- 21 December 2020
- 8 min read
What Is Agency Nursing & Why It Could Be Your Next Career Move
Natalie Ponting of MSI group explains the pros and cons of working as an Agency Nurse, contrasting the increased job flexibility and pay with the unpredictability and potential extra costs.
Topics covered in this article
If you love working as a Nurse but would like to earn more and have greater control around when and where you work, Agency Nursing could be the opportunity you’re looking for.
There are currently estimated to be around 38,000 unfilled NHS vacancies in England, leaving Trusts heavily reliant on agency staff to plug the gaps and creating lots of opportunities for Nurses who are interested in temporary work.
What Is Agency Nursing?
NHS Trusts constantly need new Nurses because of unfilled vacancies, staff on sick leave or increased demand.
When an NHS Trust needs a Nurse, they initially look to cover the shift or job with permanent or bank staff, but this isn’t always possible.
They will then approach a Nursing agency to provide a Nurse on at temporary basis.
The agency will then offer the role to suitable Nurses who are registered with them.
If you are not registered with an agency, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever hear about these temporary roles, even if you’re currently working within the NHS.
Agency Nurses work across all areas of the NHS - every department needs nursing staff to handle the day to day care of patients, as well as more technical duties.
Agency roles aren’t just for General Nurses – there is a whole range of agency positions for all kinds of Nurses, including Paediatric Nurses, Neurological Nurses and Specialist Mental Health Nurses.
While some Nurses choose to solely work through agencies, others prefer to keep their permanent positions as a salaried Nurse and supplement their income with agency shifts, blending NHS and agency work.
What Are The Benefits Of Working As An Agency Nurse?
Improved Job Flexibility
When you work through an agency, there are no minimum or maximum hours and you generally have much more freedom around the hours you work than in a permanent role.
You don’t have to stick to a typical 7-week rotation including nights and weekends if you don’t want to.
For Nurses who need to balance their work with other commitments, such as caring for family or studying for further qualifications, working through an agency on a part-time basis can give you job stability but also flexibility.
Alternatively, you could choose to work unsociable hours, as these shifts often pay better.
Or you could choose to pick up some additional shifts over your normal working pattern and earn some extra income.
Not only can you choose when you work, you can also choose where.
Agency working is a great way to try out working in lots of different locations and finding out what works best for you.
And if you don’t enjoy working in a particular hospital, you don’t have to.
Higher Pay Rates
Agency Nurses generally receive a higher hourly rate than permanent roles, as well as holiday and sick pay.
Agency Nurse salary stats show that temporary Nurses earn on average 35.5% more than permanent Nurses, and your earnings could more than double if you are prepared to work antisocial weekend night shifts.
Occasionally, an agency is authorised to offer escalated rates, which allow agency workers to earn over the usual cap for Agency Nurses.
These roles can be extremely lucrative.
You can also choose to work as an Agency Nurse in the private sector, which also often offers higher pay rates than the NHS.
Plus, as an Agency Nurse, your earnings can be in your pocket much more quickly.
Rather than waiting until the end of the month, MSI Recruitment offers a daily payroll, so you can be paid the day after you work a shift.
Working as a salaried Nurse can be notoriously stressful, as staff deal with increased workloads, time pressures and staff shortages.
In extreme cases, this can lead to burn out and Nurses having to leave a profession they love.
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What do YOU think?
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While working as an Agency Nurse is still challenging (and rewarding), there is generally less responsibility and less pressure.
You don’t have to worry about internal politics, managing others or wasting your time with non-nursing duties.
You can spend your shift doing actual caring and then clock out at the end of the day and go home.
Agency Nursing offers just as many, if not more, opportunities to further your career than staying in a permanent role.
You’ll experience a much greater diversity of co-workers and patients, as well as a wider range of specialities and departments.
This exposure to lots of different areas of nursing could give you an advantage when moving up the career ladder.
And What Are The Downsides?
Working as an Agency Nurse isn’t for everyone.
If you work permanent shifts, you’ll know when you’re working up to a month in advance, but with temporary roles, you need to accept work as and when it comes in.
You may only find out about a shift the day before it starts.
If you only work as an Agency Nurse, you’ll have to sort out your own pension, rather than relying on the NHS.
You also need to buy insurance to work as an independent contractor.
You Don’t Get The Same Press
While NHS Nurses are generally celebrated by the media, that isn’t always the case for Agency Nurses.
Trusts are often criticised for spending money on agency workers, as they are usually more expensive.
However, it’s important to remember that Agency Nurses are filling a need.
How Do You Choose An Agency To Work With?
There are a high number of Nursing agencies out there, and it can be difficult to know what to look for when deciding who to work with.
It’s important to choose an agency that can offer you a good variety of work, but which also meets your own needs.
Here are some of the things to look out for:
• Specialist consultants who are experienced in the healthcare market
• Daily payroll so you can get paid the day after you submit your timesheet
• A wide choice of roles, hours and locations
• High levels of compliance – Trusts prefer working with these agencies
• 24/7/365 personalised support and training
• Free uniforms
• Revalidation service to make sure you're always able to work
• Look for an agency with positive online reviews from other Nurses
How Do I Start Working As An Agency Nurse?
In order to work for an agency, you will need to go through a compliance process to confirm you are qualified to work for the NHS and get all your checks and paperwork in order.
This can be time-consuming but once it’s done, you’ll be able to pick up agency roles right away.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on becoming and Agency Nurse and what I've said about above - let's chat there!
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