“Nurses can earn really good money but our base rate Monday to Friday is not anything to write home about, especially somewhere like Sydney. It’s when you pick up night or weekend work, which is antisocial: then you get better remuneration,” Lord says, noting that the fact that on-demand work attracts a higher rate of pay helps nurses wanting to save for a trip or a house.
While many nurses simply pick up overtime in their own workplace, many go through agencies to score work in other hospitals. While it’s a good way to get experience it’s not always easy.
“As an on-demand nurse it’s extremely challenging. Nobody knows anything about your background, work experience or the skills you have, so sometimes you are under-utilised,” Lord says.
In her years of on-demand nursing, Lord developed a few strategies to make each shift a success.
“Whenever I was arriving in a new hospital I made sure I introduced myself to the team leader or nursing unit manager. I would also find a buddy I connected with early on in the shift,” Lord says. The latter meant there was someone onside to ask questions if she couldn’t find things.
While a good in-demand nurse won’t be flustered by the need to orient themselves to a new department (Lord says it’s always good to ask for a quick orientation), she found being open in communicating what she could and couldn’t do paid off.
“As a nurse, there’s no way you can do everything. But what you do have are your own unique skills: it’s good to know your limitations and be open about them,” she says.
Lord recently launched a platform called uPaged, an Airbnb-style platform that matches hospitals wanting extra nurses with nurses wanting to pick up extra shifts. After a successful pilot with a number of Sydney hospitals in 2019, the business is set to scale for 2020.
“From an industry perspective we have a growing supply/demand gap in the nursing workforce. It’s projected to reach 25 per cent by 2025; so on-demand nurses are a fact of life. If one hospital is overstaffed and another is understaffed we need that mobility in our workforce,” she says.
The jobs in nursing that are in shortest supply (like intensive care or theatre work) require speciality training.
“CRANAplus has good weekend courses for things like rural critical care. Remember too, private hospital will take ward nurses in the ICU; they won’t get put with ICU patients but you can help the patients there who are waiting to go onto the ward,” says Lord.
Not only are nursing skills in demand, but also the job can be done in almost any setting.
“Nurses work with GPs in their clinics, in homes or in prisons,” says Lord.
“The ability to jump into a workplace at a moment’s notice and still have good time management is a unique skill of a good on-demand nurse,” says Lord.