Hi Tnsocal. I was an agency nurse for a few years and I loved it. In fact, there were a couple of facilities who, eventually, would ask for me specifically, or schedule with me while I was there working. (check with your agency before scheduling your own shifts, some allow it, others don't). I am not talking about working privately for the facility obviously, I mean working through the agency, but scheduling shifts directly with the facility so they don't have to call the agency.
You will learn which facilities you like working for and which ones you would never go back to. If you feel uncomfortable with an assignment, DON'T accept it! In the end, it is YOUR license, YOUR responsibility, and you need to feel comfortable in handling the responsibilities set upon you.
It has been a little bit since I have worked with the Agency. I am a school nurse now, and haven't done agency in a few years, but most facilities are set up pretty similar. You have your med cart, your med book/log, your narcotics drawer with it's own log that you must count in and out with the nurse coming/going, and the med room. The other areas you want to be familiar with are, the treatment cart, the nourishment room (snacks and juices), supplies closets, diabetic patients (those needing BS checks/insulin right away, and any patients who will be upset if they don't get their medications right on the prescribed hour. Make sure you have your list of vitals, bowel list, and who your CNAs are. The big thing, don't accept anything that is not perfect. I was doing a narcotics count and there was a liquid narcotic that was a bit under. Liquids are hard to keep exact, and the nurses said, this has been off for weeks, everyone's aware of it. The other nurse shook her head yes. The nurse I was counting with said, "I will be back in the morning, so don't worry." In the morning she said, "I'm not accepting this!" I was like, "Are you serious!? You said last night it's been off for weeks, I will be here in the morning, don't worry about it!" She said, "yeah, but enough is enough. I'm not accepting it." I said, "so you chose ME to hang it on?" She said, "I didn't CHOOSE you, I am just tired of accepting it being off." Yeah right! I am the lowly agency nurse they could TRY and pin it on. I went to the supervisor and explained how she said last night that it's been like that for weeks and it was fine and now this morning she won't accept it. I said, I am NOT taking the blame for something that's been going on for WEEKS and she decides to pin on ME now. The supervisor said it wasn't a problem and signed off on it, but it COULD have been a problem because I trusted that nurse the night before. Don't TRUST anyone. As an agency nurse, you are disposable. If something isn't right, get a supervisor RIGHT AWAY!
Another time I was standing at the nurse's station and 2 nurse's were standing there talking. The male nurse said to the other nurse, "take this assignment, give the other assignment to the other agency nurse because it's horrible!" I said, "Gee, thanks!" They both turned around, absolutely mortified. He said, "I didn't mean it like that, sorry." I said, "of course you did. Whatever." He said, "you can have the other assignment." I said, "is SHE going to be ok with that? Whatever, I don't care either way."
Just watch, listen, be careful, and cover your butt. All in all though, once I found a few facilities I really enjoyed, it was great. I was pretty much like their full time employee. Everyone got to know me, I was invited to work place functions, etc. It was nice.