9 tips for getting consistent NHS agency shifts

We know being an agency nurse can be challenging – you need enough salary to live on and patches without work can be devastating.

We also recognise that currently the market is in flux in some areas, demand at trusts can fluctuate and gaps can appear.

So how do you consistently fill your work calendar and get the income you need?

We gathered nine tips from experienced NHS agency nurses…

1. Choose a core agency

Many agency nurses will choose a primary or core agency that they will get the majority of their shifts from. They will prioritise sharing their availability with this agency, to keep it as simple to manage as possible.

2. Have a back-up

On top of a core agency, a lot of agency nurses find it is helpful and reassuring to be registered with another 1 or 2 other agencies – in case the core agency has a downturn in shift availability.

3. But… do your research

Try to speak to another nurse who has used the agency – are they being honest about shift availability? For example, you can post messages on nurse forums and ask if there is genuine availability at the trusts and hospitals you are interested in, before going through the complete onboarding process.

If you decided to work with Florence, we make sure nothing is hidden: you can download the app, input your basic information, then browse all the currently available shifts directly in the app. We do not onboarding nurses unless we can find shifts for them.

“We want Florence to be known in the NHS nursing community as honest and transparent. We simply won’t bring a nurse on with Florence unless we can meet their needs. It’s all about building relationships and taking care of our nurses for us.”

Ross Burton, Managing Director, Florence – NHS team

4. Set yourself simple rules

So that you have can efficiently manage your agencies and not add to your mental load e.g. if I don’t get 5 shifts booked with sole agency by Tuesday, I’ll contact my back-up agencies that day.

5. Don’t restrict yourself to one type of shift

The more patterns you are willing to work the more options you have. Also this doesn’t have to be forever; one month you could do nights to top up as day shifts are less available, and then not the next.

7. Be smart about being flexible

Think about whether you can you work at different locations, if the rate is right travel could make sense? Also can you work more shifts this week vs next week. Short-term hacks to balance out the long-term.‍

“In my 10 years as an agency nurse, I’ve learnt there are peaks and troughs. It might mean you have to adjust to take on more shifts or different patterns at times, but ultimately I know it will all balance out. Flexibility is key. I keep the mentality it’s not forever.”
Dennis, RGN

6. Be open and honest

It helps agencies better support you if you are open about availability. Always communicate your availability with your core agency first, then fill in the gaps using your back-ups.

8. Don’t panic

If there are dry patched with your core agency, don’t panic. Demand goes up and down, and usually will resettle.

9. Diarise keeping your documents up to date

Make sure your nursing documentation and training are up to date so don’t face a period without work due to expired compliance. Put it in your diary so you can’t miss it!

“Agency nursing is a different world to permanent roles – you have to manage your schedule and work the system. But the trade off is that you don’t have the restrictions a permanent role puts on you.”
Terri-Ann, ED nurse

Armed with these nine tips, you should be well-equipped to find consistent NHS agency shifts in your area. Happy shift-hunting!

Not joined Florence yet? Discover how our care shifts app helps you choose your own NHS shifts, or download the Florence app now to start registration. 

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