So you’re looking at becoming an agency nurse but you’re not sure if this “casual” roster is for you. I had the exact same thoughts when I was contemplating joining an agency like VNS. Could I handle moving from one organisation to the next every shift? Would I like working with different people, away from my friends and what is familiar? How would I handle canceled shifts? Would the extra money per hour be enough to cover me if something was to go wrong personally?
Throughout this post, we will dive into the complexities of working for an agency and highlight some of the positive aspects you may not be across. Agency nursing could be the perfect job or ideal 2nd income stream to help pay the bills and also further your nursing career. So let’s see if you and agency nursing are the right fit.
Pros and Cons of Agency Nursing
When considering agency nursing, are you looking to join full time or are you looking to support your primary job as a second income stream?
What do you want out of your time as an agency nurse? Are you exploring the nursing profession to figure out where you might want to apply permanently or are you excited by the thought of avoiding workplace drama by moving from workplace to workplace?
Asking yourself the tough questions in the beginning, will help you better understand and accept the benefits and perceived disadvantages of agency nursing and importantly be open to the possibility that this may or may not work out for you.
When faced with a challenging situation, to help unpack the noise in my head, I often start with a pros and cons list. Let me help create clarity for you from one I’ve put together;
Pros to agency nursing:
Networking. Ability to meet new people, both staff and patients. Who knows what career opportunities may open up?
Form a better understanding of organisational structures and flow to improve your primary workplace
Freedom to choose your shift time and place
A healthy work-life balance is achievable
Don’t need to get caught up with organisation drama - get in, do the best job you can and get out.
Cons to agency nursing:
Last minute cancelations
No personal / sick leave allocation
Limited consistency in regards to work assignment
The “unknown” of where / when / if you will get called for a shift, which can be stressful and time-wasting.
Most of us would agree that we like consistency. We like doing things that are comfortable and within our control, because it’s safe and doesn’t stress us out. Though agency nursing challenges these beliefs it’s amazing how quickly you build resilience and a “can-do” attitude.
Own your own schedule
As I mentioned above, one of the obvious draw cards (for most) regarding agency nursing is the fact you can choose when and where you want to work. You can say no to opportunities without giving a reason if you feel uncomfortable or underprepared and you can agree to others even if you haven’t worked there before but are willing to give it a go. You are in control.
For most, the thought of this type of setup makes them smile. But for others, they thrive on consistency. They don’t want to wait around for a phone call or text asking them for a shift tomorrow or the next.
When considering agency nursing, you have to be clear what kind of schedule you feel comfortable with. Are you okay going to bed at night wanting a shift the following morning but you don’t know if it’s going to happen as the offer hasn’t come through? If there is no shift, will that “throw you off” as you’ve laid out your scrubs / uniform and prepared your meals? Or will you quickly accept the situation is not ideal and move on attempting to obtain a PM shift?
Due to personal commitments, not everyone has the freedom to “try again.”
When weighing up agency nursing, you need to really consider the situation as a whole. If the phone doesn’t ring for a shift, or you get canceled last minute, what will this mean mentally and financially? Do you have a buffer to support you during times when shift opportunities are minimal?
When the agency shifts are flowing, life is good but when it’s not you have to ask yourself - what’s my plan?
How do you adapt to change?
By nature, agency nurses move around from facility to facility kindly filling gaps in the roster where permanent or part-time staff are unable to work. These gaps can be seen anywhere. Hospitals, clinics, community services, etc. But before you get nervous, your agency won’t send you somewhere you don’t have the qualifications to work. You will always be called before to ensure you are comfortable with the role and the expectations.
So you might be thinking to yourself, “why can’t I simply agree to work only here to lessen the change and improve the situational familiarity?” While that’s a valid question and a tact used by many agency staff, it will significantly lessen your opportunities for work. The more places you are willing to go the better your chances of work, and therefore income.
Whilst moving around different facilities can be anxiety-inducing from some, it is also exciting. You have the ability to meet new people, see how different facilities run and improve your own resilience to the ever-changing working environment.
In summary, agency nursing has taught me resilience. I have proven to myself I am capable of walking into a hospital I have never been before and carrying out the job I am trained to do, emergency nursing. I have found a happy balance between my primary job and agency work but it did take some time. Start with your own pros and cons list to figure out where your happy medium lies.
Co-Founder The Other Shift