Travel specialties


Hi Team!

I'm a new grad nurse and just started my first job last month. That being said, I would like to set myself up to do some travel nursing within a few years. My wife is also a travel nurse (med/surg). I'm currently working a med/tele unit.

Here is my question: If I want to travel, what should I, or should I not specialize in? I was thinking ICU might be good but am really open to suggestions. I'm looking for a balance in both pay, and quality of life, where I'm not dumped on as the travel RN.



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Your first choice should be what you are interested in. You want to enjoy work, right? No idea what specialty is treated the best, but it kind of fits with a second variable. If you want better pay, the more training you get now will support that as a traveler. No matter what specialty is hot. And generally, the more valuable you are, the better you will be treated. So telemetry beats medsurg. ICU beats telemetry. CVICU beats ICU. Cath lab beats CVICU. Advanced practice obviously.

Everything pays better than medsurg, except perhaps clinic and LTC. There is one advantage to entry level specialties though, you have a wider choice of assignments. But you will be competing with a larger pool of travelers so experience will loom larger. ED is perhaps an exception, while it requires more training, you will have enormous choice of locations. ED is also good for later specialty transitions, such as ICU or PACU.

One other factor you didn't mention is working nights. People who screw up their circadian rhythm by working nights or rotating shifts are just not as healthy as day workers. Some traveler choose nights to avoid the day craziness, or because it may feel good for their biorhythms, but you won't live as long. It is possible to restrict travel assignments to days, but the choice of assignments is cut by over half and sometimes you may have gaps in work (not necessarily a bad thing of course). One way around that is by choosing a specialty that doesn't work nights. Some choices include operating room, PACU, dialysis, and clinic. No doubt there are some much more rare specialties that don't work nights like perhaps wound care, infection control and such.

Rotating shifts shorten lives – A Blog Around The Clock

Why Working The Night Shift Has Major Health Consequences


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Has 3 years experience.

Great comments. I honestly prefer nights, at least for now. Good articles regarding rotating shifts. Wonder how full-time nights impacts health versus rotating shifts. Also, do people do rotate contracts between specialties? For instance, can you do a 13 week ICU stint, then bounce to an ED contract etc? Just wondering if that's possible.


1 Article; 5,768 Posts

Some travelers do have multiple specialties. But you have to switch often to keep both current for the purposes of acceptance by hospitals. That is their thing, I don't believe it takes more than a day to get back up to speed after an extended absence. The whole keeping up your skills thing is overblown.

I don't know of anyone working nights who doesn't shift back to a more daytime awake pattern on their days off. If you really keep the same schedule week in and week out, I suspect your health will not suffer as much as the research suggests. It is also my personal belief that swing shifts are better than nights, but of course only research could validate that belief.