As a LPN in SE Wisconsin area, I had worked as an agency nurse for 6 years, mainly with 1 well known agency, supplementing with smaller local agencies. The well known agency pay rate was $29-$32 an hour depending on what shift and weekend. They scheduled me at some really nice places to get adjusted to, (clean, well organized, adequate staff and low pt ratio(less than 28) then after a couple of months would throw in some dumpy places that I wouldn't even send my dog. (Dirty, unorganized, CNA's that walk off the unit and walk to the corner store whenever they want, and 34 residents on a unit that include 4 Tube feeders and 6 diabetics and screaming family members that want to know why nobody has done anything for their loved one whose been not acting right since 2 days ago.
The advice that I have to give is:
1. Find out about the facility before you get there. How many beds? units? What unit you'll be working? even though this could change upon arrival.
2 Once arriving, find out who are the diabetics, the tube feeders, hyper/hypo glycemia protocols, and who is on 24 hour charting and if there any calls out to any MDs or others. Prioritize these.
3. Before signing up for an weeks of work at a new facility, ask that you'd like to try it first.
4. Be prepared to put alot of miles on your vehicle depending on your area.
The well known agency I worked for had a tendency to book you for the month (supposedly sending you to this or that particular facility) then when the day comes and you call in at noon to verify your assignment, they'd say (8 out of 10 times), "Oh they cancelled you, but abc facility called and they'll take you.
It took me awhile to figure it out, but they didn't have me scheduled at the facility for a month, they wanted my days so I wouldn't book with another agency, what they did that day is have someone in the office calling all these places, asking if they were short and needed a nurse that day.
The smaller, local agencys that I worked with were a few dollars less an hour, went to more local facilities and no benefits or perks.
Bottom line for me was, I enjoyed agency nursing for the time I did it. I have some very fond experiences. Agency nursing was sporadic- when it was busy there couldn't be enough of me. But when it was slow- it was really slow. (Best to be with more than one agency) You don't have much say at a facility- you are a pool nurse. If they don't like you, you won't be back. And above all else, work with the staff, especially your CNA's, they truly will make or break you. Especially when dispensing medications. Who is Mr. John Smith?
Agency nursing helped me put my kids through a religious grade school which I could have never afforded even working 40 hours a week.
Best of Luck to you in your decision