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Travel Nursing: ICU

ICU nurseDid you know that more than 5.7 million patients are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) each year in the United States? ICU nurses will always be needed to care for these patients — and travel nurses in this specialty are especially in demand. Find out what it takes to get an ICU travel nursing job.


ICU nurses, also known as critical-care nurses, take care of patients with life-threatening injuries and illnesses in the intensive care unit. They most frequently care for those suffering from respiratory distress, strokes, heart attacks and severe trauma.

Many patients are admitted to the emergency room and then transferred to the ICU for immediate care, so ICU nurses are familiar with the ER and may also have experience working in one.

Because their patients require immediate attention, ICU nurses must be quick on their feet, able to stand or walk for long periods of time, and willing to work in high-stress environments.

They monitor patients’ vitals, administer medication and consult with patients’ families to determine the best course of care. They also coordinate with the other nurses and doctors in the ICU to treat any complications.

ICU nurses care for people in desperate need of help and must be compassionate when communicating treatment procedures to family members. They must also, at times, inform families when their loved one has passed away.

The shifts for ICU nurses vary, as they are needed around the clock. However, they usually rotate and include days, nights, weekends and holidays. Most ICU nurses work in hospitals, but others work in home healthcare, clinics and outpatient surgery centers.

Note: Basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification, as well as one year of clinical experience, are required for all nurses RNnetwork places.


A career as an ICU nurse requires an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX. Many nurses who work within this field earn their CCRN certification, which requires a minimum of 1,750 hours of experience in two years working with critically ill patients. They may also specialize in adult, neonatal and pediatric ICU care.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be an ICU travel nurse? Check out our open jobs now — and read more about NICU travel nursing careers as well.

About the author

Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a communication professional with experience writing for the healthcare and entertainment industries as well as local government. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.


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