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Agency Nurse Duties and Responsibilities

Because of the nature of their work, the duties and responsibilities of an agency nurse can vary widely depending on a specific assignment or location. However, based on postings that we analyzed, there are many responsibilities that are consistent in this role, such as:

Travel to Patient Locations The main difference between agency nurses and other nurses is their lack of a fixed location. Instead, agency nurses receive assignments from a medical agency and go to various locations to support patient well-being. Many agency nurses follow a fixed schedule, traveling to different facilities on set days throughout the week, while others may receive different assignments day to day and travel to patients' homes to provide medical support.

Assess Patient Health Agency nurses play a key role in health assessment in conjunction with other patient care providers. They conduct patient interviews prior to beginning treatment and administer medical tests to evaluate overall health or help doctors arrive at a specific diagnosis. For agency nurses who work with patients on an ongoing or recurring basis, this aspect of the role can involve conducting follow-up tests or assessing patients after a cycle of treatment.

Administer Care and Medication Agency nurses support patient health outcomes by providing direct care to patients as well as administering medication or treatments. They may visit a patient's house each day to provide them with medication or specific treatments and can also travel to long-term care facilities to provide routine care and treatment. Because agency nurses move between locations frequently, they usually collaborate with other care providers and nursing staff to treat patients.

Maintain Patient Records Agency nurses maintain detailed patient information regarding symptoms, health issues, or treatments. They provide these reports to doctors and permanent medical staff to support care activities between visits and may consult and update these records on multiple visits. In this aspect of the role, agency nurses need strong attention to detail and excellent communication with a patient's primary care physician or any specialists.

Train Nursing Staff In many cases, agency nurses are also responsible for supervising and training less-experienced nursing staff. They may visit a hospital or care facility to assess the current level of training for on-site nurses and make recommendations to improve patient care and outcomes. Experienced agency nurses can also bring newer nurses with them on assignments to provide hands-on instruction and support.


Agency Nurse Skills and Qualifications

Agency nurses need to be flexible and attentive so they can rapidly switch between patients and patient groups while maintaining a high level of care. Agency nurses should have at least an associate's degree in nursing, along with certification and the following skills:
  • Medical assessment - agency nurses should excel at assessing and measuring patient health and wellness, both through direct observation and conducting medical tests and evaluations
  • Patient care - experience with providing care to patients is a necessity, since agency nurses will need to treat injuries and illnesses, administer medication, and support overall patient well-being
  • Attention to detail - a high level of attention to detail is extremely important for agency nurses, since they need to listen to patient symptoms, assess their health, and provide documentation to other care providers
  • Critical thinking - agency nurses need to quickly respond to changing patient circumstances. This requires them to rapidly assess a situation and make critical judgments about patient care
  • Time management - because agency nurses frequently travel and may visit multiple patients and locations in a single day, they need to possess excellent time management and scheduling skills
  • Communication skills - agency nurses should also be strong communicators, since they need to speak directly to patients and provide vital information to doctors and other medical professionals

Agency Nurse Education and Training

Education requirements for agency nurses can vary depending on the employing medical agency and other factors, but they need at least an associate's degree in nursing. Many agencies hire candidates who have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Agency nurses also need licenses in the states where they wish to care for patients, which means agency nurses who work in several states may need a multistate license.

Agency Nurse Salary and Outlook

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary estimates specifically for agency nurses, it does provide estimates for various types of nursing professionals. These salaries can vary based on a nurse's level of licensure or education, as well as location. For example, certified nurse assistants (CNAs) earn an average of $26,590 per year, while registered nurses (RNs) earn $68,450. Agency nurse salaries may deviate somewhat from these expectations, however, depending on various factors. The BLS expects faster-than-average growth in the nursing field, with RN careers increasing 15 percent by 2026, and CNA employment rising 11 percent.

Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found many resources if you're interested in finding out more about this growing career:

American Nurses Association - the ANA is one of the leading professional organizations for nurses, providing information on certification, education, and professional development

The Traveling Nurse: What You Need to Know and What Others Are Scared to Tell You - read Anitra Green's firsthand account of the day-to-day responsibilities and duties of an agency nurse

"Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Agency Nurse" - learn about the unique challenges and opportunities that a career as an agency nurse can provide

How to Be a Successful Travel Nurse: New Graduate, Float Nurse, Agency Nurse - nurse and author Donna Daugherty discusses what makes agency nurses effective and how they can improve patient outcomes

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