Changing the way we look at agency nurses

As an agency nurse, I feel it is about time the contribution that agency staff make to patient care and safety is recognised by the NHS and Private healthcare establishments, instead of focusing on the cost alone.

Agency nurses have an enormous amount of skills and knowledge gained through working in many different environments and to be an agency nurse takes a bit of bravery.

Now we all know there are some agency staff who let the side down, but this can also be said for substantive staff.

Many Substantive nurses also work agency shifts for various reasons and throughout time they have highlighted that there is real value to be gained from these regular staff doing extra shifts in other organisations, they are able to gain experience of working in many different areas and so can take this back to their own wards and departments. It also enhances their own learning and development which in the days of austerity and cuts to many learning and development budgets is essential.

Agency Nurses have been around for many years and by now we should be accepting of any extra staff on a shift. They should always be made to feel part of the team and should feel valued for their contribution. They should at the very least be given an orientation to the workplace and given a proper handover. The days of giving the agency staff the worst patients should be gone, but sadly it can still be common place.

Agency nursing isn’t always motivated by money, mostly it’s the flexibility to fit around family life that motivates a decision to leave the security of a substantive post or the sheer pressure of being short staffed and not being able to deliver good patient care. There is also the benefit of gaining more experience and extra skills.

Back to money, so what if money is the motivation? For years nurses have been undervalued and underpaid, so who can blame anyone for wanting a better quality of life by having more money, it doesn’t make them any less of a nurse!! In fact, training for agency staff is very good with a lot of agencies, better than the NHS at times due to training being cut in many trusts. The employment checks and criteria are far more in depth than for an NHS post.

So, if you are an agency nurse, remember you are the face of your agency and yourself so always be happy, smiley and professional. If you are a substantive nurse who has given an agency nurse a bad time or feels resentful of The Agency Nurse, give them a break, they are there to help and do their job. Bottom line is there is nothing stopping anyone joining an agency and earning the same amount of money, it’s all about choice.

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