When I was a night shift unit coordinator for a busy critical care department my duties included doing staffing which involved hiring agency nurses. Often there were more agency nurses scheduled to work than needed due to fluctuating patient census. So how did I decide who to keep and who to cancel?
There were characteristics that put certain agency nurses at the top of my informal “A” list. To get repeat shifts at a facility as an agency nurse it is important to impress nursing supervisor, the charge nurse, and the staff. Not necessarily in that order. While giving it some thought, I came up with a list of attributes that made for an impressive agency nurse.
14 Tips For Being a Successful Agency Nurse
1. Nobody cares how you did things where you came from.
Every facility bakes cookies a bit different. It may not be the best way, but it is their way and nobody is interested in listening to your critque.
2. Don’t be a know it all.
Don’t try to one up the nurses you ware woriking with. Action more than words is what grows a good reputation.
3. If you don’t have experience with a specific procedure, say so.
Every facility is different when it comes to what skills and procedures nurses are expected to perform. Ask for help. If you genuinely want to learn, someone will teach you.
4. Don’t be needy.
Don’t whine. Be confident, and never let them see you sweat. It’s OK to ask questions, but learn to be resourceful and try to figure simple things out on your own.
5. If someone takes time to help you, make sure to say “thank you”.
Those words are like music to your helpers ears.
6. Help your colleague with a turn or boost.
No matter how busy you are take the minute or two to do this. It will pay dividends.
7. If the staff does not take the initiative to talk to you, introduce yourself and start talking to them.
The staff has seen a lot of nurses come and go. If nobody is taking an interest in you, don’t take it personally. Take the initiative to introduce yourself and start a conversation.
8. Don’t complain about your assignment
Complaining is an instant turn off to those around you. If you are simply having a bad day, ask for help.
9. Be flexible.
If you are asked to change your assignment or pick up a patient, and the request isn’t unreasonable, just go with it. See being a “team player”
10. The hospital didn’t hire you because of your priceless expertise.
You were hired as a band-aid to fix a staffing problem for the next 8 to 12 hours
11. If you were hired for certain unit and get assigned to a different unit, don’t make a scene and just go with it.
When you arrive the facility you might be reassigned to a different unit. Show the nursing supervisor that you are a team player. If you like working at the facility, being flexible will put you on their “preferred” list.
12. Be a team player.
If the staff likes working with you, you will get more shifts.
13. Pick up an extra shift when the unit is short.
Picking up on short notice wins double brownie points.
14. Answer the unit’s phone.
Answering the unit’s phone is one of the most impressive things an agency nurse can do. In a unit that has no station secretary answering the phone largely falls on the charge nurse. It is unbelievable how many staff nurses will ignore a ringing phone. If you pick up the phone believe me, the charge nurse will be impressed.
More on answering the phone:
During the off shifts often a unit does not have a unit secretary and the phone rings off the hook. If you are near a ringing phone, pick up and answer it.
I remember giving a new agency nurse a tour of the unit she was going to work in one night.
We weren’t in the unit more than 2 minutes when the phone rang and without skipping a beat she answered it. She did not know what do with the call, but that was OK. The fact that she had the guts and the initiative to pick it up impressed the hell out of me.
The simple act of picking up the phone put that nurse on my preferred list instantly.
These 14 simple tips will help establish you as a nurse others want to work with, result in getting more shifts, and better assignments.
If you have a question, comment, or an experience about agency nursing you’re willing to share please leave it in the comment section below.