After my not so wonderful experience at the first hospital near Denver, I started to explore some alternative options to working in Colorado. I was beginning to realize that the “travel nurse” format may not be for me, but I needed to work and moving out of Colorado was not the current option. Besides, moving away from the problems weren’t going to solve them, I needed to fix both my attitude and my work environment!
What I quickly learned while travel nursing, was there are many, many different nursing travel agencies AND some of them offered PRN, or as I am familiar with “casual” working options. This basically means you work when you choose, you pick the shifts you are available for, with the downfall of NO job security and NO guaranteed shifts. This is what I have been wanting! I would be starting my 3rd semester of the MN program, I loved to travel, and the flexibility of choosing my shifts sounded like the perfect fit. When I worked in Canada, as casual nurse, I could work more than full time as the shifts were bountiful! So hopefully this was also true here…
The agency I chose was affiliated with my primary nursing agency and therefore some of my personal information was transferable, awesome! Some brief paperwork and off I go! It’s summer time, the shifts are readily available, and a new hospital needs support staff, great! Sign me up! I show up to work, get some unit orientation and slowly get into the swing of things, AND THEN…
Five shifts into my PRN assignment, I get a phone call from the agency stating that I cannot work at this hospital until I have completed the hospital orientation, wait…what?!? Who didn’t arrange that? Ok, so when can I get orientated? The hospital orientation was offered every 2 weeks, ok, awesome the next one offered…I’m in Vancouver for a family visit, dang! It was a full month of not working before I could get orientation; this I could not afford!
Once I worked through those “initial” complications, I settled into working for 2 sister hospitals and life seemed to settle down a little. Although the work was hard and I was still adjusting, I was feeling better emotionally than I had in a long time. I worked full time hours, commuted 45 mins, and finally started to meet some great people! The agency paid their nurses a reasonable wage for the current industry standards of Colorado, although this was still very low overall. I enjoyed working at both of the hospitals for different reasons.
One challenge that persisted throughout my time with this agency was nurses being “flexed”. This meant that based on productivity time, nurses were sent home! As the more “expensive” workforce (agency), I was often the first to either have my shift cancelled or be sent home early! As stated previously, my hours/shifts were not guaranteed. Some days going home was awesome; however, it made payday a very sad day.
The larger and newer of the 2 hospitals served a more affluent population and was located near the interstate. These demographics brought patients who had insurance, demanded patient centered care based on satisfaction reports, and highway traumas. The smaller & older sister hospital served more of the marginalized Spanish speaking population, mental health patients, and lower income families. Both sites offered challenges in providing appropriate levels of care relevant to the population. I stayed working for the agency for approximately 5 months and primarily worked at the sister hospitals. I was feeling more settled, but I was still feeling rather burnt out and had a difficult time being happy. Maybe some time in one spot would help!
In summary, the PRN nursing agency was the right fit at the time. There were some challenges with orientation and flextime but this opportunity lead to the next, so stay tuned for the next installment of my Colorado stories!
I’d love to hear your experiences with PRN/casual work environments/agencies. Leave your story in the comments!