Many new graduates and workers who are being laid off in today’s economic climate will turn to temporary nursing agency employment while looking for a permanent position that will ultimately satisfy them in their career progression. And, even those workers who haven’t lost their jobs but are discovering that now is not the best time to look for that dream position are biding their time with temporary employment. So, how does working as a nursing agency employee differ from working as a permanent employee?
You may have read about the pros and cons of temporary assignments, but received scant advice on how to survive life in the world of temporary work. What follows will ensure that you get to pick and choose which positions you accept, and when you accept them.
Be Prepared – and Not Too Rigid
Most temporary nursing agency assignments involve a very steep learning curve. While it’s important to remember all you’ve learned to date in your working life (that is, after all, how you’ve secured the assignment in the first place), remember that organizations have their own procedures and processes and these may differ greatly from those that you’ve worked with to date.
The most valued attribute of nursing agency workers is their ability to quickly adapt to and learn new processes. This is most easily done when they remain open-minded and willing to learn. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advise your supervisor if you see how a process or procedure can be improved upon. Any manager worth his or her salt will want to know how a process can be improved, especially if it results in cutting costs and/or time.
What is the Right Way to Talk About Changes?
However, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about suggesting improvements. When researching the subject, acknowledge that the current working practice is good (you could after all be talking about something very close to your supervisor’s heart), but you believe that there is a way to make it better. For example, your suggestion shouldn’t be met with too much hostility if you phrase it this way: “This shift report works well in capturing information for the shift significant events, but with an additional column for X, Y or Z data it would also be useful for the falls prevention program.”
Keep an Open Mind
While all managers will welcome suggestions on improving procedures, don’t be blinkered and steadfastly hold on to the view that the way you used to work was the best and only way. If you were in your previous position for a considerable number of years, you could easily fall into the trap of believing that the procedures you once used were difficult, if not impossible, to improve upon, and, as a result, you may be heard proclaiming to all that, “That’s not how I did it where I used to work.” Keep an open mind: not only are you learning all you need to know for your current temporary job, but you could also be learning tips that could serve you well in any future assignment.
As well as being able to adapt and learn, a good temporary worker should also be flexible. Don’t see your workload as a specific set of tasks. While you will probably be reporting to a single nurse/supervisor in the workplace, be prepared to help out in all areas as and when the need arises. Your charge nurse could well be called away unexpectedly and you will then have to take instruction from an interim person in charge.
Assess the pace of the workplace and offer your services when you have a quite time. Your attitude will be reported to the nursing agency and will definitely merit you a gold star, which will undoubtedly result in your inclusion in the selection process when future assignments come in. It is really important if you want to continue working for the nursing agency. You will not only have an opportunity to learn but might also be considered for the position on a permanent basis.
Stay away from the facility’s politics. This is good advice whether you’re a temporary or a permanent employee. Sometimes, when facility “battle lines” are drawn, employees try to recruit whomever they can to their side, so don’t be a “casualty” of the facility “battlefield.” You don’t want your nursing agency to receive any reports of uncooperative behavior on your part. It is important that your nursing agency is confident that it can send you on assignments regardless of the personalities involved. You might not be offered assignments if your agency has to first take into consideration the people you will be working with in order to prevent any workplace confrontations from occurring.
Remain Professional and Call for Help
Remember that you are employed by the nursing agency and any concerns about your employment should be raised with your agency contact in the first place. If you feel that you can’t complete the assignment, for whatever reason, stay professional and report to your agency contact advising him or her of the situation. Your contact will arrange for another candidate to take over the assignment. Your agency contact will also deal directly with the supervisor of the facility for which you’ve been working, fully explaining the situation. Likewise, if you feel that you’re being asked to perform tasks that weren’t included in the job description you agreed with upon accepting the assignment, let your contact at the agency know.
One of the disadvantages of working for a nursing agency is that you may feel you can’t get away with bending some of the “rules” in the same way that permanent workers seem to. For example, you may be at the nursing station 5 minutes before your official start time, while the permanent worker working the same shift rolls in 15 minutes later. Regardless of what your thoughts are on this, focus on keeping the hours you are assigned to work in respect of both your start and finish times.
Discuss any overtime with your supervisor before undertaking it: he or she won’t be too pleased to be presented with your hours of work at the end of the week if it shows additional 2 hours of work that you claim you had to carry out to complete the shift. All overtime should be agreed to before it’s carried out and claimed in accordance with the regulations of your employment contract.
Don’t adopt the attitude that just because you’re working on a temporary basis you don’t have to give your best on the job. Don’t believe that you have no vested interest in the position: the job you do has consequences, whether with respect to feedback that is submitted to your agency after you complete the assignment or the work you’re engaged in during it.
Keep in Touch
Keep in regular contact with your nursing agency, especially when you’re on-call and ready to work. Let the agency know when you’re available for work. Call every Monday and advise of your availability for that week.
One of the best ways to survive life as a nursing agency worker is to strive to be an exceptional team member, contribute where and when you feel it’s appropriate, and always try to do the best job you can. In order to survive, and even thrive, in the world of temporary work, treat any assignment, in the same way, you would a permanent position. Even if it is an assignment in which you end up doing more than your fair share of bedside care!