No matter where you live, you’ve probably heard the stats from the American Nurses Association: More than 50 percent of today’s nurses are nearing retirement age at the same time America’s largest generation – i.e., baby boomers – are beginning to need more medical care.
As a result of the nursing shortage, medical facilities are looking to temporary nurses from professional nursing agencies to fill the widening gap, Health Affairs reports. Professional nursing agencies are organizations that employ certified nurses and dispatch them when and where shortages are most prevalent.
So what does this mean for you, a potential future nurse? Opportunities abound! Let’s take a look at how working at a professional nursing agency can benefit you – and the facilities facing these nursing shortages.
Stay local … or travel the country?
You might think nursing agencies employ travel nurses, and that would be true. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a travel nurse to work with an agency – your local hospitals likely use temporary nurses, too. That means if you work for a nursing agency, you don’t necessarily have to worry about being sent to Hawaii next month and missing Billy’s soccer tournament or Madison’s dance recital.
Temporary nurses, sometimes called “per diem” nurses, aren’t tied down to one consistent shift, or even one hospital. A per diem nurse chooses the shifts they want to accept, which means they could work anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week – and are often paid well for accepting last-minute gigs, says Nurse Zone.
Travel nurses, on the other hand, are known for working in one location for a few months – or even a few weeks – and then moving on. But for the record, even travel nurses aren’t obligated to fly across the country if they’d rather work at the hospital up the street. It’s up to you to work with your agency recruiter – the person at the agency who submits your information to the hiring facilities – to take the jobs that best fit your lifestyle and career aspirations.
What you need before you work with an agency
If a temporary or travel nursing position sounds like something you might want to pursue, naturally you’ll wonder what you have to do to get there.
First, the obvious: If you want to work with a professional nursing agency, you have to … be a nurse. Not surprising, right? But can any nurse score one of these jobs? No.
Both registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can find per diem and travel nursing jobs. It might be a little easier for RNs because they’re slightly more in-demand – the availability of RN jobs is expected to grow 26 percent through 2020, versus 22 percent for LPN positions over the same time period.
Another important requirement for any per diem or travel position is experience. The minimum level of experience required varies by position, but in general you can expect that you’ll need at least 18 months’ experience as an RN or LPN. While it might seem like one more obstacle in your path, you should know that the experience you have before signing on with an agency will make you a well-rounded candidate.
Making your decision
So, should you work with a professional nursing agency? If you’re thrilled by the thought of a flexible schedule, working with a variety of people in a multitude of settings and possibly traveling the world, the answer is probably yes.
Realize though that working with an agency isn’t without potential pitfalls. Don’t forget to thoroughly research any agency before you make a commitment. Getting good assignments depends heavily on an agency’s reputation among hospitals in the area, says Nurse Village.
Of course, the very first step in this process is earning your degree. Check out Rasmussen College’s School of Nursing page to learn more about becoming an RN or LPN.