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Nursing - Fall 2009

The full version of the Fall 2009 CAPSScoop for the School of Nursing can be found by clicking here.


Articles in this edition

Working for a Placement Agency as a Nurse: An Interview


Working for a Placement Agency as a Nurse: An Interview

by Janice Tester, CaPS Career Advisor

Over the years, I have had several students asking me about placement agencies. They are intrigued by the possibility of working for a Health care placement agency so I decided to conduct a phone interview with a representative from a well-know agency in Quebec, Donna Ward, from Alternacare. This agency recruits Registered Nurses, Registered Nursing Assistants, Nurses’ Aids, Homemakers, and others.

Donna Ward gracefully accepted the interview and below your will find the questions and answers that comprised our conversation.

Janice Tester (JT): Why would someone work through an agency?

Donna Ward (DW): Working through an agency provides nurses with a number of benefits. They have the opportunity to work in a wide variety of fields such as hospitals, CLSCs, home care, corporations, public institutions, retirement residences, on wellness clinics – the list is almost endless. This gives the candidate an opportunity to get a feel for each sector and decide which one is right for them. For those nurses who choose hospital work, working with an agency can provide variety and a change of pace. Additionally, working with an agency provides you with the ultimate in schedule flexibility. You decide when you want to work. Although, once you accept an assignment we expect you to complete it.

JT: Where do you normally advertise for job openings?

DW: Alternacare advertises on a variety of job sites including Jobboom, the sites of the various professional orders such as the OIIQ and the OIIAQ, Emploi Quebec, and at the universities’ career centres. We also advertise in the newspapers and at healthcare job fairs.

JT: What are the most important qualities that you look for in a candidate?

DW: Being a nurse is all about compassion, caring and treating your patients not their condition. The first question I ask is why someone chose to become a nurse. We hire nurses based on their level of compassion. Beyond this, we look for candidates that can take a step beyond their assigned duties. Initiative is extremely important. I am looking for a person with some healthcare experience and that can take the form of an internship or volunteer experience. For example, nursing students are able to work as nurses’ aids during vacation periods before they have completed their nursing studies. Most importantly, we need to know that you can work independently; that you can step up when it is needed even if it isn’t in your listed duties.

JT: How much does the personality of the candidate influence your decision of hiring a candidate?

DW: Very much. A positive attitude is crucial. Conversely, if you are constantly in the habit of arguing, you will not get the shifts you desire. We will assume that you are going to argue with our clients, the employers, and that will not reflect positively on Alternacare.

JT: Are there any typical questions that you generally ask in an interview?

DW: I like to take the time to put my interviewees at ease by asking about their likes, dislikes, their families and how they decided to enter the healthcare field. I want to know what specific skill sets they possess and what experience they have. I need to determine their availability as well so that I know what positions to consider them for. I ask them to tell me what they did not like about their previous job to learn how they deal with issues. Occasionally, someone will speak ill of their previous employer and that does not leave me with a good impression of the candidate.

JT: Are there any specific documents you require at an interview?

DW: When registering with an agency, all of your documents should be up-to-date. For example, you should bring proof of your inoculations, your CPR card, and an updated résumé including reference information. Dealing with an agency is an opportunity for nurses, as medical professionals, to display their business and organizational skills and in fact, I actually use this as an evaluation criteria. I want to see people arrive in my office with all their documents up-to-date, ready to work. The biggest lack seems to be current CPR certification. Fortunately, Alternacare also operates a Nurses’ Aids training centre and we are able to run regular CPR training courses for RNs and RNAs using our school instructor.

JT: What do you think is a misconception people can have about agency recruitment?

DW: I would say that the biggest misconception seems to be that given the shortage of nurses in the market that we will hire anyone. This is most definitely not the case. Each person who registers with Alternacare must go through a very vigorous selection process. You have to be prepared and you have to be professional. Our reputation and the well-being of our clients are riding on the quality of candidates we represent and we take that very seriously.

JT: Is there any advice you would give a candidate before applying and coming for an interview?

DW: The first and perhaps most important step is choosing the right agency. You want to feel you have chosen an agency that you will be proud to represent you. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask to visit their location. Find out how long the agency has been in business, how many employees they have, who are their clients. They may not provide the names of their clients but they should be able to give you a sense of the sectors in which they operate, such as hospitals, CLSCs, retirement residences, home care. You want to ensure that you are not going to work for an agency that will assign you a mandate that is outside of your comfort zone. A good agency will prepare you for the client, talk to you about what to expect, and is willing to take the time to ensure you are at ease with the job being entrusted to you. They should be there to support you. The nurses that we represent are a very important part of the Alternacare group. A large part of my job is to educate our clients and the general public about the diversity of nurses and how special they are.

Beyond that, come prepared. Bring your updated résumé, your license, your CPR certification and your inoculation record, and above all, bring your positive attitude.

JT: As a placement agency, do you conduct reference checks?

DW: Absolutely. This is the final determining factor in whether or not we will represent a candidate. Previous conduct is the best way to forecast future conduct. One of the most important questions in the reference verification is: “Would you consider re-hiring this individual?” We have an obligation to the clients we serve to ensure to the very best of our ability that the person we are sending is the right person for the assignment. We place a very strong value on the results of the reference checks that we conduct.

JT: Thank you for your time and all the invaluable information for our nursing students.

DW: You are welcome. It is a pleasure to be able to clarify some of issues pertaining to working with agencies and to be able to speak directly to your students. McGill has a sterling reputation and many of our very best candidates are graduates of your program. Alternacare Inc., a Quantum Company, has been Montreal’s pre-eminent health services provider since 1986, supplying a broad range of staffing services to hospitals, CLSCs, individuals at home, and corporate clients. Alternacare’s philosophy is one of professionalism, sensitivity, and total commitment to each client, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Alternacare’s professionals provide a full range of customized permanent and temporary services specializing in the following categories: Registered Nurses, Registered Nursing Assistants, Nurses’ Aids, Homemakers, and others.

If you are in need of assistance or would like to investigate job opportunities, please do not hesitate to contact Alternacare at (514) 985-4061‎.

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