Are you looking to join a staffing agency? As a new or experienced healthcare worker, you have many options, especially if you live in a major city. However, not all agencies are created equal. Knowing what to look for will help you choose the right partner for the next stage of your career. To learn more, we invited Rachel Lavallee, Director of Client Services at Carecor’s Halifax branch, to tell us what features you can expect from a great patient care staffing agency.
1. Flexible scheduling: Rachel herself is a licensed practical nurse (LPN). She first joined a staffing agency because it gave her the flexibility she needed to care for her son, who has special needs. “I could still be a nurse and work full-time, and I could choose my hours. Not a lot of agencies offer that,” Rachel explains. “At Carecor, we provide flexible work options: you decide when and how often you work.”
2. Different shift lengths: Some healthcare workers prefer four-hour shifts, while others prefer eight-hour or 12-hour shifts – or a mix of all three. A staffing agency with a wide variety of clients and work settings can offer shifts of different lengths to fit your schedule.
3. Guaranteed hours: Not all agencies offer guaranteed full-time or part-time hours, so be sure to find out, says Rachel. “Within that, we still have flexibility. If you can never work a Saturday, for example, that’s OK with us. Carecor really understands and respects people’s other commitments.”
4. Competitive wages and benefits: Pay rates and employee benefits vary by location and agency, but they should be competitive for the area where you work. If you plan to work part-time, ask whether you qualify for benefits, advises Rachel. Not all agencies offer them to part-time employees.
5. Variety of work settings: Ask recruiters what work environments they offer. At Carecor, employees choose where they work using an online scheduling system. “If, for example, you have a passion for med-surgical nursing, you can pick that hospital floor,” says Rachel. “Or you can experience a lot of different types of settings – it’s up to you.”
6. On-the-job support: Ask whether the agency provides hands-on support in the field, both during and beyond your orientation. “Our supervisors will meet you on-site and help you with training and skills development,” says Rachel. “Unlike hospital employees, agency staff aren’t usually supported by an on-site nurse supervisor, but we understand the value of being present.”
7. Solid hiring, recruiting and orientation processes: “One of the biggest things to look for is a company that requires professional credentials, so you know that clients are getting the best service. It also translates into how the rest of the company runs,” says Rachel. Other good signs: the agency is engaged in the recruitment process, it’s responsive and it supports you from the beginning. “You’re not just a number or a body,” says Rachel. “We’re bringing you on to the team, so from recruitment to training to working on the floor, our recruiters are part of the process, and our nursing supervisors provide hands-on orientation so you can really get comfortable with your work. We also offer continuing skills development. If there are courses you want to complete, we can facilitate that.”
8. Supportive office staff: Don’t underestimate the importance of a great scheduling team. “We have low turnover among our office staff, so they’re really familiar with our field staff – for example, they know who prefers working nights or at a certain hospital, and who speaks which language, so they can customize assignments,” says Rachel. “We play to people’s strengths and skill sets, and that personal touch often results in really rewarding work.”
9. Accreditation: Another way to gauge an agency’s quality is to check its standing with Accreditation Canada, which works with health service organizations to advance quality and safety. Accreditation Canada certification signifies that an agency has the same high standards for hiring and patient care as the facilities it works, and that its policies and procedures are well defined. “That might not seem like a big deal when you’re starting out, but if you have questions, it’s good to have documentation to refer to – there are no surprises,” says Rachel.
10. Staff engagement: “We have a really nice family atmosphere here in Halifax,” says Rachel. “We engage with and focus on our staff, and how we can help them in their work so that it’s enjoyable and meaningful. That’s what sets us apart from other agencies. Our staff are extremely important to us.”