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APR 08/2019

Starting Your Career as an Agency Nurse

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For newly qualified nurses, gaining relevant experience is a major part of their career development. One solution comes in the form of temporary nursing through a nursing agency.

The benefits of gaining extra experience

If you're about to start your nursing career, it is important that you gain as much experience as possible. Observing examples of good practice in settings such as trusts and hospitals is highly beneficial. The more experience you gain, the more likely you are to improve your own working practices.

As a student or newly qualified nurse, you are limited to accepting healthcare assistant (HCA) shifts, but this can still provide you with invaluable experience. It can broaden your clinical horizons and introduce you to new areas of practice. It can even provide a welcome additional source of income whilst you study and complete your preceptorship.

Some employers favour recruiting newly qualified nurses who have additional temporary nursing experience in other trusts and hospitals. This shows that you are keen to broaden your knowledge base, are flexible and willing to do additional shifts when required.

Newly Qualified Nurse Tips: Starting Your Career as an Agency Nurse

Start at the right time

Even though gaining experience is encouraged, no responsible nursing agency should offer you qualified temporary nursing shifts until you have completed at least six months in an acute, primary care or community setting. Remember, it's your PIN and you have worked hard to get it. Look after it and don’t put yourself at risk before you have even started.

Checklist - Four items to consider when choosing a nursing agency

If you decide to work through a nursing agency or local staff bank, you may want to consider the following:

1. Agency work can provide more experience

Working through your own trust or hospital bank can be a good option for many people. This route has the convenience and comfort of working in a place you know well, although it can restrict your experience to that particular trust or hospital. People who want to gain a wider range of experience may prefer working their additional hours through a nursing agency. An agency can provide a wide variety of experiences across numerous clients, both NHS and the private and third sector.

2. Choose an agency that provides support

When choosing a nursing agency, select one that provides around the clock nursing support. This will make it much easier if you want to work a 24-hour shift rotation, as you’ll receive professional support throughout your entire shift pattern, whatever the time of day or night.

Newly Qualified Nurse Tips: Starting Your Career as an Agency Nurse

3. Ask for career advice

Nursing agencies can be a great source of advice. Ask to speak to a member of the agency's nursing support team and ascertain whether they can offer you independent career advice/appraisals.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Before accepting a job, it is okay to ask your nursing agency where the work will be and how much you can expect to be paid - and how often. Will you be paid holiday pay? Will there be any deductions? Ask as many questions as you like.

Find out more

If you are interested in learning more about the range of nursing roles that are available to you or you would like to find out more about joining a nursing agency in England or Wales, contact us via email: nursejobs@medacs.com or call 0800 442 207 during office hours. For information on agency nursing in Scotland, please email: scotlandnursing@medacs.com or call 0141 225 5451 during office hours.

Read more in the agency nursing series:

Would You Make a Good Agency Nurse?

Questions for Newly-Qualified Nurses Considering Agency Jobs

*This post was originally published on 17/03/2013 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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