How to Become an ICU Travel Nurse

How to Become an ICU Travel Nurse: Ultimate Guide

Are you a nurse ready to explore new opportunities and travel the country? If so, ICU travel nursing might be just what you’re looking for. As an ICU travel nurse, you’ll have the chance to work in different healthcare facilities, broaden your experience, and make a difference in the lives of patients across the country.

In this guide, we will discuss what ICU travel nursing is, the responsibilities and qualifications required for this role, and how to become an ICU travel nurse. We’ll also cover salary expectations and job growth potential for ICU travel nurses. Plus, we’ve included answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about being an ICU travel nurse.

So buckle up and get ready for an exciting journey as we explore everything you need to know about becoming an ICU travel nurse!

Introduction to ICU Travel Nursing

ICU travel nursing offers a unique opportunity for nurses seeking adventure and flexibility in their careers. Unlike traditional nursing roles, ICU travel nurses work on short-term assignments in different locations, allowing them to experience new places while honing their skills.

Becoming an ICU travel nurse requires specific qualifications and experience, but the benefits of this career path are numerous. From the freedom to choose your location and schedule to the chance to work with diverse patient populations, ICU travel nursing can be a fulfilling and exciting choice for nurses seeking something different in their profession.

The Responsibilities of an ICU Travel Nurse

An ICU travel nurse is maintaining her responsibility

The responsibilities of an ICU travel nurse are similar to those of a regular ICU nurse, with the added aspect of traveling to different healthcare facilities on short-term assignments. Here are some of the key responsibilities of an ICU travel nurse:

1. Patient Care: ICU travel nurses provide direct care to critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit. They assess patients’ conditions, monitor vital signs, administer medications, and provide treatments as prescribed by the medical team. They also assist with procedures such as intubation, central line placement, and chest tube insertion.

2. Nursing Assessments: Travel nurses in the ICU are responsible for conducting comprehensive assessments of patients, including physical examinations, reviewing medical histories, and gathering relevant information. They analyze and interpret data to identify changes in patients’ conditions and promptly communicate any concerns to the healthcare team.

3. Collaboration with Healthcare Team: ICU travel nurses work closely with a multidisciplinary healthcare team that includes doctors, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and other specialists. These nurses collaborate with the team to develop and implement individualized care plans for patients, participate in rounds, and provide updates on patients’ progress.

4. Monitoring and Life Support: Continuous monitoring of a patient’s vital signs, cardiac rhythms, and oxygen levels is a crucial aspect of an ICU nurse’s role. Travel nurses in the ICU are responsible for interpreting this data, recognizing signs of deterioration, and taking appropriate action, such as administering emergency medications or initiating life-saving interventions like CPR.

5. Documentation and Record-keeping: Accurate and thorough documentation is essential in the ICU to ensure continuity of care and provide a legal record. Travel nurses must maintain detailed records of patients’ assessments, medications, treatments, and responses to interventions. They also document any changes in a patient’s condition and communicate this information effectively to the healthcare team.

Required Skills and Qualifications for ICU Travel Nurses

To become an ICU travel nurse, you must possess several skills and qualifications, including:

1. RN licensure: All ICU travel nurses must be registered nurses with an active license in their state of practice.

2. Critical care experience: ICU travel nurses typically have at least two years of experience working in critical care units, such as ICUs or emergency departments.

3. Advanced certifications: Many ICU travel nurses hold advanced certifications in critical care nursing, such as CCRN or CNRN.

4. Strong clinical skills: ICU travel nurses must possess strong clinical skills, including the ability to monitor and assess patients’ vital signs, administer medications and IVs, and perform other critical tasks.

5. Communication skills: Effective communication is essential for ICU travel nurses, who must work closely with physicians, other healthcare professionals, and family members to provide coordinated care to critically ill patients.

In addition to these core qualifications, successful ICU travel nurses also possess flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to work in a variety of healthcare settings across the country.

Different Types of ICU Travel Nursing Jobs

ICU travel nursing jobs can be a great way for experienced nurses to explore new areas, gain valuable experience, and earn a competitive compensation. There are several different types of ICU travel nursing jobs available:

  • Medical ICU (MICU) travel nursing jobs: Medical ICU travel nurses have the responsibility of caring for critically ill patients who require specialized medical care.
  • Surgical ICU (SICU) travel nursing jobs: The role of surgical ICU travel nurses is to provide care for patients who have undergone surgical procedures and require intensive post-operative care.
  • Cardiac ICU (CICU) travel nursing jobs: Cardiac ICU travel nurses provide effective care for patients with heart-related conditions or those recovering from cardiac surgery.
  • Neurological ICU (NICU) travel nursing jobs: These jobs involve caring for patients with neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or seizures.
  • Pediatric ICU (PICU) travel nursing jobs: Pediatric ICU travel nurses offer care for critically ill infants, children, and adolescents in a pediatric setting.

Each type of ICU travel nursing job requires specialized skills and knowledge and may have different requirements in terms of experience and certifications.

It is important to research each role carefully and consider your skills and experience before applying for a position.

Steps on How to Become an ICU Travel Nurse

Becoming an ICU travel nurse requires a combination of education, experience, and research. If you wish to go down this path, here are the steps you’ll need to follow:

Steps on How to Become an ICU Travel Nurse

Step 1: Obtain Proper Education and Certifications

Obtaining the proper education and certifications is crucial for becoming an ICU travel nurse. Typically, ICU travel nurses hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and may have additional certifications such as the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification, which is preferred by many employers.

However, ICU experience is essential for becoming a successful ICU travel nurse. Continuing education and professional development are also important for staying up-to-date with the latest practices and technologies in critical care nursing.

Therefore, aspiring ICU travel nurses should focus on gaining both theoretical knowledge and practical skills to succeed in this challenging yet rewarding profession.

Step 2: Gain Adequate Work Experience

Gaining sufficient work experience in an ICU setting is crucial for becoming a successful ICU travel nurse. To gain the necessary experience, it’s important to work in various types of ICUs, such as medical-surgical, cardiac, and neuro ICUs. 

Obtaining additional certifications and training can also improve your skills and marketability as a travel nurse. Networking with other healthcare professionals may help you find job opportunities and gain insights into the field. 

By gaining ample experience and showcasing your expertise, you can increase your chances of securing desirable assignments as an ICU travel nurse.

Step 3: Research Different Travel Nursing Agencies

To find the right fit for your career as an ICU travel nurse, researching different travel nursing agencies is crucial. There are several factors to consider when selecting an agency, including location, pay rates, and benefits offered. It’s important to look for agencies that specialize in ICU nursing positions and have a good reputation in the industry. 

Reading reviews from other travel nurses can give you valuable insights into each agency’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and negotiate terms before signing a contract with an agency. 

By doing thorough research, you can find the best possible opportunities for your career growth as an ICU travel nurse.

Step 4: Apply and Interview for ICU Travel Nursing Jobs

Applying and interviewing for ICU travel nursing jobs can be a daunting process, but with the proper preparation and mindset, it can also be an exciting opportunity to expand your career. It’s crucial to research and identify travel nursing agencies that specialize in ICU assignments before updating your resume and preparing a cover letter. 

When applying for your desired position, be prepared for phone and video interviews with potential employers. Brushing up on your critical care skills and knowledge can help demonstrate your competency during the interview process. 

Additionally, consider obtaining any additional certifications or training that may be required or beneficial for ICU travel nursing positions.

Salary and Job Growth Potential for ICU Travel Nurses

ICU travel nurses can enjoy several benefits, including higher salaries and job growth potential. Due to their specialized skills and willingness to travel, these nurses can earn significantly more than staff nurses.

Searching for better salary and potential job

Average Salary for ICU Travel Nurses

Compared to regular ICU nurses, ICU travel nurses earn higher salaries due to their willingness to take on assignments in different locations and their specialized skill set. According to industry data, the average salary for an ICU travel nurse is around $100,000 per year. However, it’s essential to note that this figure may vary depending on several factors such as geographical location and level of experience. 

In addition to competitive pay, healthcare, and housing allowances are often included in contracts for ICU travel nurses. The high demand for critical care nurses makes job growth potential high for those interested in exploring this field.

Job Growth Potential for ICU Travel Nurses

The job growth potential for ICU travel nurses is extremely high due to the ongoing shortage of critical care nurses in many areas. As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to increase, travel nursing offers an excellent opportunity for those with the necessary qualifications and skills to take advantage of this trend.

Furthermore, advancements in medical technology and an aging population further fuel the need for skilled ICU travel nurses. With higher salaries and benefits such as housing and travel expenses often included in contracts, it’s no wonder that ICU travel nursing has become a popular career choice for many nurses seeking adventure and professional development.


Becoming an ICU travel nurse can be a worthwhile career choice for those who enjoy working in high-pressure environments and are willing to travel for work. As an ICU travel nurse, you would have the opportunity to work in different healthcare facilities across the country, gaining valuable experience and exposure to different patient populations and medical practices. You may also have the opportunity to earn higher pay rates and receive additional benefits such as housing and travel expenses. 

However, it’s important to consider the potential challenges of working as a travel nurse, including being away from home for extended periods and adjusting to new cities or work environments and colleagues. 

Ultimately, whether becoming an ICU travel nurse is worth it depends on your personal career goals, preferences, and priorities. It may be helpful to speak with other experienced travel nurses or healthcare professionals to gain more insight into this career path before making a decision.


How long do assignments typically last?

ICU travel nurse assignments typically last for 13 weeks, although some hospitals may offer shorter or longer assignments based on their staffing needs. Travel nurses have the option to extend their assignment if they wish to stay longer. 

Are housing and travel expenses covered by the agency?

When working as an ICU travel nurse, housing and travel expenses are usually covered by the agency. This can be a significant advantage for those who wish to pursue a career in travel nursing without having to worry about the logistics of relocation. Agencies typically provide furnished housing or a stipend to cover rent and utilities, while also reimbursing travel expenses such as airfare or mileage.

What benefits do agencies usually offer to travel nurses?

Agencies that specialize in travel nursing typically offer a variety of benefits to their nurses, including:
1. Competitive pay rates and salary packages
2. Travel reimbursement for transportation and housing expenses
3. Health insurance coverage, including medical, dental, and vision plans
4. Retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s or pensions
5. Continuing education opportunities and tuition reimbursement programs
6. Sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses for new hires
7. Professional liability insurance coverage to protect against malpractice claims