of a facility that uses a ton of travelers and it is no longer important to the manager to interview any given one of them to determine a good fit - if you are qualified on paper, that is good enough for them. That is not to say they have low standards and you will be given an interview, but questions will be pointless coming from you as it will be the vendor manager interviewing you. Needless to say, such assignments are seldom "traveler friendly" as the staff is fatigued from a never ending parade of travelers to orient. Once you are an experienced traveler, fine. But not for your first couple assignments.