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FEB 26/2015

The many hats of an agency nurse

Hat stackBeing a nurse brings many demands, whether working through an agency or as a member of permanent staff. However, temporary workers don’t just have to work effectively as part of the team, but often have to work more effectively, juggling the needs of the patients with the requirements of the role in an unfamiliar setting.

So, how many 'hats' do you wear as an agency nurse?

Professional juggler

Agency nurses, like substantive nurses have to juggle a great number of things, both personally and professionally. Not only will you have to balance your work and home life, but agency nursing brings additional challenges.

You'll need to understand all the clinical requirements for each of your patients very quickly, often with little support from any other substantive post holders in an unfamiliar location, with unfamiliar routines and unfamiliar patients. Working through an agency, you may have to work twice as hard to foster good relationships with your team and the patients within your care.


Many patients come into hospital without the support of any family or friends. It's important that as an agency nurse, you are there to understand, listen and alleviate any misgivings they may have. By taking the time to reassure your patients, you empower those who feel vulnerable, isolated and scared to voice their concerns. This can be challenging for any nurse but employing fundamental learned communication skills, you can be there to speak up for your patient, offering a kind word or a friendly smile and ensuring they feel supported throughout their stay.

Advanced practitioner

As a nurse, you are the patient’s advocate. You ensure the patient receives routine and emergency treatment when required, is referred appropriately, cared for safely and monitored effectively. 

Using evidence based practice, your experience and clinical skills will be called upon daily to ensure the health and wellbeing of the patient is at the heart of everything you do. Much like doctors, nurses must be confident in their own clinical decision making with the Nursing and Midwifery Council's Code of professional practice to guide them. As an agency nurse, it is especially important to keep yourself updated about new legislation, procedures and treatments.

Social worker

Taking a holistic approach and by forming relationships quickly, not only with your patients, but with their families and friends, nurses may be the first healthcare professionals to identify potential social care issues. Through an appropriate referral, patients are able to take the first steps to reintegrate successfully back into their local communities on discharge.

As an agency nurse, your counselling and listening skills are paramount while you carry out your clinical duties. You will pick up on both verbal and non verbal clues, observe everyday activities and document concerns as part of the multidisciplinary care plans.


Phlebotomy skills are routine and commonplace in clinical practice today. As an agency nurse, you will need to familiarise yourself quickly with local policies and guidelines so you can carry out your duties effectively.

You also have to be clinically competent, doing everything that is asked of a registered nurse. By anticipating the needs of your patients and other team members, you’ll act appropriately and professionally at all times, often making on-the-spot decisions regarding the patient’s care. It’s these excellent decision making skills, and ensuring that the patient is always at the heart of everything you do, which makes nurses such a valuable resource.

Although this can seem like a lot to cope with, especially if you are new to the profession or agency work, it can be exactly what keeps agency nurses coming back again and again to find future positions. Being able to excel under all of these hats is what makes the role exciting, and one that will keep on challenging you even after years of experience.

Find out more

If you have any questions or would like more information about agency nursing, please click here or email 

Loved this blog? Why not tell us in the comments below and read some similar blog posts here:

Agency nursing – a fresh start

Agency nursing – more than just a stepping stone

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