Travel Nurses and the ICU

Nearly 5.7 million patients are admitted to the ICU of hospitals across the US each year. For most of those 5.7 million patients, the care and expertise of the ICU staff is the only thing standing between them and death.

Thus, the role of the ICU nurse is a critical one. What’s more, not every registered nurse is willing or able to handle the rigors of working in the ICU.

For those who are able to take on the charge, it is a rewarding and challenging career. And for travel nurses who want a good pick of jobs while earning a high wage, specializing in the ICU is a good way to do it.

Let’s look at some benefits.

Life in the ICU

Working in the ICU is intense. That’s probably why they call it the Intensive Care Unit. In this work environment, you will constantly see the worst of the worst.

Your patients may be gravely ill or injured. You’ll do everything you can to save someone’s life. Sometimes you’ll fail. That can get pretty stressful.

But sometimes, you’ll succeed. And there’s nothing quite like seeing the gratitude on the faces of your patient’s family.

Because of the nature of the work, you will quickly hone your nursing skills and your ability to think calmly under pressure. There is, and always will be, demand for these skills all across the country. And hospitals are willing to pay well for a nurse with the right requirements.

Thus, if you’ve ever thought about becoming a travel nurse, specializing as an ICU travel nurse might be the way to go for you.

What Is a Travel Nurse?

Let’s back up for a second. You might be wondering what a travel nurse is.

Travel nurses work for staffing agencies that partner with hospitals all across the country. Hospitals can advertise their short-term needs for a nurse with these agencies.

Travel nurses take these positions and work short-term periods in different hospitals. That means they move from city to city every few months and enjoy a varied and adventurous career and lifestyle.

ICU Travel Nurses

Working as a travel nurse has some great benefits for the adventurous soul. You get to experience life in many cities across America with the constant assurance that you’ll have a job at your new location before you pack up and move.

You also tend to make a good wage and enjoy various tax breaks unique to your unique career field. The staffing agency usually provides you with the normal health insurance and other benefits you would expect from a steady job. Plus, they often help you find or even provide housing at each new location.

But what are the benefits specific to being an ICU travel nurse? Let’s take a look.


Because of the demanding nature of ICUs, the pay for an ICU position is very good. It is higher on average than what nurses who work in other parts of the hospital earn. Depending on experience and credentials, ICU nurses can earn $95,000 a year.

As a travel ICU nurse, you can expect even better wages. Although this, of course, is dependent on certifications and experience.

On top of that, you get to add the benefits of being a travel nurse. Just the free housing benefit is like earning extra income because you don’t have to pay housing costs. Plus, you don’t have to pay taxes on it!

Job Availability

As a general rule, it isn’t too difficult for travel nurses to find desirable positions in places they would like to visit. However, those with limited specialties or job experience may have a harder time qualifying for the positions they want.

ICU nurses, on the other hand, are in high demand. With the right qualifications as an ICU nurse, you will basically have your pick of job openings all across the US.

Professional Growth

As an ICU nurse working in various different hospitals, you’ll have the opportunity for a tremendous amount of professional growth.

Working in an ICU in general presents you with a number of challenging situations that will help you learn and grow as a nurse. As a travel nurse, you’ll work with, and learn from, many different professionals in your field.

Not only can you work in a variety of ICUs, but also you can also experience working in different kinds of ICUs. Try out a stint in a Pediatric ICU or Neonatal ICU. For your next assignment, hop over to a Cardiovascular ICU. As long as you have the basic experience and qualifications that the hospital requires, you’ll be able to land a job.

As you can imagine, the possibilities for professional growth are spectacular.


We’ve already mentioned that hospitals pay well for nurses with solid ICU experience. To sweeten the pot, they also may offer some rather impressive incentive packages.

You also have more control over your daily schedule. Typically, during the negotiating process before you sign your contract, you can work out the hours you will be working before you begin. You can usually factor in specific days off for personal/family events and whatnot.

Is ICU Travel Nursing for You?

What do you think? Is becoming an ICU travel nurse appealing to you? Only you can decide if the rigors of the ICU, coupled with the relative instability of being a travel nurse is right for you. It takes a special type of person to successfully fill this type of role.

However, there are a lot of travel nurses out there living a full, adventurous life and making a good wage while doing it. Working in an ICU is hard but rewarding work.

Are you interested in learning more about getting certified to work in an ICU? Feel free to check out our professional certifications page. We’ll help you get the education you need to land the job you love!

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