The agency may not have actually lied to you, and here is the reason I say this. There are a lot companies out there, that are constantly hiring on new, inexperienced recruiters. These have no previous experience recruiting nurses, and have NO idea of what goes on in hospitals. Many are here today, and gone tomorrow.
It is always best to INTERVIEW your recruiter, before dealing with an agency! The recruiter is what makes or breaks an agency, and can make or break your experience with the company, and as a traveler.
You need to find a recruiter who has been at this for a while, and has knowledge, and experience in placing ICU nurses.
Many hospitals require at least 2 or even more years of ICU experience, and that experience must be recent, and just prior to the assignment. I personally would reccomend having at least 2yrs experience, but I have seen nurses who did well with less. Just beware, that there are some pretty rough places out there, and you need to be VERY confident of your skills, and NOT need hand holding!
Except for the paperwork, and how their system is, you should be able to take an assignment after a short orientation. Or at times NO orientation. Just remember you could get thrown in over your head, if you end up dealing with those who adhere to the sink of swim kind of thinking. Or you could end up just babysitting, d/t the staff not feeling confident about your experience level. I have been in both situations, and neither is any fun at all! But the assignments ended with me having proved myself in both settings. I can reccomend a very experienced recruiter, and if you would like I could PM you with her name.
If not, I will just wish you the best of luck in finding a recruiter who is experienced, and will look out for your best interest. Take care...