There are plenty of job opportunities out there for nursing professionals in hospitals, clinics, medical offices, public health departments, research and pharmaceutical companies, and more.
Whether you’re considering going to nursing school or you’re just finishing up your degree, one question that’s likely hanging on your mind is whether or not you should join a nursing recruitment agency.
The truth is, there are many compelling reasons to work with these agencies, as well as some pretty big drawbacks. The decision to join a nursing agency is one that you’ll want to take seriously, as your particular personality and working style can impact whether or not it makes sense for you.
So, what do you need to know about nurse recruitment agencies to make an informed decision? Let’s take a look.
What Are Nurse Recruitment Agencies?
Nursing recruitment agencies are companies that help nurses locate and identify short-term contracts. Nurses who join recruitment agencies are known as agency nurses. Though agency nurses will generally provide medical care to patients, the actual scope of their duties can vary depending on the location of their short-term contract.
For instance, if you work as an agency nurse, you might cover shifts at a hospital for a period and then provide at-home care providing hospice services.
Comparing Agency Nurses and Staff Nurses
Both staff nurses and agency nurses need to have the same level of training and education and will often be responsible for the same duties. However, there are some notable differences between these two career paths.
Of course, one major difference is that agency nurses will travel around and potentially work at a number of different locations for short periods. Staff nurses, on the other hand, will work in one specific location.
That being said, both agency and staff nurses can work in a wide array of settings. For example, both have potential job opportunities in hospitals, family practices, at-home care services, and specialty facilities.
Another big difference between agency and staff nurses is the way they are paid. Staff nurses will receive a salary, while agency nurses are typically paid by the hour.
Staff nurses will also usually receive benefits along with their salary, which can include health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement plan. Typically, agency nurses won’t receive any form of benefits package as a part of their compensation.
The schedule for staff nurses is often set by nursing management, and they will usually work a set number of hours every week.
Agency nurses are able to have more flexibility when it comes to their schedules– they have the freedom to decide how many hours they want to work.
Since staff nurses work in one setting, they are much more likely to specialize in a particular area of health or type of care. For example, a staff nurse might specialize in pediatrics or emergency medicine.
Agency nurses, in contract, very rarely specialize in any particular area. Their role is to help solve staffing issues at healthcare facilities, meaning that they can end up having experience with a number of different types of care.
The Benefits of Working With a Recruitment Agency
For some nurses, working with a recruitment agency provides additional flexibility and the ability to experience a wide variety of work settings. With more control over their schedule, some find that it’s easier to strike a healthier work-life balance working through agencies rather than as a staff nurse.
Emotional burnout– often resulting from a lack of work-life balance– is one of the top reasons that healthcare professionals leave the medical field. You can learn more in our ultimate guide to physician emotional burnout.
Since agencies can often negotiate higher wages for their staff, agency nurses can earn more per year than staff nurses. Though this might make agency nursing sound like a no-brainer, it’s important to recognize that working through an agency usually means you don’t receive any benefits.
When you work out the math in terms of the value of a typical benefits package as well as the cost of purchasing your own insurance plan, the difference in compensation might not be quite as stark.
Schedule and Flexibility
One of the reasons that some nurses choose to join an agency is because of the increased control they can have over their own schedule. Rather than having to build their life around their schedule, agency nurses have a bit more freedom. At the same time, some individuals might not like the unpredictability of working with an agency and would prefer to have more stability.
Some nurses find that working through an agency helps them to maintain a positive work-life balance compared to being a staff nurse. At the same time, others find that the need to travel frequently is destabilizing to their sense of being centered in their lives.
Relationships and Networking
As we’ll discuss a bit later on, agency nursing can mean missing out on the long-term relationships that often come hand in hand with working on a staff.
At the same time, though, you have the opportunity to meet many different people since you will typically work in several different work environments, which can provide networking and relationship-building opportunities.
Experience and Variety
For some nurses, meeting new people, having new experiences and generally mixing things up sounds like a great time. For others, this lack of consistency and stability sounds like a nightmare.
Becoming an agency nurse can be a good fit for those in the former group. Nurses in this role can be assigned to different facilities or locations daily, weekly, or monthly. If the idea of showing up to the same hospital or clinic day in and day out sounds horrible to you, you might enjoy the variety offered by joining an agency.
Fewer Administrative Tasks
Though there can be quite a bit of variety in terms of the roles agency nurses are expected to play, they typically have to deal with fewer administrative tasks than staff nurses. This means they can focus on the patient and provide the care they need without feeling rushed.
A patient-focused role is particularly common for agency nurses who take jobs in at-home care, where they can have the space to give their full attention to one patient at a time.
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The Drawbacks of Working With a Recruitment Agency
While there are a number of benefits to working with a nursing agency, the unpredictability, lack of camaraderie and long-term relationships, and the lack of benefits don’t fit everyone’s personal style.
Lack of Camaraderie
Some agency nurses love that they can avoid the politics and infighting that seem to be par for the course when you work in the same organization day in and day out.
On the other hand, though, this can also mean that you don’t have the opportunity to build long-term relationships with your co-workers and people in one community.
Reduced Stability and Benefits
Staff nurses enjoy a salary and a full benefits package in many cases. However, when you work as an agency nurse, you typically work on a temporary, contract basis.
This means that they usually don’t have access to paid time off, retirement plans, medical benefits, and other perks that come along with full-time employment.
Whether or not agency nursing is right for you can have much to do with whether you desire more stability or variety. For some people, a great deal of comfort and satisfaction comes from working in the same location every day and having co-workers and patients with whom they build relationships. For others, having such a strict routine feels constricting and boring.
If you’re a person who thrives in routine and desires a strong sense of stability, agency nursing might not be the right choice.
Factors To Consider When Deciding Whether to Join a Recruitment Agency
There are a number of things you’ll want to consider when you’re deciding whether a recruitment agency is right for you. Here are some major elements that you’ll want to keep in mind.
Working with a recruitment agency can help you connect with a long list of potential employers.
You might find that you can access a broader scope of work opportunities when you work with an agency compared to engaging in the job search independently.
Some (though not all) recruitment agencies will also provide career counseling and guidance.
This could be a valuable resource if you’re new to nursing or otherwise interested in advancing your career.
The job search process can be simplified by joining a recruitment agency.
If you’re interested in saving your valuable time and energy when it comes to finding suitable job openings, a recruitment agency could be a good choice.
Depending on the agency you work with, they might deduct a portion of your earnings or charge the healthcare facility you work with.
It’s, therefore, essential to make sure that you’re clear on the fee structure of nursing agencies before signing on so you can run the numbers.
Flexibility Vs. Stability
When you work with a nurse recruitment agency, you’re actually an employee of the agency and not the healthcare facilities that you temporarily work at.
On the one hand, this arrangement can give you more flexibility in your schedule and allow you to switch up your working environment as a traveling nurse. On the other hand, it can also mean that you don’t receive the same benefits, experience as much job security, or enjoy the stability of living and working in one place for a long period of time.
For some individuals, a direct employment relationship’s stability and benefits are ultimately the better arrangement. For others, the additional flexibility and excitement of traveling around is preferable to being a staff nurse.
Alternative Career Options For Nurses
If you love helping people but you’re not thrilled by the idea of being either a staff nurse or an agency nurse, you’ll be glad to know that there are several other alternative career paths you could take.
Some ideas include:
- Nurse researcher
- Case manager
- Nurse educator
- Medical writer
- Telemedicine nurse
- Insurance nurse
- Grant writer
- Medical claims analyst
- Nurse entrepreneur (such as starting your own wellness center, healthcare agency, or healthcare consultancy)
- Cruise ship nurse
- Occupational health nurse
Should You Join a Nurse Recruitment Agency?
Whether or not you choose to join a nurse recruitment agency is a matter of personal preference. There are pros and cons to working as both an agency nurse and a staff nurse. On the one hand, some might find the mundanity of working in one location unpleasant and thrive given the opportunity to work in different environments on short-term contracts. On the other hand, some might find the unpredictability and instability of working for an agency to leave them feeling uncentered and desiring more routine.
Finding a job in the medical field that is right for you can be a challenge, but it’s important to recognize that there are more options than you might think.
Considering that burnout is such a prevalent issue for physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals, it’s important to consider whether your career will afford you the work-life balance you desire.
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