Bottom line: floating to other units requires experience in nursing and coping skills. I have never wanted to quit my job more than the week I was floated to three different units because my home unit was closed for an overhaul. The hospital I work at is under 250 beds, but has a float pool that is integral to meeting staffing needs. There are a few closed units, but the critical care areas and med/surg are all open. What this means for us as staff nurses is that when we are not needed on our home unit, we MUST make ourselves available for staffing throughout the hospital. With my home unit being closed I floated to three different units in three nights. Don't even ask why my home unit was closed for overhaul without notice... no one knows the answer to that yet.
This is not going to be a rant about how float staff get crappy assignments. If that is what you're looking for you can stop reading this, if you haven't already. This is what I think I need to be successful when floating to other units, and what the staffing folks need to keep in mind. There is a mindset to floating. The nurses in the float pool prefer to float, that is why they took float pool jobs. Floating one shift to another unit I handle okay. Floating more than one night to more than one unit I probably won't do as well.
I was an LVN for two and a half years prior to getting my RN/BSN. I worked in a small rural hospital with basically my own patient load and in a large metro hospital in the ER with a unique role in triage. Since leaving that role for additional education, the position was dissolved. I did like both of my jobs. And as a side note I am a second career nurse.
I graduated from an accelerated RN/BSN program one year ago. I have been working for this hospital for 10 months. I went through a residency program for the first 4 months. Why was I almost in tears (and I am not a crier) the last two nights of floating? Because of the coping mindset I have developed for working on my own unit. Apparently it isn't a very portable bag of tricks yet.
The nurses in the float pool love the challenge of floating, are already very familiar with all the units, have relationships with nurses on the units, and most importantly have experience coping with the types of patients, level of staffing, patient load, and layout of the unit. I am pretty sure I would have been okay in the third unit I went to, if I hadn't had such a bad second night of floating.
Why was night 2 bad? Big combination of things: weird floor layout (every unit is different at this hospital), not having badge access to supplies or dirty utility, assignment of patients down 3 of 4 spoke-like hallways, call lights that go right to my phone so that no one else need be aware that I am in the weeds with 3 of 5 patients all calling at the same time for bedpans/bathroom issues, new grad brain where I think I suck as a nurse if I don't do everything I can for my patients, and a pt who needs extra frequent observation but there is no where to chart where I can watch her all night... and we must chart right... plus the dread of knowing I was going to be working 2 or more hours extra to get all the charting done when 8 hours into the shift I had not yet charted an assessment. (Sorry about the run on sentence... yikes!)
Arriving on one unit an experienced charge nurse looks at me and says, "Well you are an RN, right? This is your scope of practice?" Did not say but would have liked to: Well ma'am, does that mean any RN/BSN could do your job? You have no additional certifications or formal education. You have EXPERIENCE. Isn't that considered an asset in nursing? On some level I feel like making all staff nurses float, whether they feel comfortable doing it or not, is administrative expression that we are all interchangeable. I find this unrealistic and ridiculous.
As a novice nurse some hospitals would not bother to float me. What do I need to be successful floating to other units? A reduced assignment would help... but really, no one can give it to me. I need experience. I need to broaden my coping skills. I need to dull down my raw edges of caring too much. Not to imply that experienced nurses care less, but there is a difference in how they deal with "it". While floating helps me gain experience, to much at one time is overwhelming on many levels.
Looking forward to being back on my HOME unit. Take note, it is called HOME unit. Home makes us think of cocoon, nest, psychologically comfortable zone of operation. Happy to be home again.
Jan 1, '10
You have innate introspective abilities. That's quite mature of you emotionally...
Jan 2, '10
All I can say in response to your excellent post is...you are not alone. While I completely understand the reason that floating is necessary, I have always thought it was one of the most dangerous practices that institutions utilize. In the best of circumstances, the practice is not to dump on the floater, rather to give him/her the lightest possible assignment. When that actually happens, it is unbelievably helpful.
We used to float nurses on a rotating basis and I swear, I was tempted to call in every time my number was coming up. It added so much stress to a new RN's day.
Jan 3, '10
I know how you feel. I floated last week to a unit with a totally different layout and was lost all night long, like it was my first day all over again. It didn't help that I was given the only wackjob on the floor that none of the regular nurses wanted to deal with. I almost lost it and thought about feigning illness or death to get to go home LOL.
Last edit by Up2nogood RN on Jan 3, '10
Jan 3, '10
We have a strict no floating policy in our critical care areas unless if you are willing to be floated to help the other unit...otherwise you stay home.
Floating can be rough as it takes you 100% out of your comfort zone. New doctors, new diagnoses, new administrative processes, you don't know anybody, etc.