What is ICU Nursing?

What is ICU Nursing?

Whether you’re new to Travel Nursing or just looking to branch out in your career, Wanderly is your one stop shop to find all the opportunities out there. One of the most in-demand specialties in travel nursing is ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nursing. 

ICU nurses care for patients who are critically ill. This type of nursing is not for the faint-of-heart. In the ICU every day brings new challenges and all ICU patients require the highest acuity of care. ICU nurses need a powerful combination of skills, knowledge, and proactive thinking to sustain life for the most fragile of patients. Whether you’re a new grad nurse thinking about travel nursing or an experienced ICU nurse stepping into travel, here is some insight into what it’s like working in critical care units across the country.

What is ICU Nursing? 

ICU nurses work in the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital. As an ICU nurse, you will care for patients who are in need of critical care because they are intubated, ventilated, and on life-sustaining medication drips, etc. Working as an ICU travel nurse is quite literally life or death work. Things can change quickly for a patient in the ICU, so nurses need top-notch critical thinking skills to act swiftly. ICU travel nurses must be meticulously organized team players with a deep understanding of disease pathology. 

But technical skill and medical proficiency isn’t the only area in which an ICU nurse must excel. Patients in the ICU are in critical condition and often come with anxious family members who are unfamiliar with medical terminology and procedures. A good ICU nurse must be able to aptly handle families’ questions and concerns and endure the emotional strain of families making life or death decisions for loved ones. 

Some tips and tricks for the ICU 

Go with the flow. 

Flexibility is key for any travel nurse, especially in the ICU. Remember, you are there to help. Sometimes you will have to float, and you should do so with grace. You’re also often in a particular setting because they are short staffed or need extra help – this means sometimes you might need to work more shifts than planned. Advocate for yourself, but make sure you are keeping it all in perspective and being as helpful as possible.  

Ask questions.

And do it as soon as you can. Again, the work of an ICU nurse is life or death. So if you don’t know something, ASK!  If you don’t know the right way to do something, or what the policy is, ask. Each healthcare setting is different, and there may be skills you haven’t used in a while that come up – there is no shame in asking a colleague for a quick refresher. You asking the right questions at the right time as a traveling ICU nurse could make the difference between life and death for a patient in your care. So, when in doubt, ASK!

Not every hospital setting is the same. 

Each healthcare setting has its own policies and procedures and the sooner you accept that, the better experience you will have! Sure, there will be things that are better or worse to your mind each time you take on a new assignment, but you’re there to support and help, not rebuild the system. If hospitals ask for opinions on ways to do something better, feel free to let them know in the most respectful way possible. You’re only on a contract for a few months in most cases, so find a way to be the most helpful that you can in the setting you are in. 

Experience & Certifications for ICU Nursing

To work as a travel nurse, you need at least 1 year of experience in an acute care facility. And ICU travel nurse requirements are no different. Most agencies and placements want to see that you have had time to develop your skills before you travel as you often will have limited orientation on assignment.

Most ICU nurses hold at least a BLS, Basic Life Support and an ACLS, Advanced Cardiac Life Support. In order to be at your best and be qualified for the best ICU travel nursing opportunities, you might also want to consider the following certifications: 

  • CCRN, Critical Care Certification
  • CNRN, Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse
  • CVRN, Certified Cardiac Registered Nurse
  • NIH, Stroke Certification from NIHSS
  • TNCC: Trauma Nursing Core Course

Finding the perfect ICU Travel Nurse Placement

At Wanderly, we aim to provide the best information possible to help you along your travel nursing journey. We know the exceptional opportunities that come with moving to a new place and a new job, but we also know that it comes with challenges. That’s why we’ve made it so simple to find the best opportunity for your career at Wanderly. Our round the clock support team is available to you via chat while you find your next adventure in your nursing career.  

ICU Nursing not for you? Check out our blog on picking your travel nurse specialty.