What to think about before starting an agency shift
Joining any agency can be difficult, especially when it is for the first time. With any agency you join, it is important to seek out the support you are offered beforehand, this support is something that you should expect from the moment you decide to join and every day throughout your time working. Agency work can be lonely at times, but having that support will make all the difference. Asking friends and colleagues what their experiences have been like, and what support they should expect can be beneficial. Sit back and think what the reasons are and where do you want the agency to take you?
Agency work can be an amazing experience once you have found the right team to look after you. It can give you that work-life balance, which we all know working within the health care setting, can be impossible at times. Different experiences will widen and build your clinical skill set dramatically, along with building your personal development. Anyone who has worked for an agency will be aware that sometimes it can be daunting especially at first, new faces, environments and in my case even driving to a new hospital was quite worrying at first.
The following information will guide you on how to prepare and feel confident when carrying out your first shifts.
When arriving at your allocated placement, ensure you have all of the relevant equipment. Such as pens, ID badge, correct uniform and your NMC pin number.
We all know the first impression can make a big impact, and being prepared will make you stand out from others. Doing this the day before your shift will help with any unexpected stresses you may face on the day.
Arrive early and be aware of where you are going beforehand. This is one thing I learnt early on in my agency career; I am happy to say my Nursing skills are far better than my directional skills and my ability to follow a sat-nav system. Arriving early will enable you to have a look around, gauging your surroundings, and the atmosphere can set you up for the rest of your shift. Showing your dedication by doing this will also make you stand out and be remembered.
Never be afraid to ask questions
Being an agency nurse for the first time, regardless of how well trained you are or experienced, does not mean you are expected to know everything. Nursing and Healthcare is a daily learning process for everyone involved. When arriving at your allocated placement, ensure you are given an induction. If this is not offered or expected information is not given, then ask. Explain this is your first time in the trust or placement.
From previous experience, this is the required information I should be expected to be told:
- Fire procedure, exits and meeting points
- Emergency procedures, crash trolley, oxygen and emergency bells
- Where policies and procedures are located
- How notes are documented paper/online system
- Who is in charge and who to speak to for support?
- A short walk around the area who will be working in
- Restrooms and of course the coffee machine
Once you are happy with the induction process and you feel that you have all the information needed to carry your shift safely, this is when you can exchange handover. Regardless of where an individual has previously worked a handover should be very similar. This will allow you to determine how many patients are in your care, their health condition, and any other needs they may have.
We all know communication is an integral part of any health care professional role, communicating with our patients is something i am sure we all do to be best of our ability. However, do we do with our co-workers to a similar degree? I can honestly say previously attempting to start a friendly conversation with a new colleague was something I found difficult in a new area; however, the initial difference it makes at the start of a shift outweigh that 30 seconds of anxiety. Try to remember names and interact with the team you are working with, we all try our best with our patients, so it is just as important to do it with our co-workers.
After your shift has finished always reflect on what happened, what went well and what did not go so well – this will put you in good stead for the future. If your first shift did not go well, do not be too hard on yourself. Agency work can be an entirely new world for some, especially those who have worked within the same employer for many years. Feedback to your agency, if they have clinical staff ask for advice, there is a good chance they will be able to offer help or support. The main thing to remember that although agency work can seem lonely at times, a good and supportive agency will be there 24/7 to ensure you are not alone.