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