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Ask a Travel Nurse: Best unit experience before travel nursing?


opportunities concpept compassAsk a Travel Question:

I am a Student Nurse that is soon to graduate and is currently applying for jobs in the hospital. I know that I want to get my first year of experience and then start traveling. I have read that you recommend a person to work in a unit that interests them, but I am curious as to what units make a travel applicant more appealing and versatile. I would personally prefer critical care, intensive care, or emergency department nursing. Is there any specific unit that companies look for in a potential employee?

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

Simple answer…no. But I’m guessing you might not have wanted that simple an answer 😉

Every specialty that you mentioned should keep you in high dem and in travel nursing. If you were leaning more toward kids, PICU, NICU, L&D and OB specialties are also good choices, but not all facilities will have units that specialize in children. I have never come across a hospital that does not have an ER and an ICU.

To make yourself more marketable, just work on your experience and skill set. For critical care, get your ACLS (most critical care units require this anyway) and  dabble in cardiac (CCU) and general ICU’s (surgical or medical…MICU or SICU). Tack on some neuro experience if you like with ICP monitoring. Consider a balloon pump class, but be aware that some facilities will not give their balloon pump patients to travelers (only core staff). The same could be said of open hearts.

If you go ER, make sure it is a larger ED and it would be best to work in a level 1 trauma center if you are able. Again, get your ACLS and PALS cards. Work your way into trauma and all areas of the ER (triage, quick care, chest pain and observation units, etc).

Just try to experience everything you can in whatever specialty you choose. I do also want to mention that I have no idea where the market will be when you are ready to travel, but currently, most facilities are dem and ing two years of experience. There are still places where you might find work with just a year, but the choice positions would go to those travelers with at least two years of experience right now.

Hope all this helps.


Posted in: Career Advice

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.

1 Comment on "Ask a Travel Nurse: Best unit experience before travel nursing?"

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  1. Syon Smith says:

    Travel Nursing is getting popular day-by-day because it offers job independence and flexibility, and facilities can also meet their short term nursing staff needs, but for better options and salaries, few years work experience and additional certification is highly recommended.

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