My experience working with a nurse staffing agency has been bittersweet. Coming into this job, I was required to have at least six months to a year of clinical experience with patients, but I did not. I had volunteered at a hospital and worked for a short time in a memory care/assistedliving facility. However, employers did not view that as enough experience for them to hire me on. Fortunately, I left my résumé floating around on the job board Indeed, which is how my recruiter found me and gave me a chance.

I am lucky that my agency provided formal training. I was required to take two tests to prove my nursing assistant skills during a three-day orientation. If I had failed the exams on the first day of orientation, then I would not have been able to continue to train and work at the facility. Luckily, my agency helped me prepare for the exam. Because of this training, I was able to pass the exams and ultimately get an assignment.

What I also appreciate about working for a staffing agency is that I can work as little or as much as I want. I can choose to work any shift I want — day, afternoon, or nights. I can usually request to switch shifts or take days off as long as I tell my manager in advance. The agency lets me prioritize school and allows me to work less than usually expected.

The downside is that the agency preschedules me for work about a month in advance. So if I have something that comes up during my prescheduled days, I can only switch shifts if I find someone to take my shift myself.

I also feel my my agency initially took advantage of my inexperience. Knowing I was willing to do anything to get experience, they gave assignments I dreaded. For example, when I was first offered the job, I was told that I would be able to work in a hospital. However, they first sent me to an assisted-living facility for about three months. I had to keep reminding my recruiter that I wanted to work in the hospital instead of the assisted-living facility.

The agency also did not want to correct its own mistakes. For example, despite the general acceptance of my school schedule, I was once assigned a shift during one of my classes. The staffing manager told me that she could not change my shift because she already sent my name to the facility and that I had to comply otherwise I would be written up. It was really frustrating because I felt she was taking advantage of the fact that I was willing to do anything for experience.

I also feel at times I’m just a body to my agency and my own health is not a concern to them. When I’ve requested time off due to illness, the staffing manager would just tell me to sleep it off and go to work anyway. Either that, or I have to find someone to cover me. It makes me feel they don’t care about my health because they’re really adamant about me working otherwise they would lose money or make a bad impression with their connection at the facility. But sending a caregiver who is ill to a health facility isn’t a bad impression?

Despite the downsides, I do believe working for a staffing agency has been a good way to get my foot in the door. However, I think staffing firms can do more to express their concern and appreciation for their workers. We are their bread and butter. Yes, we’re there because we need a paycheck and experience. But without us, there would be no profits. So consider treating us as human beings and work with us when life requires change.