Agency Nursing Contract Cheat Sheet

January 22, 2024

Questions to ask before you accept an agency contract

Taking your first nursing agency contract in a regional or rural and remote area can be one of the most incredible opportunities you can take as a nurse. The more knowledge and information you have about the contract, the better your experience will be. Use this checklist as a guide to make sure you ask your agency and yourself. Ask all the questions that are important to you.

Understand the recruitment process

Key to success in securing contracts is an understanding of how it works between a hospital or healthcare facility that requires a nurse and the nursing agency when you are a seeking a regional, rural or remote contract.

  1. Sign up with your preferred agency and complete your mandatory checks
  2. Contact your recruiter with location and preferences that meet your goals
  3. Your agency will get back to you with options and ideas.
  4. Decide what suits you best and let the agency know to put you forward. If the contract is highly sought after you can make yourself more appealing by being more flexible with dates and offering a longer contract length.
  5. Wait for a reply from your agency. Feel free to follow this up with your agency and they will follow this up with workforce. Generally, a contract can take from a few days to a few weeks to confirm depending on how far in advance the contract is being booked.
  6. When your placement is confirmed you will sign a contract.
  7. Your agency consultant will organise your travel and accommodation.
  8. Plan for your adventure!

Top tips from those who have done it before

Making the move to agency nursing and taking contracts means you may be working in unfamiliar environments, and it can be daunting for a first-timer! There is a myriad of potential pitfalls to consider before signing a contract. 

  • Do the math. Are you out of pocket in any way? Are you better off overall with the rates on offer? 
  • Search the address of the accommodation and the facility. What are the distance and estimated travel times between the two? Does it match what the agency has told you?
  • Where possible, take your own transport so you can leave if you have to.
  • Additionally, ask nurses who have been there before about what you should bring from home. For example, inquire if you should bring your own linen, pillows, or cutlery.

Your contract

  • Check your contract thoroughly before you sign it. Has the agency, signed away your right to a 10 hr break, and agreed to lots of overtime on your behalf, that you may not agree with?
  • Check that your designation and hourly rate of pay match.
  • Does your contract contain everything that was agreed upon when you discussed the contract with your agency? If not, do not sign the contract until it is re-issued with the correct inclusions/exclusion

Before you leave home

  • Re-confirm that the accommodation agreed will be ready and available on your arrival.
  • Inform your union if you are working interstate, so you are covered with insurance in the State or Territory you will be working in.
  • Don’t leave home before your contract has been reviewed and signed.
  • Check this mobile phone coverage map to ensure you can get reception on your mobile phone.
  • Finally, when you sign a contract, you are agreeing to a certain set of terms. Be educated. If you’re not sure of something, clarifying it is the easiest solution BEFORE you sign. Don’t assume anything.


Get prepared with the checklist

Our checklist covers everything from pay rates and hours of work to leave entitlements and termination clauses. Also, it includes tips and questions to ask your potential employer to ensure you’re making an informed decision. Be sure to download our Nursing Agency Term Contract Checklist to help you make the best decision for your future. Here is a preview of the checklist:

About your agency

  • Has the agency or recruiter been recommended by someone who has worked with them before?
  • Does the agency adhere to a code of conduct as a member of a professional body such as the Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association (RCSA)?
  • What is the background of your recruiter?
  • How long have they been in this role, placing nurses?
  • If it is important to you, are they a nurse?
  • Do they understand what it is like to work on an agency contract from first-hand experience?
  • How many nurses is the recruiter managing?
  • Does the agency have a Labour Hire licence (if required) for the State your contract is in?
  • If it is important to you, is the agency ISO accredited? (ISO is a quality management system that helps organisations ensure they meet customer and other stakeholder needs within statutory and regulatory requirements related to the product or service they provide).
  • How often does the agency check in with you while on contract? Has the agency placed nurses with this client before?

About the contract

  • How long is the contract? What is the start date? what is the finish date? 
  • Who is your contact person at the agency for all things related to your contract? 
  • When you get your contract, read it thoroughly. Do the working conditions discussed with the agency align with the contract?

About the recruitment process

About the recruitment process

The recruitment process is standard for all rural and remote contracts ie: requests for nurses at a facility go through workforce managers, and they feed requirements through to an agency. The agency will only put forward suitably qualified nurses, and then workforce will select the best candidate. Workforce can be pretty slow depending on the region. It is up to the agency to prompt  workforce and show interest to get the contract for you.

  • Who makes the decision about whether you are accepted for the role?
  • The agency or the facility?
  • How long is the recruitment cycle for this role?
  • How long will it take for you to be notified if you are successful in securing this role?
  • How long will it be between when you accept, when you sign the contract and when the contract starts?
  • What are the next steps in the recruitment process?

Pay, bonuses, benefits and incentives

About pay, bonuses, benefits, incentives
  • Are the rates on offer agency rates, or facility rates (sometimes known as Category 1 = Agency Rates, or Category 2 = Facility Rates)?
  • What is the hourly rate? (It’s a great idea to secure a copy of all the pay rates including loading, on call allowance, and the annualised salary if applicable).
  • Is the pay rate a base rate plus Super, loading etc or is it all-inclusive?
  • What is the pay rate for on-call, and for after-hours, nights, and weekends?
  • What are the pay rates for recall/callbacks and how does it works if you’re on leave/fatigue time?
  • Does the rate of pay match your year level, level or experience and post-graduate qualifications you have?
  • How frequently will you get paid?
  • What is the first pay date in the contract?
  • Who is your employer? The facility or the agency?
  • Who pays you? The facility or the agency? If both, what is the rate you will be paid by the facility, and what is the rate you will be paid by the agency? Is overtime expected? How much overtime is expected?
  • Is overtime paid or offered as an Additional Day Off (ADO). If ADO, when can the ADO be taken? If paid, when does overtime pay start? (Immediately, after one hour, two hours or more?)
  • If, for example, you are contracted to do an 80-hour fortnight, do you need to work 80 hrs before you can claim any overtime? Not sure if your overtime will be approved by your agency? Check your contract before signing it.
  • Are there any sign-on, relocation, training or completion bonuses or incentives? When are they paid?
  • Is professional indemnity insurance covered by the agency or do I need to have my own?
  • Is salary sacrificing available?
  • Is there a Living Away From Home Allowance (LAFHA)? What is it? When is it paid?

About the role

Your role
  • Why is this role vacant?
  • What is the Scope of Clinical Practice for the role? Will I be in charge and am I comfortable with this?
  • Does it match your experience level?
  • Will you be required to work in other parts of the facility in areas outside of your skills and experience? (NB: You can refuse to be redeployed, however, it is important to remember In a rural and remote setting it is important to be flexible and be deployed if necessary. Being an agency nurse you may be deployed more and get more anti-social shifts than permanent staff as you are there to fill in the gaps).

About the facility

The facility

Research facilities before you put yourself forward to see if you are comfortable working in a department or facility of that size. Ask your consultant what previous nurses have said about the facility. Things you might want to research include:

  • What is the name and address of the facility?
  • Has the agency sent nurses there before, and if so, what was the feedback from those nurses?
  • How long did the last agency nurse stay in this role?
  • Have nurses walked out on this contract in the past? Why?
  • What is the culture like in the facility?
  • Are there references available from past agency nurses?
  • Can you speak to the person who last worked on this contract?
  • Can you speak to the NUM or DON before you accept the contract?
  • How many beds does the facility have?
  • How many staff are currently there?
  • How many staff are there when the facility is at capacity?
  • Are records at the facility computer-based or paper-based?
  • Is the on-site parking at the facility? Is it free? If paid, how much does it cost?
  • Who will meet you on your first shift? Where will you meet? Who is your contact person at the facility? (It’s good practice to call the facility a few days before you arrive to get your roster, find out how to get to your accommodation, where and who to meet on your first day of work and time).

Rosters, shifts and hours

About rosters, shifts and hours

As an agency nurse, you are there to fill in staff shortages, so your roster is likely to be not finalised until closer to your contract. It would be ok to contact your agency in the week leading up to your contract to request your roster. Are you OK with getting the shifts no one wants is a great question to ask yourself before deciding to become an agency nurse, as those shifts are the ones you will most likely get!

  • Can you see your shift allocation before you arrive? If so, when will you get to see it?
  • Is there an equitable shift allocation, not just the shifts no one wants?
  • How long are the shifts?
  • What are the start and finish times?
  • What are the minimum hours the facility is required to provide you?
  • Does the agency have a minimum hours guarantee?
  • Are there any flexible arrangements on offer, such as no nights or alternate weekends?
  • Is on-call expected? If so, how often? What is the on-call rate of pay?
  • Do you work alone on-call?
  • Are fatigue provisions in place?
  • Are late/early shifts the norm? If so, what is the minimum time between back-to-back shifts?
  • Will the contract end on a night shift or day shift?
  • Can I request that it doesn’t end on a night shift?

Safety considerations

Safety considerations
  • Has there been any local violence, break-ins, assaults, or sexual assaults in the area in the past X# months?
  • Is there security staff at the facility? Are they there 24 hours?
  • Are they able to accompany you to your vehicle after shifts if needed?
  • What are the security arrangements at your accommodation?
  • Are you expected to attend to patients outside of work hours on your own?


  • Will the agency pay in full for your travel from Point A (eg: Home) to Point B (Your accommodation) as well as your return travel?
  • If they will pay in full, will they pay in full before you travel or are you expected to pay upfront and they will reimburse after a specific time?
  • When you arrive, how do you get to your accommodation? Who pays for it?
  • When you leave, how do you get to your departure point? Who pays for it?
  • If transport is provided, what sort of transport is it? Plane, train, bus, car?
  • Is it possible to drive-in drive-out (DIDO) and bunch shifts together so you can drive home on days off?
  • If you are expected to pay upfront and then get reimbursed, when will you get reimbursed?
  • Do you get reimbursed for the full amount paid or a portion of the cost?
  • Is transport provided between your accommodation and the facility? If so, what sort of transport is it? If a car is provided, who pays for the fuel? Is it included?
  • Does the vehicle have fully comprehensive insurance including roadside assistance?
  • If a rental car is provided and rates are subsidised, are corporate rates available?
  • What is the distance in kms between the accommodation and the facility?
  • If transport is required between the facility and accommodation, what transport is provided?
  • If you are expected to walk, what is the walking distance and estimated time to walk between your accommodation and the facility?
  • Will you have access to a vehicle to go shopping; to get to and from the facility; to use on our days off? If so, is it shared? If a car is provided, who pays for the fuel? Is it included?
  • Does the vehicle have fully comprehensive insurance including roadside assistance?
  • If a rental car is provided and rates are subsidised, are corporate rates available?

Your accommodation


The most important thing to be mindful of regarding accommodation is that you are open-minded about it. Accommodation for nurses may be very basic. A lot of rural towns are dealing with accommodation shortages for locals, with many families living in a house together, so we also advise that you are sensitive to the local situation with requests.

  • Is accommodation provided?
  • What type of accommodation is provided? Nurses quarters, single room, single accommodation, family unit, private rental, motel, hotel, facility-owned accommodation, family house etc?
  • Does the accommodation have a shared kitchen, shared bathroom or ensuite, on-site lock-up car parking, shared laundry, private laundry, air-conditioning, heating etc?
  • If accommodation is shared, is there a lock on the bedroom? Is there a lock on the bathroom?
  • Are you comfortable sharing accommodation with other women/men or would you prefer single sex accommodation?
  • What is the address of the accommodation?
  • Is the accommodation clean, safe and private?
  • Has the agency had complaints about the cleanliness, safety and privacy of the accommodation?
  • Will the accommodation be professionally cleaned before arrival, or is it cleaned by the past agency nurse?
  • Is the accommodation paid for in full, or is it subsidised? If subsidised, by how much? 
  • If they will pay in full, will they pay in full before you travel or are you expected to pay upfront and they will reimburse after a specific time? 
  • Will your accommodation and room remain the same for the duration of the contract or will you have to change rooms each week? 
  • What is the parking like at the accommodation? Are spaces designated? Is parking free or paid? If paid, how much does it cost? 
  • When and where will you get the keys to access the accommodation? From a real estate agent or from the facility? Who is the contact person for this and what is their phone number, email address and opening hours?

Orientation and your first shift

The first shift

You may get your hospital orientation from the last agency nurse and it may be a learn-as-you-go situation, depending on how well it is staffed.

  • Will you get a full orientation to the facility on arrival?
  • What does the facility consider a full orientation?
  • How long will the orientation take? Additionally, when will orientation take place?
  • Who will give you the orientation?
  • Who will meet you on your first shift?

Training and education

Training and education

Sometimes agency nurses luck out and get on a course provided by the hospital. Most of the time it is up to you to source your courses. Most public hospitals will cover you to complete training updates and courses.

  • Will you have access to educational opportunities and is there a cost to you for this?
  • Will the company cover the cost of my mandatory training? What specific training expenses will be fully covered?


Your uniform
  • Are uniforms supplied? What type? Scrub top and scrub pants or polo shirt and pants?
  • How many uniforms are supplied?
  • How are uniforms laundered? By the facility or by you? If so, will you have laundry facilities at your accommodation?
  • Do you need to use an external laundry and pay for laundry? If so, what is the cost? Where it is located?
  • Will you have enough clean uniforms and time to launder between shifts?


  • Is there mobile phone coverage?
  • Are there any mobile providers that don’t work there?
  • Is internet included in the accommodation?
  • What type of internet connection is it?


  • Can you bring your partner / children?
  • If so, is family accommodation provided?


  • Can you take pets?
  • What sort of pets can you take?
  • Is there a fenced area where I can leave my dogs while I work?
  • If I am unable to take my pets, will the agency cover and pay for the costs of boarding them at the venue of my choice while I’m away?

About the local town

Things to research before you start your contract

  • What is the local town like?
  • What is the population?
  • What is nearby to do on days off?
  • What leisure activities and facilities are nearby?


About shopping
  • Is there a local shop?
  • How close is it to your accommodation?
  • What does it sell? What doesn’t it sell? Do I need to buy water?
  • What are the shop opening hours? Do I need to bring food if I arrive on a Sunday to get me through to Monday?
  • Is there an option of ordering from and receiving deliveries from the shop before you arrive and during your contract?
  • What transport is on offer to go grocery shopping?


Download our checklist here

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