There is no doubt that working as an independent nurse or agency nurse allows for a degree of flexibility that isn’t possible in a standard contract of employment. But it isn’t for everyone.

Here’s a list of what we at Florence think are the top qualities required to be an awesome independent nurse.

1. Adaptability

As an agency nurse you will need to get used to different locations and definitely different people so one of the key requirements is adaptability. With Florence, if you are one of those people who favours routine and prefers stability (both excellent qualities in their own right) then you can build a relationship with a preferred care home and they may begin to book you regularly. But in the beginning at least, you will probably need to work in a variety of different homes.

So for those who cope well with change, like variety and enjoy new challenges then you definitely have the right mindset and may find being an independent nurse to be exactly what you need in your career.

2. Flexibility

This goes hand in hand with adaptability: are you an agency nurse who is able to work at short notice, perhaps take on extra shifts and willing to work in a variety of different environments? An openness to being flexible in hours, type of nursing and location will stand you in very good stead with the care home managers and it may convince them to book you more regularly.

3. Professionalism

As an agency nurse you will be expected to (quite literally sometimes) hit the ground running which means you really need to know your stuff! A professional attitude, ensuring you are fully up to date with current practices and procedures and being able to deal with all seniority levels on the ward (and in the hospital in general) is essential.

4. Calm Under Pressure

Staying calm is an ability ALL nurses need to have, but with the added pressure inherent in being an agency nurse (i.e. you are almost always ‘the newbie’ with all the connotations that may bring) it is absolutely essential.

Keeping your cool, not rising to any backbiting and being a calm voice of reason (even if you feel like screaming!) will impress the other team members and your patients will thank you for it too.

5. Empathy And Compassion

We would hope that all nurses are possessed of empathy and compassion, after all the desire to care for others is what brings people into the profession!

In the case of being an agency nurse, unlike a regular team member, it is unlikely that you will have the time to create ongoing bonds with the patients in your care; you will therefore need to utilise every bit of compassion and empathy you have in order to make people (who let’s face it really don’t want to be in a hospital bed) feel both understood and cared for during your time as their nurse.

6. Ability To Work As A Team And Independently

It’s very possible that you will spend a great deal of your time working completely independently as an agency nurse, it’s therefore vitally important that you are confident enough in your own skills and abilities to be able to do so.

Equally, you will need to be able to work as part of a team when required to do so; this may mean you have to find out where you sit in any hierarchy in order that you don’t unintentionally cause friction within an existing team…try to be aware of any ‘ward politics’!

7. Attention To Detail

Being well informed about the home is good practice for an agency nurse who wants to impress. Know what Is expected of you; find out what you can about the in house systems, procedures and protocols and follow them. It may be a good idea to carry round a small notebook and pen, firstly so that you may jot down anything you need to find out about but secondly to record incidents as they happen just in case you need to explain anything further down the line.

8. Physical Stamina

Need we say more? A twelve hour shift is punishing for all concerned; a twelve hour shift in a completely new environment doubly so. Look after your physical health, keep your hydration levels up whilst on shift and try to eat something nutritious (yes, we know how tricky that can be sometimes but the vending machine full of chocolate and crisp is not your friend!).

9. Problem Solving

As we mentioned earlier, as an agency nurse you may well wind up spending a lot of time working by yourself and perhaps without knowing very much about your surroundings OR patients.

You will therefore need to work out lots of things for yourself (not the least being where to get that all important tea/coffee during that five minutes you are actually able to get away from the ward!).

Your experience of other roles should prove useful but you will also need to able to think on your feet and solve problems without having to resort to asking other team members. Use your initiative BUT always ensure what you do is safe and in your patients (and your) best interests.

10. Excellent Communication Skills

You will be moving around, constantly meeting new people and coming across different ways of doing things - some of which you may not have experienced before; it’s therefore absolutely vital that as an agency nurse your communication skills are beyond reproach.

You will need to be comfortable interacting with all levels of seniority both in writing and face to face and able to express yourself with confidence and assurance. You will also be interacting with patients to whom you will be unfamiliar, use the empathy and compassion we mentioned in part 5, and gauge your communication with them accordingly.

So, how do you fit into these key qualities?

If you think you have what it takes to succeed as an independent Florence nurse we would love to have you onboard. We do things a little differently here at Florence, the satisfaction of the nurses we work with is our priority and we want you to be involved in the company’s development and the nursing community we’re building.

If you’d like to talk to us you can call 0203 911 2555, or you can email [email protected] or contact us through live chat.

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