What are the pros and cons of Agency Nursing?

  1. I have been reading this BB and see people talking about working out of an "agency". Is this similar to a union? What are the particulars of finding one? What are the differences between agencies? What are the pros and cons in working for one? Who owns and manages these agencies? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Jodie
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  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   Jay-Jay
    I'm from Canada, but since many agencies work in both countries, I assume the way they operate is pretty much the same, despite differences in the health care system. An agency covers hospital assignments when the hospital is unable to find enough of its own staff to do so. They also provide in home nursing, either privately, through an insurance claim, or through government funding. Here in Canada, they must have a contract to do the publicly funded work.

    I have worked for a number of different agencies, and there is a WIDE difference in how well/poorly they are run! So be careful!! I nearly ruined my nursing career working for one that sent me out without the skills or training I needed for an assignment, then did not provide adequate support for me when I needed help. The good ones train their employees well enough that this does not happen. They also provide support staff (clinical consultants, specialists in areas such as wound care, diabetes, palliation, etc) to help you when you suddenly find yourself in over your head.

    I got my initial nursing experience doing hospital relief assignments through an agency, and fortunately, it worked out okay for me. However, it could easily have gone the other way. If I had met with unsympathetic hospital staff that first day, they could have asked that I not be allowed to come back, and that would have been it! Hospital nurses are often not very friendly with agency nurses, but if you're lucky, you will find some who are and who are willing to show you the ropes. Once you get used to a unit, and know their policies and proceedures, and where to find the supplies you need for your shift, generally they'll keep sending you back to that unit whenever they need extra staff. Good luck, and hope you can find a mentor to help you along!
  4. by   normarae
    Hi Jodie-I have started to wonder about your question also and I think it depends on the reputation and efficiency of the agency and your honest assessment of your current nursing skills. I have ER and OR exp and while employed in the OR find that many of the agency nurses exaggerate their OR experience and the regular employees techs and nurses end up teaching them not only where the mop is, but basic assessment skills and procedure setups. In general, if they were 13 week contracts and showed a good attitude we enjoyed sharing our knowledge and time with the agency RN/tech. Occasionally you have a fly in the ointment with the attitude - Im not staying so Ill just get by. AS for myself, I am on the other side now, doing med/surg/telemetry day work assignment via agency and I find again that if you are willing to do the job they are also glad you are there. Also you see why you won't work for a corporate owned hospital because the staff is so frustrated and stressed out over understaffing. NR

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  5. by   Cindy_A
    I have worked for agencies for a little over a year now, and I like it. Some of the pros are: 1. the pay is VERY good 2. you can choose to work or not to work. This was very nice this summer when my husband and I took a 2 week honeymoon over the 4th of July- couldn't have done that while employed as regular staff! 3. you can choose what shifts you want to work - I don't work 3rds I can't sleep during the day! 4. you can also choose where you want to work - some places are much nicer to you than others. 5. you get to work in a variety of different places which allows you to see which you like better than the others.
    Some of the cons are: 1. some of the staff are not helpful at all at some facilities 2. sometimes the agency nurses get dumped on and get the worst areas or patients that no one else wants. 3. You aren't guaranteed a certain number of hours 4. your shift may get cancelled at the last minute.
    But, despite the bad, I do enjoy agency nursing because it gives me lots of flexibility, and I've gotten to meet a lot of very nice people that I wouldn't have met otherwise.
  6. by   Jo_deye_yuh
    Thank you Cindy_A for your input! That gives me a broader idea of what it encompasses. What are the requirements in order to join an agency? Level of education or CME's?

    Thank you!
  7. by   steveleskovec
    I am a Registered Nurse of 11+ years now. In my career I have done hospital staff/employee work and supplemental staffing/agency work. The direction of nursing, particularly in the Cleveland market, speaks very well for agency work. I am currently working as a recruiter for an agency in Cleveland. The 3 main ppoints I have seen for joining an agency team are money, flexibility and politics. Enough has been said about the first two already here. Regarding politics, many nurses are coming to me burned out. The best part of agency work is, in my opinion, the ability to stay out of facility politics. Your there with the particular facilities community but your not an intimate part of that community thus allowing you to avoid the gossip, policy making and sore spots the staff has to deal with. When I worked agency assignments I ws able to do more pure nursing care and teaching and talking to my patients than with any other hospital I was on staff with. The ability to change facilities at amy time also helped me to get over any start of burnout I may have been harboring.

    As far as requirements, our company requires one year current experience, passing a few proficiency tests, an interview and a flexible and good attitude. The nurse who went into the hospital for experience prior to joining an agency did it the "right" way. Good luck to you. Feel free to e-mail me for any other info or questions. Glad to help a collegue.
  8. by   BadBird
    Hi Jodie,
    I started working for an agency about 8 months ago and like it very much, the money is good, you have the freedom to choose your days, hours and hospital that you wish to work. The down side is getting cancelled.
    I still work full time and work 1 agency shift a week. I am considering full time agency in about 6 months when my kids are through with braces, then I can go on my husbands insurance. If you don't need the medical benefits and if you have a few years experience behind you I say give it a chance. Insist on orientation at what ever facility you agree on going to. I find that the nurses are so glad to have another set of hands working with them, I have not had a bad experience yet. If we were not there they would be working short staffed. Another thing is you gain a lot of experience with different equipment and charting, etc. for example I work in one trauma unit that is all bedside computer charting, and another unit that still uses flow sheets. I also enjoy the independence, when I am at my monthly unit meeting and our manager is handing us a bunch of bull, that all hospitals do it the same way, I have imput, I also have options as not to put up with short staffing and crappy pay.

    Good Luck,
  9. by   Travel_RN
    I agree with the statement that there are pros and cons to agency nursing. It really depends on weather you are working PRN contract or a 13 week contract. If you go into an area that places you "over your head", you need to look at it and protect yourself as well as the patients you are caring for, FIRST and FORMOST. If you don't know the job, then don't take it. Every nurse should have the ability to walk into any job and do a general assessment of a patient. That is BASIC nursing care. Always be honest with yourself and with your agency so they know what you are quilified to do, then you do'nt have to worry about "being in over your head" at any time and you get placed in the proper departments.

    I enjoy the oppertunity to move around and to work in differant areas. I have many specialities and that helps to combat "burnout". Sometimes you do find the "fly in the ointment," in some of the permanent staff members. Sometimes they find it hard to deal with the fact that the agency Nurse has more flexibility to work the hours and the areas of thier choice. But most of the time the staff is happy to have you there.
    I enjoy having the choice of where I am going to work, getting paid top dollar for using the knowledge and skills I have aquired/earned, and working the hours my contract GUARENTEES me with over time at my choice, and with my agency "NO CANCELATIONS."
    There is also the bonus of learning new things almost everywhere you go, and this helps to build a very impressive resume.
    It sounds to me, by reading some of the posts, that a few of the people that are replying are working PRN. With a "13 week contract", you don't have near the security or costs that you might encounter working for an agency as a PRN Nurse.
    With the angecy that I am with, I am never cancelled without pay. I am contracted for a minimum number of hours, 36-40, depending on the area that I am working. If the hospital cancells me, it's thier choice, and I am paid to stay home at the SAME RATE as if I was working.
    I don't have to deal with any of the hospital "politics" and if I happen to attend a meeting, I am paid for this also.

    Once again, it is very important to be totally honest with your agency. The hospital is responsible for insuring that you are familiar with thier specific policies and procedures, but you are responible to yourself and your angecy to insure that they know your stengths and weaknesses. The "13 week" contracting offers and is usually manditory, an orientation before your first day in the unit, all with pay too.

    The agency that I am with is very impressive. They always place me in an area that they know I am qualified for. They are very knowledgeable and helpful to work with and I'm told the hospitals find them professional and flexible to work with too. Thier contracts are VERY CLEAR and PRECISE,I like this because there are NO SURPRISES.
    If you'd like to contact me for more info or about this agency, etc. email me at; nedra@webcombo.net
  10. by   Patricia Smith
    I worked agency only for about one year. Right now, I am employed full time (need the benefits-) but continue to work agency 1 shift per week (Kids in college!) I love agency for a number of reasons. First of all, when we all get to thinking that the "grass is greener" at another facility, working agency gives me the opportunity to see it first-hand! The hospital that I currently work at is one that I worked agency through so I knew "exactly" how deep the water was "before" I took the plunge! It is good to see how other hospitals in our area handle their staffing situations, ratio's and skill mix. I have met some wonderful people in other hospitals as well who are usually willing to share info when called upon. I also love the flexibility of the hours--if you don't want to work that day--there is no one to hassle you about it! If you don't need the benefits-go for it! It is your license so be sure that the assignment that you accept, is one that you are qualified and comfortable in doing. Good luck with your decision!

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