By June 17, 2009 2 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Does past experience in different specialties make me more flexible as a travel nurse?

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I was recently asked by a reader if they could travel in a certain specialty if they had experience, but not necessarily recent experience.

This usually occurs with those of us who have had many years in nursing, but have not practiced all of those years in the same specialty. The reader who wrote to me had 27 years of experience and was currently an ICU nurse. However, she also had experience in PACU and OR. She wondered if she would be able to take an assignment in OR or PACU, even though her experience was not recent.

The answer depends on a few factors; first, the agency with whom you are working. In many cases, your agency wants to get you placed in a position. While they might state that you should have recent experience, many recruiters will not have a problem submitting you for a position in which you feel comfortable working. The area in which you might run into resistance will be with the hiring facility.

Honestly, this shouldn’t ever be a big obstacle as long as you are up front with the facility. If I was the aforementioned nurse, seeking a job in PACU, I would simply state my current role and experience to the person with whom I was interviewing. I might say something like: “Although I am currently employed as an ICU nurse, I have also worked in PACU and feel that my current position has led me to keep up the skills necessary to function well in a recovery setting. Furthermore, there are instances where I have taken patients directly from the OR and recovered them in an ICU setting. I have no doubts that I would be able to function competently and independently in a PACU travel position.”

After that, it is up to the hiring facility. You have made your case for being a qualified applicant and have been forthcoming in your current experience. As long as you feel comfortable in the environment in which you are applying, why not expand your options when it comes time to take an assignment. However, if the assignment seems even a little outside your scope of practice, I would advise you to decline (even if they accept you). Being on a travel assignment, sometimes thousands of miles from home, is not the place where you want to find yourself in over your head.

Stay safe by always being up front with all those with whom you interview and use common sense in deciding whether the assignment is within your experience level.

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About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

2 Comments on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Does past experience in different specialties make me more flexible as a travel nurse?"

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  1. Evette says:

    I’m a housing vendor for travel nurses; where can I advertise my housing and ia theie a membership website for travel nurse; where can I contact the individual travel nurse ?

  2. Becky says:

    To echo your advice, Cirrus Medical can work with travel nurses to find positions which coincide with prior nursing experience. You can visit their website cirrusmedicalstaffing.com for more information. Also, they post a variety of travel nurse job opportunities in tons of U.S. cities on their Twitter account (username: TravelingNurses) and Facebook Fan Page (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Cirrus-Medical-Staffing/69051166959)

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