Pay Rates: How Much Does an Agency Nurse Make?

January 16, 2023

Recruitment agency work is a flexible option for many nurses in Australia. Read on to find out what are the pros and cons of working for an agency and if an alternative exists. This article will also cover how much agency nursing jobs pay and the financial risks involved in agency work.

What is an agency nurse?

Instead of working directly for a hospital or other organisation that provides health care, agency nurses are employed by a nursing recruitment agency, which then contracts them out, either via a labour hire arrangement or as casual employees of the healthcare provider,  to work in various healthcare environments.

Where do agency nurses work?

Agency nurses can work in any of these healthcare environments:

  • Private hospitals
  • Public hospitals
  • Rural and remote hospitals and clinics
  • Aged care nursing homes
  • Mental health facilities
  • Community Health
  • The justice system
  • Private practice

Why are agency nurses engaged by hospitals and healthcare organisations?

The reasons that organisations employ nurses via a recruitment agency are:

  • Changes in staffing requirements
  • Budget or policy restrictions on employing more permanent nurses
  • They are short-staffed
  • The labour market is tight with a critical shortage of skilled nurses
  • They want to outsource hiring for permanent staff

What are the benefits of working as an agency nurse?

Working for an agency has many benefits for nurses including:

  • The freedom to organise your own schedule
  • The opportunity to work in different hospitals or facilities
  • The ability to turn down overnight shifts or overtime
  • More flexibility to meet family commitments
  • The ability to support yourself if you are seeking permanent work and haven’t found it yet

How much do agency nurses make?

Pay rates for nurses in Australia depend on skills, experience and specialisation as well as location. Typically nurses who work in rural areas are paid an extra allowance and have many of their expenses like travel and accommodation covered in part, if not fully covered.

Generally, agency nurses are paid more per hour than permanent nursing staff but they are not guaranteed a certain amount of hours. A casual nurse, employed by a hospital, earns between 18% (public hospitals) and 25% (private hospitals) loading on top of the base rate of pay. This is to cover the loss of sick leave, annual leave, public holiday leave and the irregularity of available work. This article from The Nurse Uncut explains how a 25% casual loading does not effectively make up for the benefits that permanent staff enjoy.

Loading, penalties and public versus private

An agency nurse, on the other hand, receives on average a 45% loading, which gives them a base pay rate of between $49.23 for a 1st year RN, and $65.57 for an 8th-year RN. Bear in mind that this rate is only available with private agency work, and those nurses that go to the public hospitals with an agency are paid according to the NSW Health Award casual loading of 18%. For this reason, some agencies offer a top-up of a couple of dollars an hour to compensate for this.

Experience, qualifications and what an agency nurse does

Now, this is a nice rate of pay, and well-earned, in our opinion. Agency nurses possess a special set of skills that allow them to adapt quickly to new environments, quickly build rapport with new teammates and work independently without the support of a regular educator. For these nurses, the flexibility of agency shifts fits better with their lifestyle and enables them to support themselves around other personal commitments.

Nursing recruitment agencies in Australia don’t generally publicise their rates so nurses looking for information about a particular agency before contacting them should ask friends or former colleagues when an agency withholds this information from you. (uPaged never withholds rates – every shift and contract shows exactly what you will receive for every hour and every shift).

Agency nurse pay rates

Employer review sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor are also excellent sources of information as they collect this data from agency employees and advertisements. According to Indeed, agency nurses make an average of $52.97 per hour.

Indeed also created this comparison table for some of the bigger agencies.


Employer Average Hourly Rate
Cornerstone Medical Recruitment Agency $59.07
Fortis Recruitment $57.00
Healthcare Australia $51.49


We have created a base rate comparison table for 2023 based on the NSWNMA State Award rates and industry loading averages:


NSWNMA State Award

Public Casual

Private Casual




























































































What impacts how much an agency nurse can earn?

Something that has an enormous impact on how much agency nurses can earn is last-minute shift cancellations. Because recruitment agencies charge hospitals a large fee for placing an agency nurse, usually between 40% and 104% commission on top of the nurse’s salary, hospitals often cancel shifts filled by agency at the last minute, when a permanent staff member can do overtime or a team member can be deployed from another department to fill the vacnacy  Some hospitals are forced into spending millions of dollars every year on agency commissions so their regular staff aren’t overworked. But when budgets get tight or they get one of their regular staff to do overtime, hospitals cancel the agency nurse. While nurses sometimes receive a small amount if the cancellation is very late, losing a shift you were expecting to get paid for can cause financial hardship.

Nurses seeking permanent work at a hospital that you have worked with through the agency need to know that the agency will charge the hospital a hefty fee. This usually makes the transition unfeasible for employers, leaving the nurse no choice but to look for work at a hospital they’ve never been to.

What alternatives are there to working for a recruitment agency?

A great alternative to working for a recruitment agency is uPaged. uPaged is an online platform or marketplace that connects nurses looking for work with hospitals and other employers.

How does uPaged work?

uPaged only charges hospitals a small fee for booking nurses, so they are less likely to cancel shifts. Another way uPaged protects nurses and employers is by publishing cancellation rates on the platform. If either party cancels a shift within four hours of it starting, this is recorded as a late cancellation to assist everyone in deciding which shift/nurse to book.

uPaged also supports the transition to full-time work without charging hospitals the hefty fees that typically restrict this transition.

uPaged’s two-way rating system allows hospitals and nursing staff to rate each other after a shift is complete, creating full transparency around the labour-hire process.

How much does uPaged pay?

uPaged is a marketplace, not an agency. It works by taking a small commission from the hospital, which gives them the ability to properly incentivise the nurses’ rate of pay and means they are less likely to cancel them.

At a minimum, nurses are paid at the hospital’s casual rate (18-25% loading), however, some hospitals opt to offer rates of pay that compete with the major agencies. Being a marketplace, nurses get total choice over which shift they accept, based on the hospital name, location, shift hours, shift length, hospital rating and rate of pay on offer. Nurses can also view helpful information about each hospital’s available parking and uniform availability so they feel more a part of the team.

In addition to the higher rates of pay on uPaged, nurses enjoy all of the perks of being an employee of that hospital. This includes access to training, support from educators, the feeling of being a part of the team and the usual superannuation and long service leave accrual.

Why is uPaged a great alternative to nursing agencies?

uPaged removes the middleman from the labour-hire process, allowing nurses to see what shifts are available and choose based on their preferred location, rate of pay, shift length etc.

Because it’s much cheaper for hospitals to use, it enables them to offer temporary staff a higher rate of pay.

If you are a nurse looking for permanent work, uPaged is the perfect way for you and potential employers to get to know each other on a professional basis.

Signing up with uPaged is straightforward. And, as soon as your documents are submitted to your digital profile, hospitals will be able to view your profile and you can apply for available shifts. Click here to sign up today!



Register here

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