With shortages of nurses affecting NHS trusts and authorities across the UK, there are plenty of opportunities for agency nurses. An independent nurse contractor does not work directly for a hospital or surgery – they work under a contract agreed with the healthcare provider.
Essentially, becoming an agency nurse gives you back control over your schedule and your working practices. This flexibility can be very appealing for some people who like the idea of fitting work around other commitments.
Qualifications that independent nurse contractors need
Since becoming a contractor of any sort is rather like starting up your own business, it’s useful to think of yourself and your skills as a product: what will appeal to managers looking to fill a nursing contract?
So it’s a good idea to have all the qualifications and experience that managers will look for in a nurse. Start with a basic qualification, whether that’s a nursing diploma, ASN or Nursing BSc, and pass your National Council Licensure Exams. You should become a Registered Nurse and work in a hospital or other establishment for some time before striking out on your own. This will bring you into contact with managers who will move on to other parts of the NHS or private sector, giving you a network of contacts.
It’s also a good idea to work towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Since your nursing skills are likely to win you contracts, developing a strong and broad skill set will give you more nursing contracting opportunities.
What skills do you need to become an independent nurse?
Agency nursing requires all the basic nursing skills, as you would expect: an ability to focus on patients, to communicate effectively with colleagues and patients and an ability to solve problems and be organised.
Independent nurses have a particular need to be organised as you will not only be looking after patients but making your own work arrangements. You’ll probably be treating patients at a wide range of medical facilities, possibly during the same contract, and you may not have all the resources available to people in busier areas.
Skills that are in particularly high demand include nurses who can create care plans, work in mental health or deal with patients who have dementia.
Places where you’ll find nursing contracts
The nursing shortage is affecting all parts of the UK, but the city that has been the worst hit is London. A study in 2015 showed that nearly 19 per cent of all nursing jobs were being advertised in the capital, with Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Liverpool also showing significant demand for nurses of all kinds.
The shortage can lead to all sorts of unusual situations, with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust paying £2,200 to work a single shift. While payments of this amount are highly unusual, there is no end in sight to the nursing shortage, with some health officials predicting it will last until at least 2020.