Regardless of the industry you are beginning your career in, setting yourself up for success from the initial stages is guaranteed to help you to strive in your specialist field. With the ever-growing demand and strain on healthcare professionals, it can often prove somewhat daunting to enter the world of medical care. While winning the role of a nurse or doctor is one of the, if not the most, rewarding career path, it will pose its challenges. Opting to spend time to meticulously research, plan and implement goals from the moment you qualify will most definitely get you on the road to success. With this in mind, as a highly reputable nursing agency, we have compiled an insightful guide to starting a career as an agency nurse, including eight helpful tips.

8 Tips When Starting A Career As An Agency Nurse

Those who work as an agency nurse are an incredibly valued member of any healthcare organisation. They are vital in ensuring that all shifts are covered and patients always receive an impeccable standard of care. Adopting the path of an agency nurse comes alongside a plethora of benefits which, together with the surplus of career development opportunities available, makes the agency approach highly desirable. Not only can locum nurses enjoy flexible hours based on their schedule and commitments, but they will also gain valuable experience working in a variety of different environments. As for pay rates, the average salary of an agency nurse tends to be considerably higher than those in a fixed position.

While individuals entering the medical industry would be more than aware of the advantages of the locum route, it can often prove somewhat tricky to know where to begin the process. Our top eight tips are guaranteed to give you some well-needed advice to inspire you to aim high and succeed in any role that you enter.

1. Prepare Before Registering

Treat signing up for an agency the same as you would do so for a new job with potential employers. Spend time preparing all of your documents, perhaps create a folder including all essential paperwork such as an up to date CV, references, scans of certificates and your passport. In doing this, you can dramatically speed up the registration process; therefore, enabling you to start taking on shifts as soon as possible. The longer that you take to provide your chosen agency with all relevant documents to begin working, the more prolonged the process will become. Not only will preparing documents contribute towards a quick registration process, but will also form a positive first impression on your consultant. You will immediately portray yourself as an efficient candidate who is eager to begin their career.
Document wallets can be picked up for as little as a few pounds from Ryman, so why not begin getting yourself organised ahead of time?

Going through paperwork

2. Determine Your Flexibility

There will be a number of questions asked during your initial agency consultation, one of the most important being your flexibility. While most vacancies will be based predominately in hospitals, there will also be the opportunity to experience roles in other organisations such as prisons, schools and home care providers. Due to this, it is imperative to spend time determining what settings and areas you are willing to work in. Of course, the more flexible you are with vacancies, the more experience you will gain and can start to build an idea on what field you aim to specialise in, in the future.

Along with placement flexibility, it is also vitally important to consider whether there are any travel restrictions. Nurses who drive and have their own vehicle must decide how far they are willing to commute each day. Those without a licence, on the other hand, will have to research public transport options before confirming a position. Last, but not least, spend time thinking about whether you would be happy to relocate for a longer-term role such as covering maternity leave for a year.

3. Utilise Your Induction

For a large percentage of hospitals and healthcare organisations, it is part of their company policy for new staff to undergo an induction before beginning their first shift. Regardless of how experienced new staff are, they cannot step straight into a new department with merely basic nursing skills; they must adapt to suit the unique environment. Inductions will cover topics such as the layout of the unit, bespoke procedures, what equipment is stored, etc.

As inductions are no more than a small group, more commonly on a one-to-one basis, it provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions. Many agencies will give you a handbook on the organisation ahead of your introduction, so use this to your advantage. Thoroughly read through all sections and begin building a list of any questions you have or ideas you’d like to suggest. Walking into your first shift with a clear mind, all queries solved and feeling confident about the role will make your day so much more enjoyable and stress-free!

Nurses talking

4. Don’t Forget The “Basics”

Stepping into your first role as a nurse is likely to be somewhat overwhelming, and it can be easy to become wrapped up in the many technical procedures that you are expected to carry out. While some days, you may feel as if you are rushed off your feet, never forget the “basic” nursing skills.

Focus on doing what you do best, providing care, support and compassion to those in need – this is the whole reason as to why you chose to enter the medical industry. Taking time to get to know patients and their families will not only be hugely appreciated providing a sense of comfort but also enable you to leave your shift feeling accomplished, proud and respected.

5. Maintain Excellent Communication

Communication is a skill that will always play towards your advantage and will never go out of fashion. Every situation can be made simpler through effective communication, even more so when you are responsible for patients who require care. Aim to begin your road to excellent communication from your first day in the department; this can be anything from asking questions to starting a friendly discussion. Making a conscious effort to communicate when you are the newbie may seem a little daunting, but will make both you and your team feel considerably more comfortable working alongside one another.

Handovers are a fantastic way to maintain communication, even when you are not on a shift. While after a long, tiring day, you may see nothing worse than having to relay information, it will help each team member to perform their job professionally. Ensure that you include information such as the condition of patients and tasks yet to complete. In some cases, you may leave a shift before the next nurse starts, which means that a written handover will need to be devised. Hospital and Healthcare have put together a super useful article on how to write an effective patient handover.

Nurse with young girl

6. Gain Additional Experience

There is no such thing as too much experience or knowledge, which means that you should always strive to continue learning. If any opportunities arise for additional training courses at the workplace, then take the chance and give it a go. Every session you participate in is guaranteed to open another door when searching for new vacancies; therefore, enhancing your career development in the future.

Not only can agency nurses gain extra experience through training courses, but also volunteering. Working as a locum nurse means that you can be considerably more flexible with your hours and are likely to have quieter periods in which you can volunteer. You could even mention to your agency consultant that you would like only to work particular days and hours, so that you can regularly volunteer. The International Medical Corps UK has lots of information on how you can begin volunteering.

For the ultimate volunteering experience, why not travel abroad? Opting to offer your nursing expertise to those in need overseas or less fortunate areas is guaranteed to give an incredible sense of achievement. You will be given the opportunity to build on your skills and begin building your professional portfolio. If you are interested in volunteering programmes abroad, take a look at GoAbroad.com.

Nurse talking to elderly lady

7. Always Set Goals

When starting your career as a nurse, it is understandable that your sole focus would be familiarising yourself with the role and getting comfortable with working in a new environment. However, don’t forget to set goals as this will bring structure to your development and allow you to stay grounded in busier periods when your mind begins to drift.

Particularly when you have little experience in the field of agency nursing, it can prove tricky to know what your main objectives will be. If this is the case, spend time carrying out a self-assessment to give yourself an idea of your career personality; therefore, providing inspiration on ideal goals. 123Test is a great online tool that allows you to take a free career personality test.

When setting goals, keep in mind that they do not have to be necessarily associated with the role you’re currently in. They can be objectives for future careers or even personal goals, such as purchasing a house or a new car. Remember to place your goals in order of priority as those that you are most passionate about will remain your primary motivation.

8. Always Remember To Unwind

When entering the world of nursing, no one is going to sugar coat the fact that the role is likely to be stressful and fast-paced. With this in mind, ensuring that you spend time unwinding is imperative in maintaining a healthy mind and body. Schedule “me-time” each week doing whatever makes you feel relaxed; whether this may be snuggling up on the sofa with a good book or venturing out to practice a hobby. For particularly stressful days, you may even want to consider trying your hand at yoga and meditation. Don’t worry; you do not need to be an expert to succeed at yoga and meditation, simply download a tutorial app on your mobile phone. Healthline has a great article on the best yoga apps of the year so far!

For more information on unwinding, take a look at our previous article on how to look after yourself when working in the healthcare industry!

Nurses having fun

Strive As An Agency Nurse!

Working as an agency nurse is an incredibly rewarding career path that opens you up to not only various opportunities but also constant career development. It is most definitely worth spending time to prepare yourself for positions to ensure that you can strive in the role.

If you are searching for locum nursing jobs, then please feel free to contact Medical Locums. Our dedicated team of consultants would be more than happy to help!

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