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5 top tips for working as an agency nurse

Posted on 1/02/2018 by David Rennie

Working as an agency nurse is a rewarding career for many. Yes the pay is, in most cases, better than a permanent role. But this is only one part of the puzzle. 

One of the main advantages of working as an agency nurse we regularly hear from our candidates is that you can choose the hours that you want to work. Agency nurses will generally accept the assignments that they would like to fulfil, which means you could avoid dreaded nightshifts if you so wish.

Working with a nursing agency is not an alien concept to most nurses. That being said, the key barriers stopping nurses from working with an agency is a lack of clarity around how to register and sourcing work once registration has been completed.

It’s safe to say that we talk to candidates about the above on a near daily basis. Which is the main driver for this article.

If you were buying a car then you would do your research first. The same should be said for embarking on a career as an agency nurse. Below are our top 5 tips for anyone looking to work as an agency nurse:

1. Preparation is key
Registering with an agency follows a similar process as applying for a new job. You will be asked for the same documentation (up to date CV, NMC PIN, Disclosure, references), and be required to have an interview.

Why is this important?
Understanding the process beforehand will help you manage your expectations.  Having your documentation prepared will speed up the registration process – meaning that you can start taking agency shifts sooner.

2. Understand your flexibility
Agencies may have work available across multiple facilities and service types. From hospitals to prisons. Many first-time agency nurses have only worked within one setting, predominately hospitals. This can bring a wealth of career development opportunities. You should discuss the range of placements with your agency and agree on the areas that you are willing to work in.

Why is this important?
As consultants we want you (as our candidate) to enjoy your work. Clients are looking for the most suitable nurses for their service. And most importantly, as a nurse you want to feel comfortable at work. Communicating your preferences clearly to your consultant will help make sure that you are offered the most suitable placements.

3. Organise your diary
Knowing, and communicating, your availability in advance will increase your chances of working your preferred shifts. Don’t be afraid to be honest, it’s the best option for you and your agency.

Why is this important?
Your consultant will offer you work based on the days/shifts that you request. This means that you will be contacted for, and offered, shifts that match your availability – removing any pestering. 

4. Know your travel restrictions
Do you drive? Are you willing to drive to work? How long are you willing to commute for? Would you relocate for work? These may seem like odd questions but they are important in helping you understand what placements are suitable for you.

Why is this important?
A shift may only be 5 miles from your home but if you need to take a bus and a train to get there then is it suitable? Being open and honest with your consultant from the outset will allow you both to work better together.

And most importantly,
5. Weigh up the pros and cons of agency work
Working as an agency nurse isn’t for everyone. Some people love the flexibility and control over their earning potential. Whilst others prefer the security that a permanent role provides. This is a decision that is truly unique to you and your personal circumstances. Any agency worth their salt will discuss this with you and make sure that you’re making the most suitable decision.

Why is this important?
Working as an agency nurse can be very different to permanent roles. You will be getting paid weekly and working on a shift by shift basis. Just like any new job you need to be sure that it is right for you.

In a nutshell, working as an agency nurse can be an extremely rewarding career. As with any career move you need to review whether this is right for you. If you have any questions or concerns discuss them with your consultant, we’re here to help!