Whether you’re taking your first steps in launching your locum nursing career or are a seasoned nurse aiming to develop in your profession, there is no such thing as too much advice.

Opting for the role of an agency nurse does take a considerable amount of hard work, dedication and passion for caring for patients, which means it can become rather overwhelming at times. While working in the healthcare industry can be somewhat demanding, it couldn’t be more rewarding. With this in mind, we have collated all of our best agency nurse advice, along with seven top tips to ensure that, even when times are a little stressful, you continue to adore what you do best – providing the best care for those who need you the most!

Agency Nurse Advice: 7 Hacks To Get You Through Every Shift

There are a plethora of sought-after benefits of becoming a locum professional, which makes it incredibly popular amongst those working in the healthcare industry. Many opt for the route of working via an agency when newly qualified due to the world of experience opportunities that will be available. Not only will vacancies arise in hospitals and GP surgeries but also hospices, care homes, prisons and home health roles; this will help individuals to get a better understanding on the field they’d like to specialise as they develop further.

Along with additional experience, locum nurses will also have considerably more freedom when it comes to shifts. Hours in locum work can be as flexible as you please, making it the perfect route for those who have personal commitments as well as professional. For example, if you have small children and need to take time off during half term, locum work is ideal.

Once you have started to accept shifts in your chosen field, it is imperative that you utilise your skills to your advantage, while enjoying every moment. Our top seven tips are guaranteed to keep stress at a minimum and organisation at a maximum!

Nurse talking to elderly lady

1. Always Be Prepared

While you’re probably more than familiar with the quote “failing to plan is planning to fail”, you would be surprised how much a little extra preparation each day can work towards enhancing productivity and reducing stress.

To maximise shift preparation, begin your organisation the evening before, particularly if you know you’re not a morning person. The evening before your shift, iron and hang your uniform, so you do not have to rush before your shift. Perhaps determine your lunch, along with snacks, for the following day and prep these ahead of time. Ensure that all paperwork, your identification card and essentials for the day are packed in your bag ready to grab as you leave. While you may feel as if all you want to do is relax in front of the television when you get home, schedule as little as 10 minutes to get yourself organised. In doing this, you will achieve a stress-free, relaxed morning, avoiding arriving at work already flustered.

Not only is it essential to prepare before your shift, but also during. The moment you arrive, check whether there is a handover and if not, establish any unfinished jobs and note these down in a checklist. We suggest picking up a small notebook and pen that you can keep in the pocket of your uniform at all times, just in case you need to give yourself reminders. Paperchase has a generous collection of stationary ranging between both ends of the price scale.

Nurse making notes

2. Get A Good Nights Sleep

While it may seem somewhat obvious, a good night sleep will most definitely set you up for a positive, productive day. Sleep allows your body to replenish; therefore, improving mental and physical health, along with enhancing your quality of life. According to research by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, anyone over the age of 18 should aim to have seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Even on the most stressful of shifts, try not to let the days events play on your mind and disturb your sleep.

If you are an overthinker and find it tricky to switch off your mind, aim to begin experimenting with different methods of encouraging sleep. Techniques such as altering your breathing pattern and listening to relaxing music are just some of the many ways that you can promote a clear mind. These tips, along with 18 other ideas on how to fall asleep quickly, are explained in more detail in an article by Healthline.

3. Socialise With Colleagues

Regardless of the industry you work in, building a positive relationship with colleagues is imperative. Taking the time to socialise and get to know those who you will be working alongside every day will work towards your advantage in more ways that one.

On your first shift, try to be as confident as possible. Introduce yourself to colleagues and focus on remembering their names – it’ll help you to fit in faster and become comfortable with your new surroundings. Once you are settled and have familiarised yourself with team members, they will be a great source of advice on how to strive in your role. They’ll also be more than happy to lend you a helping hand if your tasks begin to get a little overwhelming.

Two nurses laughing

4. Time Management

Every sector of the medical industry is incredibly fast-paced, which means that you will have to begin practising effective time management. Managing your time well will not only allow you to be as productive as possible but also keep stress at a minimum.

When it comes to time management, every individual will function differently; however, there are a number of tips that will help towards ultimate organisation and productivity:

  • Prioritise Tasks: First and foremost, when you arrive at your shift, take a look at your handover and begin building a list of tasks. Organise your tasks in order of priority, with those of the highest urgency at the top. Try to estimate how long each task will take you to complete and note this down. In doing this, you will have a clear plan of action of your day; therefore, able to keep a clear mind.
  • Arrive Early: Regardless of whether you’re doing a day or night shift, always aim to arrive at least ten minutes early. While an extra few minutes in bed may sound tempting, arriving a little early will allow you time to get organised.
  • Avoid Multitasking: While multitasking may appear to be a time-saving strategy, it is unlikely to work towards your advantage. As a nurse, patients are in your responsibility, so you must ensure that each task is completed accurately, to your highest ability. Crossing over jobs makes you more susceptible to mistakes. Instead, complete each task independently, cross it off your list and then move onto the next.

For more information on time management tips for nurses, take a look at our previous article!

5. Communication Is Key

To succeed in any industry, a high level of communication is vital. As a nurse, you must continuously communicate with your employer, colleagues, patients and nursing recruitment agency.

As you reach the end of each shift, ensure that you have passed on any crucial information to colleagues. If there are any tasks on your list that are yet to be completed, put these into a handover for the next set of staff to pick up when they arrive. Your handover should also include details on urgent care patients or those that you think need to be checked up on over the next few hours. Note down when they were last given medication, along with when the next dose is due.

In terms of your recruitment agency, keep your consultant up to date with any changes in your lifestyle. If your availability has changed or you would like placements in different locations, ensure that they are informed. Ultimately, your consultant wants to track down roles that best fit your requirements, so the more information you can provide them with, the more enjoyable your career will become.

Happy nurse with patients

6. Be Open Minded

As mentioned previously, one of the most significant benefits of becoming an agency nurse is the host of experience you will gain. With this in mind, it is important to stay open-minded and grab every opportunity with both hands.

Your consultant has your best interests at heart, so if they suggest a placement that is a little outside of your comfort zone, it is because they believe that you are the best candidate to take on the responsibility. Trust them and try something new. If you do not enjoy the placement as much as you had hoped, then it can be used as a learning curve to gain a better understanding of your strengths.

Not only is it vital to remain open-minded in terms of role opportunities, but also training opportunities. As a professional in the healthcare industry, there is no such thing as too much knowledge and confidence in your abilities. The more training you have on varying topics, sectors and fields, the more career doors you will open.

7. Manage Stress

When working in the healthcare industry, self-care is imperative. While you may be spending every day caring for others, don’t forget to care for yourself. We are no stranger to the fact that the healthcare industry is in incredibly high demand, which means that those working within must find stress management techniques that work for them.

‘Self-care’ is a term that is often misinterpreted. Instead of relating to expensive spa breaks or shopping trips, self-care is merely anything that improves, develops, protects or maintains your overall health, wellbeing and wellness; therefore, significantly reducing stress. If you are yet to track down hobbies or interests that will help you to unwind, we suggest completing a self-care assessment. A self-care assessment allows you to assess your lifestyle, find areas that may be lacking and detect how you can begin to improve your wellbeing. It will include questions on topics such as your average weekly downtime, how balanced your diet is and the activities you are involved in outside of work. Just Balance has a fantastic online self-care assessment available, which will help you to begin pinpointing improvements.

Another proven method of managing stress is to begin practising meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness is your mind’s ability to focus on solely the present moment in time, assessing your current thoughts and feelings. When an individual is stressed, they tend to react with either a “fight” or “flight” response. The “fight” response forces you to become angry and agitated, whereas “flight” causes you to feel withdrawn from the world; both of which can be solved through simple meditation breathing techniques. Help Guide has put together a super helpful guide on relaxation techniques for stress relief. Included are more details into “flight” and “fight” mode, along with how to find a method that best suits you.

Nurses on lunch break

Develop Your Agency Nurse Career!

Tackling shifts as an agency nurse doesn’t have to be a daunting task. While there will be days that you will feel as if you are rushed off your feet, it doesn’t mean that you have to reach unbearable stress levels. Taking even 10 minutes out to utilise your chosen breathing technique will allow you to clear your mind and take a methodological approach. Always stay organised, communicate well, grab every opportunity with both hands and we promise that you will strive in your career!

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