Here are a few things that I have learned about agency nursing in the 13 months I have been with InteliStaf:
1) Day shifts typically get cancelled more than other shifts. Day shift is the shift that most people want, so you are competing with more people for that spot. I have been much more successful in working evening shifts without getting cancelled.
2) The shifts seem to come in cycles for certain specialties. It can be quite cyclical. I find it is much easier to pick up shifts during certain times of the year and month. Some cycles are more preditable than others. For example: In October, it seems to be a little harder to get the desired shifts at the best facilites. My guess is because the hospital staff's kids are back in school and fewer people are on vacation. If there are extra shifts, the hospital's staff are picking them up to pay off the huge bill they chalked up on their credit cards during their summer vacations.
3) One of the reasons they may be calling you when you are not available is to find out if you really aren't. I think one of they key successes to working with any agency is communication. Get to know the people who staff you, and let them get to know you. The better they understand what you are looking for, the easier it is for them to staff you. Build a good relationship with your staffer. The more positive interaction you have with that person, the more apt you are to be called over another RN working with that agency. I am sure that no one will admit to "playing favorites," but who would you call first if a shift came open? Would you first call a nurse who you rarely have any interaction with or have had them call up yelling at you for a scheduling problem? Or would you call the nurse who calls in a couple times a week, and that you have formed a good working relationship with?
Also, If you become available, let them know. I know a few people who give their agency their availability once a month, and just sit there and wait for their agency to call. This has proven generally unsuccessful and results in the RN getting frustrated. If you become proactive and spend 5 minutes every couple of days calling your agency, I think you find you will be working more. A 10 minute weekly investment could greatly pay off.
4) Try working weekends, or at least one day on the weekend. Most people want to work Monday - Friday, day shifts. Here again, you are in competition with more people for that shift. Not only is it easier to pick up shifts on the weekend, most hospitals have a shift differential for the weekends.
5) Make sure to call your agency regulary, especially about 2 weeks before the start of a new month. This seems to be when the hospitals are putting together the schedule for the upcoming month. I have been more sucessful in getting booked for a few weeks or the eintire month during this time.
I hope this helps. If you have a good relationship with your agency and their staffers, and you can be a little flexible, then working with an agency can become a very rewarding experience.