08 December 2011

The Pros and Cons of Working Agency

It's always at this point in the contract, the last few weeks, when the countdown to holidays is on, that I start thinking about home. I think about my favourite pineapple and coconut smoothie that I get from my local juice shop, hanging out in my craft room, having a decent coffee at Fresh, walking through the Gorge, Christmas, seeing friends and family... all those things that I associate with being at home. I think that this is compounded by working in remote and rural places, having limited access to services and a car. But it is also a time when I start to reevaluate my choice of being an agency nurse and wonder for how much longer I will do it. When I think about this last year, of working for a nursing agency and surrendering to this gypsy lifestyle, there have been good aspects and not so good ones. I made a list of these when we were considering back in July whether or not to extend our leave for another 12 months or not.


  • Not having to get involved in any local work politics. Its really good to swan in, create a little bit of havoc, work for a couple of months and swan out.
  • The opportunity to see more and more of this amazing country and spend time in places that I would not otherwise ever go.
  • The making of new friends in every state.
  • The money. It is far more lucrative working casually, and with not much to spend our money on while we are on contract, our mortgages are getting smashed! It's such a relief to be debt free other than our mortgages and be actually getting ahead.
  • More holidays and the flexibility to take them. We've had 12 weeks off this last year.
  • All those frequent flyer points.
  • The professional challenges. We have learnt skills that we would never develop working at home.
  • Getting to see first hand what indigenous communities are like and forming my own opinions rather than relying on media to do it for me.
  • The security of having work when our colleagues at home are currently fighting a battle with the state government who are closing beds, shutting down services and cancelling nurses contracts due to budget cuts. We are thinking of you all and are there in spirit!


  • Living out of a suitcase in usually crappy accommodation. I really really really miss having my house and my stuff around!
  • Missing friends and families life changing events at home, such as weddings. I have missed three weddings this year. Although we have increased flexibility on taking holidays and can sometimes swing it, the cost of taking a flight out of these small communities for a weekend is often more than you would pay for a return ticket to Europe (I kid you not. For example, the one-way 1.5 hour flight from Cairns to Kowanyama that we took in February cost Queensland Health $1099 for each of us! We saw the invoice!)
  • The risk of leaving our house unattended. Luckily we have dear family and friends who keep an eye out, do random security patrols, collect our mail and mow the lawns. Thank you so much, we couldn't do it without you all.
  • The deskilling of some of our emergency skills. Whilst we have gained a lot of new skills, we have lost others, simply because we aren't doing it every day.
Its kind of an even list, but I still think the pros outweigh the cons. As mentioned, the Tasmanian government is in the process of killing our hospitals and health services and I am not sure if us nurses will win this war or not. So for now we will continue doing what we are doing. It may be that we keep doing this for longer than originally planned but we will see. 2012 is shaping up to be another interesting year.

To all of you who have read my blog this year, have a safe and merry Christmas and I wish you all the best for the New Year.