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Working as an agency nurse

Published on: 26 Nov 2020

How to find an agency that has the right kind of nursing jobs for you.

Why become an agency nurse

As COVID-19 cases rise and winter pressures approach, the value of temporary staff has never been more obvious.  The temporary workforce has long been a subject of discussion among health and social care professionals, in relation to care quality, continuity of care and, of course, cost.

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The agency workforce jumps in at the last minute to ‘make up the numbers’, yet the rhetoric around agency nurses has always been relatively poor, with agency staff often the focus of negativity.

Why then, when the stakes are so high, would you choose to be a temporary worker? One of the major reasons agency nurses say they choose this type of work is the control it gives them over their work-life balance.

It enables them to choose shifts that fit around other commitments, and with uncertainty in the employment market at such a high level, some find being a temporary worker also provides an opportunity to control and enhance their income.

But such flexibility comes at a cost. While permanent workers are offered additional benefits, such as enhanced sick pay and maternity and paternity leave, this may not be available to the temporary worker in the same way.  The ability to progress their career may also be impeded by a lack of available resources and high-cost learning opportunities.

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Here are some questions to ask if you are thinking of becoming an agency nurse.

What to consider when choosing an agency

  • Call the agency and see how they communicate with you. What can they offer you in terms of support, training and professional development?
  • Do they offer shifts in your local area? Are the shifts within a reasonable commute or is this going to add to the length of your working day?
  • Does the agency have a dedicated team that will assist you in managing any incidents you may be involved in where things have gone wrong in practice?
  • As an independent practitioner, what benefits will you get if you are unwell and cannot work? Will IR35 tax legislation (for off-payroll working) have an impact on the way you can work?
  • What about opportunities to progress? Is there someone within the organisation who understands the importance of feedback, appraisals and reviews?


This is an abridged version of the article Why become an agency nurse when the stakes are so high? which was first published in Nursing Standard.

Read more careers articles on Nursing Standard