Agency Work: A Survival Guide
If you’re a healthcare professional looking for career autonomy and the opportunity to receive greater financial rewards, look no further than agency work. Offering freedom from rigid rotas and the chance to dip your toes into unfamiliar settings, agency work is indeed an attractive option for today’s professionals. While there are numerous benefits, this type of work can also be challenging, and it’s important you weigh up the pros and cons before you take the plunge into agency life. The MCM Medical team has genuine hands-on experience as agency workers, and we’ve pulled together some of our top insights on what you need to be aware of and how to effectively prepare. It’s still a job Preparation is key if you’re looking to become an agency worker. It might sound obvious, but you should approach it in the same way you would if you were applying for a permanent role. You’re still required to provide an up-to-date CV and references, and may well be called for an interview so that the recruitment agency has the opportunity to vet you. How flexible are you willing to be? Agency work can be extremely varied, and placements are often urgent. That’s why it’s vital for you to understand what type of work you want to take on right from the start. It can be difficult to know if you’ve only previously worked in one setting, but your agency should be able to guide you to decide which areas you’ll be most comfortable working in. You also need to think about how far you’ll be willing/able to travel too and let the agency know straight away. Grow an extra layer of skin It’s not that the permanent workers at a placement are going to give you a hard time, but remember that you’re typically on an assignment somewhere that’s understaffed and under-resourced where the staff are used to dealing with agency workers on a daily basis. As a result, staff will not always go out of their way to get to know you as you’ll be expected to get on with it. You need to have confidence in yourself and not to take this to heart. A good agency partner will understand this, so lean on them if you need advice or require a rant every now and again. MCM Medical understands; we’ve been there! Get ready to ask A LOT of questions Yes, we’ve just mentioned that the staff on your assignment want you to get on with it, but you won’t be expected to know exactly what you’re doing, where you’re going and where everything is kept as soon as you get there. Your career in healthcare so far will have taught you that communication is critical when you land in a new setting, and agency work is no different. Open up the dialogue right away if there’s anything you’re unsure about and make sure you voice any concerns to senior members of staff the same way you would in a permanent position. Your agency is on-hand if you’ve got any significant concerns about the placement of any aspects of it. Above all… Agency work provides you with a golden opportunity to sample a wide range of different workplaces and departments so that if you do pursue a permanent position in the future, you’ll have a better idea of what really floats your boat. For more tips and advice on all aspects of your healthcare career, stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog.
Social Media: Do’s and Don’ts for Healthcare Professionals
Over the years, social media has established itself as a valuable platform for healthcare professionals to keep up with current events, share information, highlight wider health issues and connect with their peers. While most connections and engagements can be positive and enriching, there’s also the chance that the boundary between professional and personal can blur, whether that’s sharing identifiable information about a patient or getting embroiled in a political debate. However, the negative side of social media can be easily avoided through common sense and following guidance such as that taken from the British Medical Association (BMA). Although written for doctors, the following guidance can be applied to all professionals working in the healthcare sector. Protect confidentiality What you say online always comes down to your judgement, but if you’re posting about medical issues or experiences from your day, then ethical and professional standards will clearly apply. Respect the privacy of patients and colleagues and take a cautious approach to anything that you think could affect your professional standing. This extends to messages in a private social media group which could be shared by someone else. Consider consent If you want to share images online that feature your patients or those associated with a specific case, then you’ll need to obtain explicit approval from the subject. Even if you want to share an image of your workplace, take care not to capture anything or anyone that could breach confidentiality. Maintain professional boundaries Maintaining a professional distance between you and your patients is vital. Those working in small communities may have friends who are or have been patients, which can’t be helped, but it’s advised that any online interactions with them remain limited. Be cautious in giving medical advice Healthcare professionals operating in a broad range of fields can possess a powerful voice in debates and when it comes to providing authoritative information to the public. While answering general questions is unlikely to cause a problem, there are significant risks in delivering personalised health advice via social media to members of the public. Check before sharing Not only should you check your own comments before you post them to ensure you don’t ‘say’ something you’ll regret, but you should check all sources before sharing them. This goes for news, commentary pieces and reports that could potentially be fake, or express a controversial opinion that you don’t share and could negatively impact your career if you align yourself with it. The advice detailed in this blog can be generally applied to all healthcare professionals but do remember that every workplace is likely to have their own social media policy that you need to read and adhere closely to. For more tips and advice for professionals working in the NHS or private healthcare sector, stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog.
Top Tips to Help You Through Your First Year in Nursing
You’ve reached your goal to become a nurse; congratulations! You’ll know from your studies and work experience so far that you’re set to face some challenges along the way. That’s why MCM Medical has pulled together some valuable tips to help you survive your first year as a nurse, ensuring you take the best care of your patients and, of course, yourself. Give yourself a break No one is expecting you to remember absolutely everything you’ve learned, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. Never be afraid to ask questions, whether that’s asking senior nurses or your fellow newly qualified colleagues. No one will judge you for double-checking things, especially given the nature of your work and the importance of not putting your patient’s in danger. Be honest You’re going to make mistakes. Even the most seasoned nurses do. An error doesn’t have to turn into a problem as long as you come clean and ask for help as soon as you know it’s happened. Speed is of the essence which is why it’s so important not to sit on something that you know requires action merely to save face. Keep talking Working on a busy ward or out in the community for the first time can be daunting and overwhelming. You need to protect your mental health in that all-important first year, which is why it’s crucial you share any concerns or insecurities you have with fellow professionals who can offer support, guidance and reassurance when you need it the most. Pay attention to your physical wellbeing You need to be healthy and alert in your first year of nursing as you’re still absorbing vast amounts of information and learning on-the-job. No matter how busy your shift is, you must make time to stay hydrated and eat properly. Getting enough sleep is also key, so make sure you plan bedtimes, limit your screen time and try not to consume too much alcohol which can dramatically affect the quality of your sleep. Get organised Due to the nature of the work being never-ending, being organised can help you prioritise tasks and keep your head in more stressful moments. Arrive on-time or perhaps early so you understand what needs to be done straight-away and you can try to structure your shift. Invest in good shoes Most employers will have clear guidelines on what footwear you can and can’t wear at work but if you get to choose then do so wisely! Given the amount of time you’ll be spending on your feet, they need to be extremely comfortable, lightweight to minimise the stress on your legs and back, and provide you with good all-around protection. Shop around until you find the right ones. We’re in this together Stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog for more tips and advice for nurses and healthcare professionals.
Healthcare’s Fight Against Plastic Waste
It was reported in April that the NHS had used more than half a billion disposable cups over the past five years. The figures, obtained by the Press Association, showed that NHS trusts in England purchased around 600 million disposable cups since 2013, equating to more than 300,000 per day with cups used for hot and cold drinks, as well as for dispensing medicine. The news emerged following a pledge by the UK government to take action against disposable cups as part of an ongoing fight against plastic waste. April also saw the government’s chief medical advisor Dame Sally Davies release her annual report which stated the NHS creates 590,000 tonnes of waste a year, more than the entire municipal waste from Cyprus and Luxembourg. As the world’s fifth largest employer, Davies stated the importance of the NHS cutting its pollutant footprint: “Everybody has a role to play in cutting pollution but the NHS has more than a million staff, accounts for one in 20 vehicles on the road and is a big user of single-use disposable plastics.” Any healthcare professional will tell you the importance of single-use plastic to provide a sanitary and hygienic option for patients, making eliminating them unlikely until there’s a suitable replacement. However, there is often more to be done when it comes to the disposal of these products. For example, oil-based plastics, commonly used for drinks cups, are recyclable and would simply require sorting and disposing of in the right place. Many organisations are taking the step of completely banning the use of single-use plastic cups in favour of china. The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust revealed that their patients have access to china cups and glassware in a bid to reduce plastic waste volumes. Additionally, York Hospital uses crockery for drinks in its wards, claiming it also improves the patient experience. Media reports, such as that detailing the NHS’ plastic cup use, coupled with the government’s commitment to reduce our dependence on single-use plastics, are working as a catalyst for change within the NHS and provide even more environmentally-friendly alternatives and an increase in recycling and collection schemes nationwide. For the latest news and insights relating to environmental issues impacting the NHS and wider healthcare sector, stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog and social media channels.
NHS Staff Shortages: A Snapshot
Earlier this month, the Conservative Party Conference took place in Birmingham, with Secretary of State Matt Hancock taking to the stage to discuss the NHS at 70 and his plans to secure its future. Grabbing the headlines was the £240m he pledged for social care in England so that the NHS can better cope with winter pressures. Hancock stated the money would help more people “who don’t need to be in the hospital but do need care”. The health secretary also added that he was in the process of writing a long-term plan for the NHS to “guarantee its future”. Notably absent from the speech was staff shortages. Acting RCN Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair responded: “If this speech was intended to show the Government’s plan for the NHS, it has scarce little to say about the scores of unfilled jobs in every healthcare profession. The right number of staff with the right skills are the key to effective patient care, and without enough nurses, so much of what was promised in the speech looks simply undeliverable.” Hancock claimed that there are “12,000 more nurses on our wards” and “14,000 more doctors”, while figures from the Royal College of Nursing revealed there are 40,000+ registered nurse vacancies with more nurses leaving the profession than joining. And, while Hancock discussed the benefits of new technology at the conference, something for which almost half a billion pounds has been pledged, it’s unlikely to provide an immediate solution for staffing shortages. On this, Dame Donna Kinnair commented: “Technology may help increase efficiency, but it in no way compensates for having enough nurses on shift to keep patients safe. And preventative services, vital to keep people healthy for longer, require nurses with the right skills to make them work. Yet we see patients turned away from understaffed sexual health clinics as STI rates soar.” NHS staff shortages overview (reported at the end of June)* Health service = 107,743 unfilled posts. Up 9,268 on the previous three months. Nurses = 41,722 vacant posts, 11.8% of the entire nursing workforce. 17% increase on the previous three months. Doctors = 11,576 unfilled posts across all types of NHS services, 9.3% vacant posts across England. Record increase on the 9,982 vacant posts three months before. [*Figures from NHS Improvement] “The answer to these problems is a comprehensive workforce plan focused on recruitment and retention, that links population need to staff numbers,” stated Dame Donna Kinnair. “This must be underpinned by legislation that holds decision-makers to account for safe staffing levels. Nursing can offer great career pathways, but it needs investment to make it attractive.” For insights and commentary related to the NHS and staff shortages, stay tuned to the MCM Medical blog and our social channels.
CV Tips for Nurses
Nursing is one of the most fulfilling jobs you can do, but putting patient needs first and working long hours means there isn’t always time to keep your CV up-to-date, let alone ensure it stands out from the competition to secure your next exciting role. Whether you’re a newly qualified nurse, or a senior nurse requiring a refresher on creating a winning nursing CV, the MCM Medical team has pulled together some of our top tips to help you. Personal statement You should use your personal statement to describe what you’ve done in your nursing career so far. You should aim to keep this short - no more than three short paragraphs to summarise what you’ve done so far, focusing on your most recent achievements. If you have particular expertise or have specialised training in a specific field, this is the area to talk about it. Work experience This section should include all relevant employment and work experience history, starting with your most recent position. For each role or work experience placement, you should include your job title, the name of the employer, length of time you worked there, and a summary of your main duties. Use bullet points to list key achievements or primary responsibilities for each role, allowing an employer to get an idea of your skills at a glance. Education Here, you should detail where and when you got your nursing qualifications, as well as any on-the-job training or courses you’ve undertaken. Include any continuing professional development and qualifications relevant to healthcare in chronological order, starting with the most recent and working backwards. Additional relevant skills Add anything that’s relevant to your application, whether that’s experience of patient admission and discharges, onboarding new staff or leading projects. Do include anything that showcases your nursing skills here, and if you’re applying for something more senior ensure you describe your leadership skills and give examples. References Clinical CVs should always include two references. One should be your current employer, and the other one should be a recent employer or tutor/lecturer/placement leader if this is your first application. If you’re looking for your next exciting role in nursing, search our latest opportunities or contact the MCM Medical team today who are on-hand to help.