One of the advantages of choosing nursing as a profession is the flexibility and diversity of experience it can offer.  

There comes a time when many nurses decide to branch out and work bank or agency shifts or even to become autonomous practitioners.

Bank, agency and temporary shift work can give nurses the choice to work when they want without having to conform to a rigid rota. It can be a wonderful means to earn extra money in addition to your regular salary and help pay for those little extras.

Being able to dip your toes in an unfamiliar setting and gain familiarity within a new area can be another asset of temporary work, particularly if you are thinking of changing speciality.

Here are 4 ways to help you settle into temporary work more smoothly:

1. Be prepared

Have your equipment, pens, pin number, I.D. badge and other necessities for the shift ready and available.  This makes a good impression and doesn’t leave you feeling vulnerable by having to spend your time as the new nurse looking for simple items.

2. Induction

It is policy in any nursing role that all new staff should be given an induction.  Although you will be expected to have the basic nursing skills as a foundation to maintaining a safe level of practice, it is unfair to expect a nurse to be able to step into a new department without being given a proper introduction.  

You are entitled to be shown the layout of the unit, be explained any special procedures or policies pertinent to the area you are working in as well as where equipment and other important points are situated.  If people are too busy or don’t think to give you an induction then ask.  

Many bank and agencies now provide nurses with a pre-printed sheet in their handbooks specifically for this purpose to use when starting for the first time in a new environment.  Remember if something goes wrong and you have not shown that you have been given an induction then you may be called to question on why you omitted to demand this.

3. Get a good handover

Handover is generally a normal part of any shift transition and all nurses will be familiar and comfortable with their concept.  Sometimes, however, the reality is that nurses can be rushed and tired and may forget to relay information after working a long day (or night).  

Ensure you use the handover effectively by asking questions and speaking to the nurse who is about to go home. This will help you understand the condition and needs of your clients and perform your job professionally.  Just like an induction, it is your entitlement to be given an adequate handover so that you can care for your patients well - so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask things.

4. Use 'The Code' - see NMC.

It can be easy to be sucked into feeling that you should be knowledgeable about everything when you are a nurse, particularly if you are feeling under pressure in a busy department with people you don’t know. Never fall prey to the danger of trying to cover up inexperience in order to keep the unit you are working in happy or from worry of being labelled incompetent. If you follow the principles of the code then should an ‘event’ occur you will be able to justify your actions.

Never take on tasks that you are unfamiliar with because the staff seem busy and harassed. If you are not accustomed to the administration of new or advanced drugs or doing specialised clinical procedures then it is unfair on both you and the clients under your care to perform these and put yourself and others in danger.  

Your induction should inform you of policies on hazardous substances (COSSH), medicines and any other unusual details of the area you are working in, but again if they have been forgotten about them always ask for advice.  

The Code is the nurses’ bible to good practice so use and remember it at all times to maintain your registration and keep up good practice!

5. Remember the ‘Nursing Basics'

Simple nursing care is sometimes what is most appreciated by clients and their families.  In a busy health sector, these things can often wrongly seem less important when staff are trying to get through more technical procedures or battle their way through paperwork and computer systems.

However, clients will generally remember the little things such as that someone took the time to help adjust their position or give mouth care.  These are the things that make people feel honoured and respected and make a big difference.  If you are unsure in a new setting about the more specialised procedures then letting the person in charge know this and being there to perform some of the less technical stuff can be incredibly helpful to everyone.

6. Utilise Assessment Skills

Don’t forget you are a professional; trained in the generals of nursing and probably have a better idea about things than you think.

Assess clients, monitor their basic observations and look for discrepancies in a client’s condition by using your observational skills. These are skills that each nurse will know and have been taught in order to work competently in whatever area they are practising.  

When working in a new area it can sometimes seem frightening when dealing with very sick clients within a speciality that you may be unfamiliar or inexperienced in.

Assessments are generally the same for clients whatever the setting so put your knowledge into practice, follow your training, breath and relax (but of course ask and seek support if you really are unsure).

7. Excellent Communication Skills are Essential

Nurses need to be excellent communicators but this is particularly important when working in new settings. Use the communication skills you have been taught - be open, friendly, receptive and alert to encourage easy discussions and allow others to feel comfortable with you.  

Ask lots of questions, document everything that you do and voice any concerns frankly and professionally. Communicate with a senior member if you are feeling that you are being asked to do things that are unsafe or beyond your experience.  

In many cases the agency or bank that you are working for will have a phone number to call if you are feeling totally unsupported or have extreme concerns about safety of patient care.  

Let your bank and agency know in the unusual event that this happens and if all other avenues of communication have been explored unsuccessfully.

8. Don’t Take Things Personally

It can be a lonely experience working as a bank or agency nurse.  Anyone who has experience will know that the permanent staff you are working with will generally want you to be like a duck to water and undertake your duties without a great deal of supervision or support. Many areas are understaffed and under-resourced and dealing with new nurses on a daily basis.  

Permanent staff may appear to not have the emotional resources themselves to be overly friendly or amiable.  As a temporary nurse, you will no doubt become accustomed to working with those who won’t care about getting to know you and just want you to do the job! Remember you are there as a backup - stay polite and calm and don’t take things personally.  

However, you should expect to be treated with courtesy and respect despite this so don’t tolerate rudeness or bullying and report this to the line manager or bank/agency should this occur.

And finally, remember you don’t have to go back! One of the joys of temporary work is that you don’t have to return if you don’t like an area.

However, once people realise you are hardworking and self-motivated you will no doubt get booked again and again and soon be treated as one of the team.  

Become an independent nurse and choose when and where you work. Make an account today and be your own boss.

Join the conversation and stay updated with us on Twitter, Instagram and like us on Facebook.