Are you having a hard time deciding on the right nursing specialty or the right job? Try working for a nursing agency to test out some potential permanent positions and hunt for your dream job. Nursing agencies provide per diem staffing to facilities and companies that have inadequate nursing staff to cover their needs, and your assignment can last anywhere from one shift to 13 weeks or more. Traditionally, these positions have been mostly in hospitals, but other health care companies such as home health and long term care facilities now staff temp and travel nurses.
Not only is this a great way to try out new jobs, but you can also test the waters in a new city as a travel nurse. The typical travel nurse contract lasts 13 weeks and the exact perks depend on the nursing agency, but your housing, travel and licensing expenses typically make up part of the compensation package. With three months on location, you really get a sense of whether the city is right for you or, in many cases, if you can tolerate living in such an isolated, rural area.
If you don't want to travel, you can pick up shifts right at home through a local nursing agency. Typically, you're scheduled for single shifts, and there is always a risk of cancellation if the census drops or if a regular staff member volunteers to pick up an extra shift. One shift isn't really long enough to get a good feel for working on a particular unit, but if you work hard and develop a good relationship with the staff, they may request you specifically the next time a shift comes available. This can lead to regular work offers on that floor without making a full-time commitment.
One of the great things about working for a nursing agency is its flexibility, as well as its assistance in helping you discover areas of interest you had never considered previously. For example, many correctional facilities utilize nursing agencies because so many nurses never consider applying for permanent jobs in a jail setting. Yet, some nurses find they prefer a more ambulatory and less acute patient population.
Some nurses decide that local agency work or travel nursing in itself is their dream job, as they set their own schedule and take vacations whenever they choose. And for travel nurses in particular, some enjoy migrating between cooler summers up north to warmer winters in the south. With the competitive pay and perks, a thrifty nurse may find she only has to work two to three travel assignments a year and can spend the rest of her time traveling for fun.
Most nurses who sign on with a nursing agency have at least one year of nursing experience, as you have to enter new situations with confidence in your abilities. If you are offered a shift in a specialty area such as labor and delivery or critical care, make sure you've had enough experience in that area to work independently, as you won't get any orientation to the unit.
The constant change of temp work can be stressful at times, but nursing agencies provides a great way to check out permanent nursing positions and help you possibly land your dream job.
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