The Incredible Journey of a Picu Travel Nurse

As the demand for specialized care for critically ill children increases, so does the need for qualified pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) travel nurses. The PICU is a vital part of any hospital, as it provides specialized care to sick children who require more attention and monitoring than regular pediatric patients. Travel nurses tend to have a unique perspective on the healthcare industry because they work in various locations for short periods of time. In this article, we will explore the role of a PICU travel nurse, including their responsibilities, skills, and what it takes to become one.

The Role and Responsibilities of a PICU Travel Nurse

PICU travel nurses are responsible for providing specialized care to critically ill children in PICU settings across the country. As travel nurses, they travel from one facility to another, often across state lines, to provide quality care to children in need. Their primary responsibilities include assessment, monitoring, and treatment of critically ill children.


A travel nurse must be able to perform a comprehensive patient assessment. Children in the PICU may be unconscious or unable to communicate, so observation skills are essential. They must be able to interpret vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature. Then use observation skills to monitor the child's body position and level of consciousness. Assessing the child's medical history, chief complaint, and current medications are also part of their job duties.


Monitoring vital signs is an essential component of the PICU travel nurse's role. They must be able to use specialized equipment to interpret the data collected from the child. In addition, they must monitor things such as oxygen saturation, urine output, and the effectiveness of the therapies prescribed. Regularly performing neuro checks and collecting data such as intake and output to ensure the child's body is functioning and progressing as it should.


PICU travel nurses must possess knowledge of pediatric medical disorders, specifically critical illnesses. To care for critically ill children, PICU nurses give extensive medication, ensure proper nutrition, and administer respiratory therapies. They are required to assess and intervene during medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest, respiratory distress, or shock. It is also necessary for them to communicate with the child's family members or guardians, evaluate the child's response to treatment, and adjust it accordingly.

Adaptable and Flexibility

Perhaps the most important quality for a PICU travel nurse is being adaptable and flexible. Working in various PICU settings, they encounter different protocols, procedures, and equipment. As a result, the ability to quickly adapt to different environments and situations is essential. They must also be able to quickly learn organizational procedures and be aware of the facility policies.


PICU travel nurses must work closely with physicians, other healthcare workers, and family members. Cooperation with other team members is essential for effective patient care. PICU travel nurses work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals such as respiratory therapists, social workers, and nutritionists responsible for the child's care. It is important for the nurse to communicate observations about the child to ensure everyone is working together and providing the highest quality of care.

Qualifications Needed For a PICU Travel Nurse

To become a PICU travel nurse, certain qualifications are required. These include a registered nursing degree, a valid nursing license, and basic life support certification, and pediatric advanced life support certification. Other necessary qualifications include:


Most facilities require at least one year of experience in an ICU or PICU setting. The nurse should have experience in monitoring critically ill patients, administering medication, and coordinating with other healthcare providers. More in-demand specialties may require several years of experience before they become travel nurses. Nurses obtain these qualifications by working in the PICU or a critical care setting for several years, including gaining experience in a trauma center, or an intensive care unit.


All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN examination to obtain a nursing license. A nursing license is required to practice nursing in the state where the travel nurse is assigned to work. Each state has different requirements, so it is essential to research the states requirements in which the nurse will be traveling.


To care for critically ill children in the PICU, it is required of the nurse to have obtained Pediatric Advanced Life Support or PALS certification. This certification is required to demonstrate proficiency in managing pediatric medical emergencies. Obtaining certification in a specialty, such as critical care or pediatrics, is highly recommended and may increase opportunities for employment.


A minimum of an associate degree in nursing or an advanced degree is required. However, many employers prefer a bachelor's degree in nursing. A degree in nursing with a focus on pediatrics or critical care is ideal for the travel nurse.

What Are The Benefits of PICU Travel Nursing

The benefits of PICU travel nursing are numerous. The most appealing is the opportunity to experience different cultures and environments by traveling to different facilities. While working as a PICU travel nurse, you can work with different populations, including pediatric patients from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures.


PICU travel nurses are in high demand, which often means higher rates of pay. The travel nurse can earn more in a short amount of time than a full-time nurse. The travel nurse generally receives travel and housing allowances, and health insurance benefits. Some hospitals may also provide bonuses for the completion of assignments or for working in high-demand areas.

Professional Growth

Working in different facilities with varying equipment, procedures, and protocols can provide the nurse with opportunities to increase their professional growth. Most employers encourage continuing education to keep the nurse updated and meeting their specialty's standards.


PICU travel nursing can offer a more flexible schedule than a full-time job. Short assignments can allow the nurse to have extended periods between work assignments, providing more time to focus on personal interests or family life.


PICU travel nursing experiences can provide a variety of experiences that help the nurse grow their professional practice. It can provide an opportunity to work in world-renowned medical centers or rural community hospitals.

Skills Required of PICU Travel Nurses

PICU travel nurses are required to have an array of skills, including but not limited to:

Critical thinking

PICU travel nurses need to have excellent problem-solving skills. Patients may experience sudden changes in their condition, and the nurse must act quickly to intervene and manage the situation to prevent complications. Frequently, care for critically ill children involves multiple assessments of their blood pressure, oxygenation, and ventilation status to identify and address issues and make timely interventions.


PICU travel nurses must have excellent communication skills - the ability to articulate changes in the child's condition to the healthcare team, as well as the child's family members. They must also be adept at teaching family members about the child's care plan and addressing any concerns.

Clinical skills

PICU travel nurses must be proficient in administering advanced treatment to stabilize patients in emergency situations. This may involve providing medications or performing intubation (a procedure to insert a tube into the windpipe to assist with ventilation) to manage a child's respiratory distress.


A thorough documentation keeping of a child's care is critical. It is essential for the nurse to document their assessments accurately, the interventions performed, and the child's response to treatment.

Attention to detail

PICU travel nurses must have impeccable attention to detail. Every intervention and observation is crucial to the child's recovery. Any abnormal development must be addressed promptly with appropriate interventions.

Final Thoughts

PICU travel nursing is an excellent way to gain experience in providing comprehensive care to critically ill children in different healthcare settings. It is a unique opportunity for travel nurses to step up to the challenge of providing specialized care in unforeseen circumstances outside of a routine hospital setting. However, it is imperative to have the necessary qualifications, skills, and personal attributes essential for delivering quality care to critically ill pediatric patients. PICU travel nursing offers an opportunity for nurses to grow their professional expertise, explore new environments, develop a flexible schedule, earn a more substantial income and contribute to the much-needed health services of an underserved community.


Anthony Colón RN
Anthony serves as a trusted advisor to nurses looking to comparison-shop and make informed decisions regarding their first or next Travel Nurse contract. He's a former Travel Nurse with 25 years of RN experience. He will help you get a high pay Travel Nurse job that will allow you to provide safe and quality care. This blog and his Facebook group offers advice, answers & tips, PLUS Mentorship about all things regarding Travel Nursing. Thousands of Travel Nurses are in his FB group ready to help. To learn more about other aspects of Travel Nursing, be sure to visit his Facebook group called Travel Nursing - Answers, Advice and Tips PLUS Mentorship.

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