Casual nursing – is it the right career move for you?

Right now, across Australia, nurses are in high demand. The healthcare sector is expanding rapidly. Advances in healthcare, a growing population, and an aging population mean that there are excellent job opportunities if you have the right qualifications.

How does casual nursing work?

If you are considering casual nursing, it is recommended to sign up with a reputable nursing agency. Because the staffing needs of hospitals can fluctuate shift-by-shift, depending on patient numbers and patient needs, most medical facilities rely on a pool of casual nurses to ‘fill in the gaps.’  Casual nurses are utilised to supplement core staff, they are also used to cover sick leave, annual leave, training days, unforeseen emergency situations and public holidays Hospitals and other medical facilities rely on nursing agencies to supply casual nurses because they know the agencies will have carefully vetted all candidates as well as ensured that their qualifications and mandatory competencies are up to date.  If you do not hold an up-to-date nursing registration, you will not  be able to work as a casual nurse until registration is updated.

Flexibility and lifestyle

Many nurses at some point in their careers consider working casual employment. Why? Usually for two important reasons:  The hourly rate of pay is higher for casual nurses (casual nurses do not receive annual leave or sick leave entitlements and other benefits in the same way nurses employed full time and part time would), and secondly, for the lifestyle.

Casual nursing offers a significant degree of flexibility. Casual nurses typically nominate shifts according to their availability, and then work according to health facility needs. While the reality of this is nurses are called upon last minute and shifts cancelled at last minute, this is par for the course as a casual nurse.   It is annoying if you intended to sleep in and receive a last-minute call, but most casual nurses find a way to manage the unpredictability that can come with the territory.

However, given that you could only nominate to work 2-3 days per week, casual nursing is a good option for those nurses juggling family responsibilities, returning from maternity leave, transitioning to retirement, undertaking extra study, wishing to travel or nurses wanting to earn a little extra by supplementing their regular income with some occasional casual shifts. It is important to note, there are regulations around the total number of hours nurses can work in a single week, and permission to work a second job is usually required from the main employer. Hours also need to be carefully logged and managed.

Skills required

There are casual positions available for Assistants in Nursing, Endorsed Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses. Typically, casual nurses are not aware of the location until they have secured and confirmed the shift.  So nurses who are skilled across multi health facilities, adaptable and thrive on diversity are highly sought after as casual nurses.

The upside of an ever-changing working environment for many casual nurses is they gain a wide range of skills and experience.  Casual nursing can also be an advantage early in your career when you’re trying to work out whether you want to specialise in one particular area.

The ‘stigma’ of going casual

Yes, it is true that casual nurses sometimes get a bad rep.  Other health facility staff tend to believe that casual nurses can’t attain permanent jobs, or simply lack experience. However, this attitude is changing, particularly as Australia’s healthcare systems change. There is a growing demand for casual nurses in various exciting areas of the profession.  As a result of making the move to casual nursing, many nurses actually begin to enjoy the benefits of acquiring greater control over their work/life balance and variety in their roles.  Another considerable benefit of casual nursing is you will find jobs all over the globe.  If you build a professional reputation, demonstrate initiative- ‘self-starter’ and become utilised your services immediately, then you will have your options for jobs anywhere.

Starting your ‘casual’ career

Nurses are in high demand right across Australia right now, particularly in the capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.  It is a good time to consider casual work, if that is where your career is headed. If you require further advice, contact us.

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