February 25, 2021  | Updated: March 1, 2021

Category: Medical Careers, Nurses

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • ICU Nurses are in endless demand due to the pandemic
  • Telemetry Nursing is a good jumping off point for travel nursing
  • Know what credentials you need for specialties you are interested

Considering how much time goes into a career in travel nursing, picking a specialty is one of the biggest choices you have to make.

That’s why we put together this list of the most in-demand travel nursing specialties. Any of them can provide not only meaningful work, but also a solid paycheck no matter where in the country you end up.

ICU – Intensive Care Unit

We’ll start with the most obvious specialty on the list in 2021: there is currently a practically endless demand for ICU nurses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many areas of the country having intensive care units that are at or near capacity, they all need skilled nurses to help them deal with record numbers of patients.

The positive side of this specialty, though, is that with sky-high demand comes higher pay. If you’re looking to overcome debt, (perhaps student loan debt from your nursing degree), then this is a great way to quickly earn the money to pay it off. And if you’ve been vaccinated or otherwise already have antibodies for the virus, it’s also the area where you can do the most good.

Telemetry

Another specialty that’s particularly hot due to COVID-19 is telemetry. A single nurse will use life sign-measuring devices like an electrocardiogram to monitor cardiac, respiratory, or renal issues in several patients at once, which can be a huge boon to an over-extended and under-staffed ICU.

That means shifts as a telemetry nurse are extremely fast paced, but also help you learn to see the whole picture in patient care. Hospitals hiring ER nurses like candidates who have telemetry experience because it helps them deal with the high-pressure environment, and they don’t have to train them on the equipment. If you’re looking to choose a first specialty as a “jumping-off point,” this is a great one to consider.

ER – Emergency Room

Doing the regular work of a nurse already makes you a superhero, but ER nursing takes it to the next level. Having the ability to not only provide the appropriate care but do it for any kind of acute illness or life-threatening injury at a moment’s notice, is a very specific kind of skill set. Nurses who can do it well are always needed.

This specialty is not one for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. Being able to quickly and calmly assess a situation and make decisions about the care that can and should be provided is a necessary part of it. But if you have that experience and thrive in a varied and high-energy environment, you will never have to search too long for a job.

Med-Surg – Medical Surgical

Med-Surg nursing is the largest nursing specialty because it’s required just about everywhere that medical care happens. A med-surg nurse coordinates a patient’s care from the very beginning to the very end. Being part of such a long journey means that he/she will need to have a wide array of knowledge for many different kinds of patients.

This is another great specialty for new RNs because you’ll get experience in so many different areas. You can then leverage that into additional specialties as you continue your education to open up more opportunities for yourself.

Operating Room

This is actually three mini-specialties under one umbrella: procedures usually require a pre-op nurse to prep a patient for surgery, an intra-op nurse who helps the surgeon during the operation and keeps the room sterile, and a post-op nurse who works in the recovery room. Because of that, OR nurses (also known as perioperative nurses) are always in high demand. Surgery is usually a hospital’s largest source of revenue, so it’s a well-paying specialty as well.

This specialty involves a lot of change and patient turnover, making it particularly well suited to travel nursing. Plus, the job doesn’t only exist in hospitals; you can get hired as an OR nurse in clinics or surgical centers, increasing the amount of opportunity with this specialty.

NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Demand for women’s health care is on the rise, which means so is demand for this specialty. NICU nurses help care for children born with critical health problems, no matter what they are. It requires a wide array of knowledge about infant care and the ability to stay calm when dealing with new parents who are scared for their child’s life, but it also means getting to save babies.

Having the right combination of knowledge, skill set, and empathy is critical for this role, and not everybody has that kind of patience when working under stress. If you do, this is a lucrative and in-demand specialty to choose.

L&D – Labor And Delivery

On a similar note, another specialty that is and will always be in demand is labor and delivery nurses. Working with just a few patients per day for just a couple of days each makes this another ideal specialty for travel nurses. But even in that short time, these professionals get to do one of the most gratifying jobs in medicine: help bring new life into the world.

Working in L&D requires a few advanced credentials along with some experience in mother-baby postpartum care. It’s a slow environment peppered with bursts of intense activity as emergencies or deliveries can come up quickly, but if you can switch gears on a dime, then this can be both fulfilling and lucrative.

LTAC – Long Term Acute Care

As the average age of the population rises, so does the demand for LTAC nurses. While this specialty is not always tied to geriatric care, elderly care almost always requires LTAC nurses, which is why the demand for this position will only increase for the foreseeable future.

Most of these positions are long-term, as suggested by the name, which does not obviously lend itself to travel nursing. But the nurses who care for the elderly or people with disabilities need vacations and personal time, so if you can quickly step in and take over for however long they’re away, then you have a valuable and needed skill as a nurse.

If you’re a skilled nurse and you want to go to where you can use those skills to do the most good, then you’ll never find a shortage of travel nursing opportunities. But especially if you choose one of these specialties, we can almost guarantee you’ll never hurt for employment again.

As with any field in health care, it is important to effectively manage your career, licenses, and reputation.

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