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Nurse Staffing Agencies: How to Get on Board With This Growing Trend

Ann Feeney, CAE
Updated September 15, 2023
Edited by
    Nurse staffing agencies are making headlines in the investment sphere. Learn more about nursing staffing agencies and how they might affect your career.
    Nurse outside of hospital talking on phoneCredit: Getty Images
    • Nurse staffing agencies are becoming a major investment opportunity.
    • These staffing agencies have received multi-million dollars of funding.
    • ShiftMed received $200 million of additional funding this year.

    You might think a list of hot investment startups would cover sectors like AI, defense, and aerospace. But a perhaps less likely candidate joined their ranks in August: the nurse staffing agency.

    Staffing agency Nursa emerged as a top 10 investment deal in August, receiving $80 million from investors in its latest round of funding.

    Nursa is not the only, or even the largest, nurse staffing agency to receive major investment funding recently. For example, ShiftMed, a staffing firm for nurses and home health aides, started with $45 million in October 2021 and received another $200 million this February.

    As the nursing shortage continues and more nurses depart the workforce, nurse staffing agencies like Nursa and its competitors are filling the gap. Given the latest investment figures, it seems likely that this funding will continue to play an increasingly larger part in the nursing workforce.

    What does the growth in nurse staffing agencies mean for nurses and nursing students? Should you get involved with a nurse staffing agency? Explore how nurse staffing agencies work and the pros and cons of working for an agency.

    How Does a Nurse Staffing Agency Work?

    It’s a classic, vicious cycle: when more nurses leave the workforce because they reach retirement age or feel too much burnout, it reduces the number of available working nurses, which in turn increases burnout.

    Agency nurses work for a nurse staffing agency and may be assigned to one or more workplaces and functions. Travel nurses are a form of agency nurses who travel longer distances to fill short-term personnel gaps at facilities around the country. A typical agency nurse tends to stay more local.

    Nursing agencies offer various contract types. They may offer short-term or per-diem contracts (typically shorter than six weeks), short-term contracts (6-12 weeks), or even long-term or permanent placements. Pay is typically hourly and may not include benefits.

    According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for agency nurses is $91,609 annually. Some nurses work for a regular employer part-time and for a nurse staffing agency the rest of the time.

    Nurse Staffing Agency: Getting Involved

    Nurse staffing agencies recruit at nursing schools, through nursing publications and websites, and at their own networks and online vehicles. Finding the right agency for you depends on what you are looking for. Factors to look for include:

    • What are the pay and benefits?
    • Do the potential contracts align with your career and work-life goals?
    • Can you decline any placement that you would rather not work?
    • Are you eligible for overtime pay?
    • Can you hold another job or “side gig” while under contract?
    • What kind of notice do you get before an assignment?
    • Does the agency provide financial assistance for new training?
    • Are there opportunities for advancement?

    If a nurse staffing agency asks you for an upfront fee, consider it a warning sign. This is not considered a best practice in the staffing industry.

    If an agency places nurses at your current workplace, ask them what they like and dislike about their agency.

    Nurse Staffing Agencies: The Pros and Cons

    There are tradeoffs to agency work compared with more traditional employment.

    The pros of working for a nurse staffing agency include:

    • check-circleYou may receive higher pay than a regular staff member. Check with each agency to find out what’s available to you.
    • check-circleYou can try different employers and roles to see what suits you best.
    • check-circleWorking for a nurse staffing agency can give you the flexibility to pursue a side gig, spend more time with those you care about, or explore other interests.
    • check-circleYou may be eligible for stock options or other financial incentives that nonprofit organizations do not offer.

    Some cons of working for a nurse staffing agency may include:

    • x-circleYou may find it more difficult to fit into a work culture and make work friends as a short-term staffer.
    • x-circleYou may have less choice of assignments and workplaces.
    • x-circleYou typically are not eligible for benefits, including paid vacation or health insurance.
    • x-circleYou may have unpredictable travel times at an agency.

    Demand for nurse staffing agencies is likely to continue growing and creating new opportunities to consider. If you are looking for a variety of assignments and workplaces to explore, a nurse staffing agency may be the ideal choice for you.