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    Traveling ED nurses: Getting started

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    Rising opportunities

    Each emergency department has its own unique culture and rhythm, but the transition from your home ED to others across the country might be easier than you'd imagine. By exposing you to diverse patient populations, novel patient care techniques, and the fertile minds of other caregivers, each new assignment is like a miniature nursing school. And don't forget the chance to visit and absorb the local attractions of countless new communities to a degree you'd never achieve over a fleeting week's vacation.

    Although veteran travel nurses will say there's no bad time to start your mobile career, there's definitely a best way. To help you find it, we've tapped the wisdom of several travel nursing recruiters and ED travelers for an overview of the current market and their suggestions for securing and acing your first assignment. Once you sample the travel world, you may wonder why you waited so long!


    (Photo: Getty Images/rubberball)
    ED travelers' prospects are improving amid a travel nursing industry still recovering from recession lows. Shambra Speckmiear, recruitment manager with Clinical One's National Healthcare Division, based in Wakefield, Mass., has noticed an uptick in hospital requests. For 2009, she notes that "ED was in the top three specialties with the most job orders, and it has only continued to trend upward," with that position likely steady as of midsummer 2010.

    Michele Kluger Loebl, senior healthcare recruiter with RN Network in Boca Raton, Fla., also reports rising needs for ED-related specialties along with the increased seasonal demand for travelers. "Overall, I have seen in the last week a bump up in ER, ICU, and OR specifically," she says. Salaries nationwide also have been healthy, even as budget-conscious hospitals have cut incentives. Sheila Groff, a recruiter with Tampa, Fla.-based NovaPro, affirms this change: "Pay rates are about the same, but we're not seeing sign-on or completion bonuses."

    "For right now, things seem to be steady and consistent," says Richard Kousgaard, an account manager with Omaha, Neb.-based Aureus Medical Group, of ED salaries. "We seem to have hit the plateau on the low side; things have definitely begun to progress on the upward side" after a seesaw 2009. He's also noticed a very recent rise in ED nurse orders. "There are definitely more out there than there were even two months ago," he notes.

    Experience preferred

    Requests for ED nurses with previous mobile experience are now appearing on hiring managers' orders, along with other, more exacting specifications. Two or even three years of previous travel, a work history with large or busy EDs, and Level I trauma center experience are among the prerequisites Groff has seen. "The biggest plus for long-term travelers is exceptional references," she says. "If they have varied experience and exceptional references on their résumés, usually there's no problem finding them their next assignment."

    How can travel beginners overcome the experience hurdle? "The key component for critical care in general is longevity," Kousgaard observes. "A broad amount of experience in the ED is usually going to look better than someone who's only ever been on the trauma team or the cardiac unit. Get some solid years of experience among different facilities, whether you're working nights PRN or per diem for a while at another facility. These situations show adaptability and flexibility."

    Floating to other units also can broaden your appeal and supply marketable experience, Kluger Loebl says. "If you have the opportunity to float on a regular basis, or if your home community has a pediatric ER, spend time there, because this will give you more diversity when you're out there traveling. A lot of hospitals don't have separate adult and pediatric EDs. If you enjoy working with the peds patient, and you gain that experience and exposure before you start traveling, it will open up more opportunities for you," she advises.

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    James M. Fraleigh
    James M. Fraleigh is a freelance writer based in Westwood, New Jersey.