Essential dos and don’ts for agency nurses

Essential dos and don’ts for agency nurses

Making the move from a staff to an agency nurse can be the best change of your career – but it can be daunting, too! There’s a lot to think about as you prepare for shifts, with a certain amount of etiquette to factor in, as well as your practical knowledge. So whether you’ve just joined agency life or have been an agency nurse for ages, here are some essential dos and don’ts from the Richmond team:


Keep your agency up to date with availability. At Richmond, we understand how important flexibility is to our nurses and we’re proud to offer shifts up to eight weeks in advance. We’ll always do our best to accommodate your needs – but we can’t read minds if you don’t tell us when you’re available and which shifts you’d like!

Double-check your rota on the portal the day or night before your shift. Shiftwork can be tiring and it’s easy to lose track of work booked in and start times, so checking into the portal regularly should always be part and parcel of preparing for your nurse’s shift.

Work hard. By giving 100% every time, you’ll increase the chance of more work coming your way, with your preferred hospital or ward possibly even requesting you personally. Always arrive on time or, even better, slightly early if you can.

Be polite. Agency nursing can be pressurised and demanding, and it can often feel as though you’re on the receiving end of other staff’s stress. React calmly and don’t argue back. Suggest practical alternatives if a task isn’t possible and remain as friendly and receptive as you can. Read our guide to creating a good nurse / doctor relationship and show senior professionals that you can take away some of their stress, rather than adding to it.

Give and take. Get to know your fellow agency nurses and be prepared to stand in at short notice if cover is needed for a shift. It will undoubtedly work both ways when you’re the one in need! Also, be prepared to pick up new skills and say ‘yes’ to tasks that aren’t necessarily ‘your’ job. Agency nursing is varied and changeable, and the more flexibility you can show, the better each shift will be.

Enjoy it! Many nurses enter the profession because they are good with people and want to help others. It can be easy to forget this, amongst the paperwork and small detail, but focus on the positive aspects of each shift, such as the patients to whom you make a difference and the new things you learn.


Cancel your shifts at the drop of a hat. Give as much notice as you possibly can, so your nursing agency has time to find a replacement.

Use your mobile phone on shift. Scrolling through Facebook or taking personal calls shows a lack of commitment to your job, as well as preventing you from focusing on patients.

Disappear without telling the nurse in charge. Always tell your ward leader where they can find you – even during your break – so they can get hold of you in an emergency, and be available for a full handover at the end of your shift.

Look scruffy. Your agency nurse’s uniform should be clean and ironed at all times, with the logo or name badge visible. Factor in time before each shift to do your laundry or double check there are no marks, creases or tears that need attention.

Forget to take notes. Keeping an accurate and detailed record of each shift will help your patients, and could potentially help you if a colleague or manager questions your work. Our Patient history: what you need to ask is an invaluable read to help you take as detailed notes as possible.

Sign up for shifts in departments you’re not competent in or pretend you have knowledge in an unfamiliar area. It could damage your agency’s reputation and place you on a Do Not Return (DNR) list. Don’t forget that staff will know people in other hospitals too, and so the damage to your name could travel further than you think!

Get caught up in department politics or gossip. Even if you quickly decide you don’t want to return to a particular workplace, remain professional and kind at all times.

Assume you know everything. No one does!


Richmond Nursing is a specialist nursing and HCA recruitment agency, based in south Wales and covering all health board areas in Wales and several in England. To sign up with Richmond Nursing and sister company ProHealthCare, register today or call our team on 01554 756148 to find out more.

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