A guide to your first nursing shift with Pulse

One of the main benefits of being an agency nurse is the abundance of career opportunities it can bring. The flexibility to move around a variety of different settings, meet new people and learn new skills. However, working in a new environment with new staff, procedures and journeys can also be a daunting prospect.

We hope that this guide will help you successfully get through your first shift as an agency nurse.

Get a good rest

Make sure you sleep well and try not to let the stresses of the following day keep you awake. A good night’s (or day’s) rest will ensure you are focused and alert. You can find our top tips about how to unwind after a long shift here.

Be prepared

Have your ID badge, uniform and any other necessities (such as pens) ready. This will ensure you make a good first impression and don’t waste valuable time when you first arrive on shift looking for simple items. Pulse will make sure you receive your ID badge and uniform within plenty of time before your first shift.

Plan your travel

Account for traffic and travel issues and arrive early to your shift (no one wants to arrive at work rushed and stressed).

If driving, make sure you familiarise yourself with your route and the parking facilities available. If you have any doubts about where to go or where to park, check out Parkopedia or speak to your consultant who will be happy to advise.

Introduce yourself

Make sure you start off by introducing yourself to the management and staff you will be working with. Again, this will ensure you make a good impression, as well as help you start to build a rapport with your new team (after all, they will be the ones guiding you through your first day).


Each location that you work in will have their own procedures and policies and it is very important that you make yourself aware of these when you first visit.

Although you will be expected to have the basic nursing skills as a foundation to maintaining a safe level of practice, you are entitled to be shown the layout of the unit, and to have any special procedures or polices relevant to the area you are working in explained to you, as well as where equipment and other important points are situated.

Pay attention to your induction and write down any relevant information. You can use the induction checklist included in your Pulse handbook for this if your wish. Noting these things down will help you adjust more easily, and you can always refer to your notes if at any stage you forget the information.


The handover is a normal part of any shift transition and all nurses will be familiar and comfortable with this concept. Ensure you use the handover effectively by asking questions and speaking to the nurse who is about to go home. Just like your induction, you are entitled to be given an adequate handover so that you can care for your patients well – so don’t be afraid to ask.

Use ‘The Code’

It can be easy to get sucked into feeling that you should be knowledgeable about everything (particularly if you’re feeling under pressure in a busy department with people you don’t know). If you follow the principles of ‘The Code, then should an event occur, you will be able to justify your actions. Never take on tasks that you are unfamiliar with because the staff seem busy. The code is your bible, so put it to good practice.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Work like you would in any facility, although your new co-workers will expect you to function like they do; they know that you won’t learn everything in a day. Do not put unnecessary pressure on yourself by trying to know everything the moment you step through the door.

As mentioned earlier, one of the main benefits of agency work is the flexibility to move around different clients. We hope that you enjoy your first shift, but don’t forget that if you don’t, you don’t have to go back.

Pulse Nursing is proud to have a wide variety of flexible shifts across the country, and we can be sure that there is something out there to suit everyone.

If you have any other top tips for working your first shift, we would love to hear them in the comments below.

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