What is an agency nurse and how might this work for my career?

03 December 2019 By Michael Bowyer

Whether just starting your nursing career or as a well-established permanent or NHS nurse, you might ask yourself – what is an agency nurse exactly, and can this be a good move for my career?

An agency nurse is the same as any other, only they work on a temporary (or ‘locum’) basis through an agency in a variety of settings rather than a permanent role in one fixed place. Working as an agency nurse isn’t for everyone but it can prove an excellent career choice for many nurses, offering the chance to gain new skills and the ability to work flexibly.

Some of the benefits of working as an agency nurse are:

Greater control over your work-life balance

Agency nurses have the ability to control where, when and how often they work. This means you have greater choices over your hours, shift patterns and even income. Don’t fancy nights or want to take a two week holiday at short notice? Not a problem. Communicate your availability and preferences with your recruitment agency and they will secure the most suitable work for you.

Career development

Working as an agency nurse means access to a wide range of environments to work in. This is undoubtedly a bonus for your experience and CV, as you will learn a variety of skills and sets of tasks and responsibilities. This could range from healthcare trusts to prisons to general practice, as well as work within hospitals.

Although students and newly qualified nurses are limited to healthcare assistant work, this experience can be invaluable in securing subsequent temporary roles or your first permanent position, depending on which work pattern you have decided is best for you.

Career guidance and support

When working as an agency nurse you will have the full support of your agency behind you. Some agencies will offer career help and advice, as well as help with matters such as your NMC revalidation .


Some people prefer the same environment to work in day in day out, but for many others the chance to work in a new workplace with different teams can be a very rewarding and exciting way to work.

Agency nurses must be able to fit seamlessly into new teams while working at their professional best, working at the task at hand: the wellbeing of their patients. Rather than sticking to one hospital, or even one ward, it will suit those who enjoy new surroundings and work colleagues.

Financial reward

It’s true that working as an agency staff can mean better financial remuneration, particularly if you have plenty of availability. It can mean expressing an interest for night shifts only, for instance, rather than juggling shifts with other permanent team members, thereby maximising income.

Avoid ‘office’ politics

Agency nursing allows you to focus on patient care without having to navigate the dynamics of team and hierarchical politics. You can focus on the job at hand when at work, allowing you to disconnect and focus on personal commitments when you’re not.

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