Advice on becoming an agency worker

If you’ve worked in the NHS, you’ll already know how difficult it can be to fill short-term staffing gaps because of illness, poor weather or some other acute issue. The high number of unfilled permanent jobs also makes staffing to meet peak demand a massive challenge for managers. For these reasons, agency nurses play a vital role in providing essential cover for hospitals all over the UK.

So what are the ups and downs of becoming an agency nurse? And could it be right for you?

Annette has been working for the Guild for about seven years. She explains:

I became an agency nurse because I didn’t want career progression within the NHS. I didn’t feel supported, and I wanted to see what other NHS hospitals were like. The Guild surprised me with its professionalism and supportiveness to the staff who work for them and how much they reward them. I really enjoy the flexibility, regular updates and training.

I’d say that the most challenging part of the job is arriving on shift at a place you’ve never been to before and not always having a good reception from other nurses. But I found that, during the shift, once people realise you’re a good nurse, they generally ask for you to come back.

The Guild is a professional agency that supports you, keeps you updated, rewards you and – no matter what – finds a solution to your problem.

What are the downsides of agency working?

You may need to travel around the country, often at very short notice. You’re also likely to work on a variety of shifts, in unfamiliar environments and with patients you don’t know.

At work, you may find it hard to hit the ground running and settle in with new colleagues. You may also feel you’re forever having to ask questions and not able to demonstrate, or always give, your best to your patients.

Physically, you may need to adjust to different sleep patterns, depending on the shifts you’re working. You may also find that you’re having to sleep in unfamiliar hotel rooms or lodgings away from your friends and family.

Financially, you won’t be paid when you aren’t working, so there’s the uncertainty of a variable monthly income to consider meaning budgeting may prove more of a challenge. Also, there’s always a risk that you may not be offered work either when you need it or want it.

And the upsides?

Agency nurses have the flexibility to work around their families and lifestyles – free to accept and decline work opportunities. And there’s an opportunity to earn much higher rates of pay. This can compensate for the short-notice assignments and the fact they can also be cancelled without warning. And there’s also usually plenty of work about.

You’ll have the chance to work in different settings and in different places from time to time. Some people see this as an opportunity to learn and grow in skill and confidence – earn and learn. Can’t be bad.

Often on the move, you can expect to get to know lots of new people – people who share at least one of your passions! If you’re ultimately looking for a permanent job, it can give you a chance to learn about an environment before you apply.

Agency work is also a recognised way of returning to full-time (or more time) employment after a career break.

If you think agency work is right for you, give the team a call. If you’re based in Scotland – 0131 229 9388, Northern Ireland – 0333 323 0338 and for Ireland – 019023081. Find out more about our offices here.

Register with the Nursing Guild

We’re looking for exceptional nursing and midwifery professionals like you to join our team. Register with the Nursing Guild to access high rates of pay, paid mileage and support with revalidation.

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