Is a PCU Nurse a Critical Care Nurse?

Becoming a travel nurse is like living the best of both worlds, being able to help other people that are in need and traveling because of it. Like being a full-time nurse, travel nursing has a ton of specialties that you could go to. There are a ton of PCU travel nursing jobs that you could take into consideration. Is a PCU Nurse a Critical Care Nurse?


PCU and Tele nurses are the people in charge of monitoring critically ill patients whose conditions may or may not quickly worsen to critical, but they are more-or-less stable. PCU nurses are the nurses who use different devices and technologies in monitoring their patients and they must be able to analyse the data that they are getting, and react to the data with confidence.

What is a Progressive Care Travel Nurse?

Progressive Care Travel Nurses are those nurses who work in the progressive care unit who work and care for patients who require close monitoring and frequent assessment. They are not ill enough for the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but their status could change any time and quickly, which is why it is required to have nurses to look after them who have solid critical care skills.


Tele nurses, on the other hand, also care for people who have conditions that may or may not quickly change and worsen to critical, and they too analyse the data from monitoring devices and technology. The only difference between the two would have to be that Tele nurses primarily work with cardiac monitoring and they usually work within larger nurse-to-patient ratios.


But both Progressive Care Travel Nurses (PCU) and the Tele Travel Nurses require bedside vigilance and rapid intervention.


Most of the Progressive Care Unit Nurses (PCU) and Tele nurses require the following certificates:

  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACL)
  • Stroke Certifications from NIHSS (NIH)

And many of the PCU and Tele Nurses tend to build their credentials with the following certifications:

  • Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN)
  • Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC)

What is it Like to Work as a PCU or Tele Travel Nurse?

As a traveler, you should always be always ready and flexible. You would usually get floated to Tele, but some of the times, you would be floated to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to take Progressive Care Unit (PCU) transfers that are waiting on beds and waiting for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurses, which is other nurses’ favorite place to float in.


The first week as a Progressive Care Unit Nurse, usually feels like a gauntlet since you are expected to know everything, but in reality, you have no clue on how the floor or system works, But most of the time, the other staff are conscious and considerate of this and they would help you get used to the new environment that you are working in.


In general, the patient’s care is the same everywhere, and you have to manage the same things, like infection, safety, meeting outcomes, and the like. The only thing you usually would need to learn is the specific floor procedures, since that is the only thing that differs per hospital and healthcare facility. 


Here is some advice that you could follow in order to be a more effective Progressive Care Travel Nurse:

1. Be Flexible

One thing you should do, especially when you are entering a new space and a new environment, is that you should never, intentionally or unintentionally, give the impression that you are better than the staff. You could offer your services and help your tech, but you should not complain if you are being floated to another floor or unit every once in a while.

2. Don’t be scared to transfer to another floor or unit

Burning yourself out is one of the worst things that a nurse could do to themselves and staying in the same specialty for a long period of time, especially when you are no longer learning and happy, is the best way to do that. Go to a specialty that interests you and where you could learn new skills and work with a more upbeat staff.

3. Bring the coffee

This is a great ice breaker that you could do when you are just starting, and it is a great way to start the shift and make friends with your colleagues.

4. Never be afraid to ask for help 

Other people feel intimidated in asking questions and are shy to do it in fear of being perceived as knowledgeable. There will be times where you could feel your brain freeze and you can’t find your tongue, or maybe you are encountering something new. There will always be staff that are willing to answer all of your questions. Remember, there are no such things as stupid questions.

5. Be confident in what you already know

As a travel nurse, your environment is constantly going to change and the skills and the knowledge that you already have would be your biggest asset, and they are the main reasons why they contacted you and hired you in the first place. There are going to be new charting systems, yes, but don’t let that intimidate you.

Who to Follow & Progressive Care Resources

  • STN: Society of Trauma Nurses
    • STN on Facebook

  • AACN: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
    • @exceptionalnurses on Instagram
    • AACN on Facebook

  • Podcasts: 
    • zdOGGmd

  • Nurse Instagram accounts:
    • @nurselifeRN
    • @nursesofinstagram
    • @nurseabnormalities 

  • Instagram Hashtags:
    • #pcnurses
    • #telenurse
    • #travelwithnaa