Understanding your consultants* and dealing with problems.

Agency nursing issues with staff

*Consultants refers to the first point of contact for nurses when dealing with their agency.

Since my 3 years working as an agency nurse I’ve come across my fair share of problems between agencies and their staff, from cancelled shifts to not being paid for assignments.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘your wrong and I’m right arguments’.

Back in 2015 I had a huge argument with my agency at the time because they kept cancelling my shifts in favour of another nurse who the consultant was friends with. 😤

Did it help me get more shifts? No, but it felt good to get the frustration of my chest!  End of the day what’s more important? Arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong or moving on and booking more shifts?

I know it’s not easy but sometimes taking the high road is the best option.  Keeping your mouth shut instead of complaining could be the most productive thing to do.

When I had the bust up, my shifts stopped completely and I had to join another agency.  This is a real fear many nurses have because although we have freedom, nurses are reliant on the agency to provide them with shifts.

I guess it comes down to a fine line of when you feel enough is enough and the only way forwards is to take the issues further.  In this article we will look at ways to deal with communication problems and dealing with  issues that come up with your agency.

Consultant problems with the agency nurse

‘agency nurses can be awkward A holes if we want to be” because unlike full time staff who have a rota to follow.

Agency staff have much more freedom on where, when and who they work for.  Don’t like a ward? Patient group or trouble with staff? Then pick other wards to work on.

Cancelling shifts or not turning up is more common than I’d like to admit. This is one quick and effective way to upset your consultant.

One other way to put your consultants back up is not performing effectively during assignments. Including poor punctuality, laziness and not preparing beforehand.

Nurses Issues with consultants

Consultants may have a professional job but that doesn’t mean their always going to act professionally.

Boss syndrome happens where the consultants think they are the nurses boss and tries to order them around.  This rarely works in my opinion and consultants will only end up with staff who resent them.

‘I’m never wrong’ attitude also ends badly, when the consultant or nursennever apologises and argues with each other until their blue in the face.

Favouritism happens often and is when the consultant picks the nurses they like the most to give shifts too.  (Only really becomes a problem when other workers recognise it’s happening.)

And just like nurses, consultants also cancel shifts late notice.

Improve relationships

Awareness of difficulties is a good starting point to keeping a respectful relationship between the agency nurse and consultant.

Nurses must understand that consultants have their plates full with a case load of other nurses all looking for shifts.  If their fair then they must try to share the shifts equally between the nurses.

Also consultants usually have tight timeframes to cover shifts and a quick response can make all the difference to getting booked or not.

Consultants must remember their dealing with a professional that not only prides itself on professionalism but also follows a set of guidelines about professional conduct. NMC code.

Plus agency nurses have the right to decide where they work and to cancel an assignment in reasonable time just like agencies can.

Dealing with problems

When you run into problems one way to deal with them is ignore and turn a blind eye, like I said earlier ‘take the high road’.

But if you know the way you’ve been treated is terribly wrong and want to escalate to higher management.

Then always keep the communication civil and don’t rise up to an argument. Simply state the facts and rationale during correspondence.
(Personally I like emails while dealing with disputes because there’s a paper trail and evidence of what was said.)

Phone conversations can quickly lead to who can shout the loudest and not only do you get no where but the relationship ends up even worse.

So send an email and don’t forget to copy in one of the manager’s, (take the issues further before your consultant decides too.)


Still not getting anywhere?

Decide if its really worth the hassle, if your still getting shifts then leave it be and keep working hard.

Take it even higher to another manager, organise a meeting to discuss the issues in person.

Find another agency to join!

What do you think about dealing with agency communication problems?

Maybe you have a story to share?

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