No matter where in the world you practise, agency nursing can be hard work. When it comes to agencies a lot of nurses join alongside their current role to earn a little extra money for a rainy day. But what about when you want to take on agency nursing full time? The flexibility to work when you want and freedom to have time off whenever you feel like it, sounds perfect doesn’t it? So why aren’t nursing doing it? Well, with no guarantee of actually getting work nurses often feel a lack of security. But, for the last year, I’ve been agency nursing full-time in Australia! And, though sometimes it has been a struggle the perks have astronomically outweighed the worries, for me anyway.
I came to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa with the priority being to travel this spectacular country. Of course, I couldn’t afford to spend a year in Australia without working. So, I figured joining a nursing agency would be the best way forward (I am already a registered nurse in the UK). I can choose my hours, take holidays when I want and only have to work what and when I want too. Whilst agency nursing in Australia has been amazing for me from start to finish there are a few strategies I have adopted when it comes to securing shifts. These aren’t ‘rules’ per-say when it comes to getting shifts as an agency nurse and everyone’s experience is different. But, by using these simple tips I’ve been able to work full time as an agency nurse in Australia for a whole year and it’s been blooming fantastic!
Disclaimer: This is my experience only and even if you implement these strategies it does not mean you’ll get shifts. This article also contains affiliate links where I receive a small commission if you purchase anything on this page – Thank You!
Healthcare Australia – An International Recruitment Agency for Agency Nursing in Australia
This isn’t a sponsored post but I wanted to mention the agency, Healthcare Australia. Healthcare Australia (HCA) is an international recruitment agency for nurses. This is the nursing agency I’ve worked for in Australia for the last year. HCA provides shifts all over Australia. I first heard about them when I was still In the UK where I attended a conference about nursing in Australia. You can register with HCA from the UK before arriving in Australia and before you have AHPRA registration. This I found this really helpful as the team at Healthcare Australia guided me through the AHPRA registration process.
What is AHPRA?
AHPRA stands for Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. It’s basically the equivalent to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in the UK. You have to be registered with AHPRA before you can start agency nursing in Australia.
HCA has been wonderful to work for from start to finish. This agency has provided me with shifts, reimbursed the cost of my flight to Australia and ensured I was given the opportunity to gain CPD hours. If you’re from the UK don’t forget about revalidation with the NMC back home, you can use these hours towards it! I honestly can’t fault Healthcare Australia. The system is so easy to use, you simply pop in when you are available to work via an online app and they will send you shifts. Even during quiet periods, I have managed to get shifts with Healthcare Australia but no matter what nursing agency in Australia you join these simple tips below may help get you more shifts!
10 Ways to Guarantee More Shifts Agency Nursing in Australia
This is probably the most important and highly employable trait an agency nurse in Australia can have. Think about it, agency nurses are booked by a hospital or a facility when they are short staffed or require extra help. The facilities pay extra for agency nurses to work. My hourly rate was $53/hr in Queensland. The salary that agency nurses receive is high and the hospitals pay a lot of money on top of that to have you there. So naturally, some shifts may be booked by the agency last minute. A ward may get two nurses ring in sick at 3 am and therefore need some extra help for the day shift starting at 7 am. Or vice versa, nurses calling in sick or a patient requiring one on one care in the daytime may require help for the night shift.
If you refuse to be flexible and refuse last-minute shifts then you may struggle with agency nursing in Australia. The agencies try their best to let you know about shifts as early as possible but sometimes they just can’t. If you are willing and to taking on last-minute shifts then you’re going to get a lot more work than someone who isn’t. I’ve taken shifts at 5 am for a 7 am start before. Be flexible and it will stand you in great stead for getting full-time hours agency nursing in Australia.
Communicate with your Nursing Agency
Agency nursing in Australia is in demand. There are so many international nurses doing agency work and a lot of Australian nurses taking on agency work as well. With Healthcare Australia and every other agency, they will need to know your availability to work. With HCA you simply tick or cross which shifts you can work for that week. For other agencies, you may have to call to let them know. However, you need to communicate with the agency to keep your availabilities up to date. If you forget and don’t let them know you want to work, how will they know? Because the demand for agency nursing in Australia is high if you aren’t available the agency will find someone who is. So always keep your availability up to date!
I tend to do mine 3 weeks in advance and plan around it or sometimes I will say I’m available for every shift and then make myself unavailable when shifts start coming in. For example, I make myself available for every night shift one week then I get Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night through, I will cross off the remainder of the week as unavailable.
Make Yourself Known to Managers and Ask for Block Bookings
When you are posted to a new ward as an agency nurse always introduce yourself to the team and the manager of that ward. I’ve learnt that being open and making yourself part of the team will always benefit. Managers like it when agency nurses introduce themselves and give them some insight into their experience. If you like the ward you’ve been posted to let the manager know. Ask them if they need any block bookings then you’d be happy to help. During my time agency nursing in Australia, I blocked booked on two wards, one for three months and one for five just by asking the manager if they needed it! Of course, sometimes this isn’t possible but it’s worth asking because a lot of the hospitals do it.
Why Take Block Bookings as an Agency Nurse?
As an agency nurse in Australia, I found that taking block bookings is awesome. You work with the same team all the time who get to know you and vice versa. Sometimes agency nurses will get the lightest workload or least complicated because the staff on the ward don’t know your capabilities. Basically the more you work somewhere the more the staff will ‘trust’ you. Working block bookings whilst agency nursing in Australia made me feel like I had a ‘home’ and part of a ‘team’ which for me is really important. It makes it easier learning how one ward works instead of ten – you can learn all their protocols and how they work because even in the same hospital the wards often work differently from one another.
Nursing Essentials in Australia
Working agency in Australia often means a polo shirt uniform with no real pockets! My nursing belt organiser has been a lifesaver! Australian hospital also let you bring in your own head thermometer which is perfect when you don’t want to wake the kids!
Agency Nurses – Please Answer the Phone!
This may sound silly but I think this is pretty important. There is nothing worse than an agency nurse sitting at the desk and ignoring the phone. Yes, the phone ringing can be a scary thing especially when you’ve just started working somewhere and only know the minimum about that ward or hospital but just answer it. The permanent nurses will be so grateful if you just answer the phone and then pass on a message or find someone who can help answer the caller’s query, Honestly, this is will give you huge brownie points!
Don’t Get Fussy Whilst Agency Nursing in Australia
This tip comes from personal experience. Although block booking on wards that you enjoy is awesome sometimes it can make you a little too comfortable. After block booking on two wards, I found myself feeling nervous and I’ll admit a little bit fussy when it came to taking shifts afterwards. My brain was going into overdrive wondering what ward I’ll be posted on and if it’ll be nice if people will be nice etc because I’d got so comfortable working with the same people on the same wards. One piece of advice, even if you block book is don’t become opposed to going to other areas or you simply won’t get booked. I never refused to go to another ward but I did wind myself up about it and had to give myself a strong talking to.
Be Open to Working in New Areas
This tip kind of ties in with the one above. Don’t be opposed to working in new areas whilst working for an agency. During my time agency nursing in Australia, I’ve worked in areas I’ve never stepped foot in before like, Paediatric Intensive Care. I’m not a PICU nurse but when intensive care that has patients that are ready for the ward there is no reason not to go and look after them. The thought of just being in ICU may be scary but it’s never as bad as it seems when you arrive. If you do find yourself in an area you don’t know then just ask any questions if you’re unsure about your patient. Do not come across cocky and overconfident as this will never ever bode well, no matter if you work agency or not.
Be Prepared to Go Where the Work Is Whilst Agency Nursing in Australia
Australia is one big country. Because Healthcare Australia covers the whole country they know which states have work. Be prepared to literally move state if you aren’t getting any work where you’re currently based. And don’t expect it to be the same everywhere. In Brisbane, I got tonnes of shifts at their children’s hospital. But, when we moved to Sydney I realised that their children’s hospital doesn’t even take agency nurses. So I had to attend the hospitals that had the work even if they weren’t my first choice. Luckily, I had never had to move states because of lack of work but I know some nurses have. Be prepared for anything as an agency nurse down under!
Keep Your Mandatory Training Up to Date
Whilst working as an agency nurse in Australia it is still the responsibility of the health practitioner to keep all mandatory training up to date. If you work with HCA they will send you alerts to the app when your training is running out. If you don’t keep your training up to date then you won’t be given shifts. The same goes for your visa and AHPRA renewal, as soon as these are out of date you won’t be able to work so keep on top of it all.
Consider Rural Placements
Australia is one magnificent country and I don’t just mean because of it’s amazing scenery. Australia is huge in size with communities in every corner far and wide. If I have one regret during my time agency nursing in Australia it’s not taking the opportunity to try a rural placement. This basically means nursing in a remote part of the country. I’ve always considered it but it just didn’t happen. If you find yourself at a point where shifts are just not available why not try out somewhere completely different? HCA offer these placements regularly and what an amazing experience that would be!
If you’ve done or are thinking about doing a rural nursing placement in Australia then I would love to hear about it and maybe you can write about it on Alicia Overseas, just send me an email at [email protected]
So, agency nursing in Australia should you do it? YES. One million times yes. The best part about working through an agency is you get to decide when you work. I don’t know about you but I don’t know many permanent nursing jobs where you can choose your hours and just take off when you like! Of course, the disadvantages of working for an agency is that you don’t receive sick pay, maternity leave or annual leave pay. But you’ve got to decide where you are in your life and how ‘important’ these things are to you right now. For me, these factors were minimal and with the awesome salary for agency nurses in Australia you can save heaps making up for these small cons.
I believe it is 100% possible to work full time in Australia with an agency – I’ve just done it for a year. Remember,
- Be Flexible whilst agency nursing in Australia
- Communicate with the agency
- Be open to different nursing fields including rural placements
- Keep up to Date with training whilst agency nursing in Australia
- Go where the work is
- Introduce yourself and make yourself known (in a good way)!
- And most important ANSWER THAT PHONE!
I hope you enjoyed these tips for getting more nursing shifts in Australia. Nursing in Australia is rewarding and I have learnt so much about myself, practise and the country too. If you did enjoy this post don’t forget to share it with your friends and have a look at some of my other posts about Nursing whilst you travel:
Happy and Healthy Travels