This week, during a surprisingly peaceful shift I worked with a kind, friendly and knowledgeable agency nurse named Kara. Throughout the shift, we got chatting about life as an agency nurse and why she chose this form of casual work instead of obtaining full-time hours. Over the next few hours, whilst juggling patient care, she taught me many things about agency nursing. This post explores this impromptu conversation which will hopefully help you decide on the right nursing path for you.
Emma: When I think of agency nursing, I think flexibility. You have the freedom to choose when and where you want to work which can be life-changing in some situations. Do you love the flexibility of this kind of work?
Kara: For sure. Agency nursing allows my husband and I to manage his work along with our four energetic kids. It took us a while in the beginning to find the right balance between homework, sporting commitments, meetings and my alternative shifts but we have finally found a happy place - a place which simply wouldn’t be possible if I worked a rotating, scheduled roster. How do I know this? I’ve tried both and this is hands down a better option for us. I need the flexibility to be able to pick up shifts last minute if my husband is suddenly able to look after the kids or something else pops up. The flexibility of agency nursing cannot be understated.
Emma: One of the aspects of agency nursing I love is that you can avoid workplace drama. Do you find this too?
Kara: Absolutely. Being the agency nurse means I can “get in and get out.” I don’t have to worry about workplace politics and getting caught up in the drama, even though I already avoided these conversations like the plague! If something negative was to go on throughout the shift, I can simply leave it at the door and decide if I want to go back to that particular healthcare facility or not. Having the freedom to actively avoid certain people or situations in my working life is pretty powerful. I like to surround myself with good, positive people and for the most part agency nursing gives me access to these kinds of people which I absolutely love!
Emma: I have permanent hours right now which is good to enable some routine, but I find I miss the opportunity to see how other hospitals do things. It must be interesting to see how one hospital operates in comparison to the next?
Kara: It’s so interesting! Particularly during COVID times, it has been fascinating to see how some hospitals have really knuckled down to create safe spaces for both staff and patients. This is the part of agency nursing people often forget about. You are given this special viewing point to see how different hospitals and health facilities function on a day to day basis from the inside. Who knows where this personal experience will take me in the future when the kids move out?
Emma: And I can’t go past the money right?
Kara: The financial benefits of agency nurses are pretty darn good. Though agency nurses do make significantly more money per hour in comparison to those on permanent hours, you do have to balance this with personal leave. But there are certainly no complaints from me!
The two tips I have in regards to your wage is to firstly, ensure you have correctly filled in the Timesheet so you don’t run into any delays when it comes to the money appearing in your account. My second tip is to check your pay diligently. Mistakes can happen and you want to be rewarded for your hard work.
Emma: One of the other often forgotten parts of agency nursing is the fact I get to participate in organised sport. I am a huge basketball fan and while I don’t really care if we win and lose I love that I get to run around consistently every week.
Kara: Oh, I love basketball too! Though I am an old lady now, I do still like that I too can run around on a regular basis and see my friends who don’t know a thing about nursing and healthcare. Keeping socially connected is easier for agency nurses because we can choose not to work on the nights I have organised something to do or when a friend is hosting a dinner party!
A big thank you to Kara for allowing me to chew her ear off during this shift. If you are considering agency nursing or even looking to balance agency work and permanent hours, I hope you found this interview insightful and honest.
Registered Emergency Nurse