Nurses Floating Within the Hospital

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    This article talks about floating within the hospital at two different hospitals. The two different hospitals have opposite cultures towards float pool nurses. I also list the advantages and disadvantages towards being a float nurse.

    I use to work as a floor/charge nurse in a hospital back in the Midwest, and the attitudes to float nurses were not the best. I felt like the mentality of the hospital was floaters got the harder assignment, along with any travelers. My floor was unique and the nurses were not pre-assigned to a group of patients upon starting the shift. The off going charge nurse would create patient bundles and when nurses arrive on the unit they would pick a group of patients. Now, certain employees would take advantage and arrive on the unit 30 or minutes early to choose an "easier assignment" or to avoid a “certain patient”. Our system would automatically put nurses who floated to our unit at a disadvantage because they would be floating from a different unit or arrive at the normal start of shift time and get the last assignment.

    After a year of travel nursing, I took a full time staff position as a float nurse in a hospital located in the west. This hospital had a previous float pool before but it was only comprised of a couple of nurses. Now, the float pool has a new manager and has expanded to a small army in the hospital. I wondered at first if this hospital will have the same attitude as my previous hospital in the Midwest. I am happy to report that is not the case at my new hospital. When floating to a unit within the hospital, the staff thanks and cheers to get a float nurse that shift. The unit treats their floated nurses sometimes better than their own staff because they want them to come back in the future. As a bonus, the individual floors can call the float pool staff if overtime is available because they are short staff. This type of culture should be across all hospitals towards their float pool staff.

    There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages of being in the float pool at a hospital. One of the best advantages of being a float nurse fewer politics and emails. By only floating to a unit, I am not involved in the unit’s politics which is a nice change. Another advantage I enjoy is being able to create my own schedule and overtime. By floating to over 10 different units, a unit is usually short at any given time.

    The disadvantages I would mention is trying to find supplies because they are located in different sections from unit to unit. Building a relationship outside of the workplace can be a challenge, without constantly seeing the same co-workers.

    For people who are float nurses or want to become float nurses, I have some tips that have come in handy. First, play to your strengths when working on a unit that is not your primary specialty. My main background is cardiac related, when I am floated to the oncology unit I help answer questions that are cardiac related. This helps open the door to answer questions from them about their specialty. Second, be flexible among the different units. Two similar units could have different policies or have a different workflow among their units. Try your best to follow their policies and if needed play dumb. What I mean by “playing dumb” is acting surprised when a staff member tells you something that is unique to their unit. Last, don’t compromise patient safety in the effort of not creating waves. Stay true to the hospital’s double check policies or medication titration guidelines to avoid an issue down the road.

    I enjoy being a float nurse for now, and maybe one day I will select a home.
    Last edit by Joe V on Feb 10

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  2. About dwoolard

    Joined Feb '14; Posts: 7; Likes: 22.

    Read more articles from dwoolard

    12 Comments so far...

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    The hospital that I works for has a float pool that works more like the better/latter version. It looks like fun! I really enjoy the fact that as a float PCT, you do not HAVE to get involved in unit politics. I hear enough through the grapevine that I'd just rather not know. The worst I've heard unit's say about the nurses is that not all of the floats are ACLS certified and have to refuse some patients in our PCU. They seem to get decent assignments, as I have as a PCT so far. I really enjoy the change every day... I never what I'm going to get, NICU, PCU, CSU, ED, Med-Surg, etc... I am starting as a graduate nurse on a med-surg in 2 weeks and I am looking forward to it. I think it will be nice to have a team of people who I can REALLY get to know and work alongside on a regular basis.. not to mention, I will have a HOME unit and a locker (YAY!). I think I will miss floating though.
    Last edit by ClaraRedheart on Feb 9
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    Wow! The first place sounds just awful. The second sounds like heaven. I floated for two years as a CNA and it was somewhere in the middle, but closer to the good. Everyone was glad to have help, no politics but I knew everyone just well enough. By the time I graduated I knew pretty well which unit I wanted to settle into and was there a long time.
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    I have found my home in the float pool and couldn't be happier!!! Kudos to other float nurses out there!!!
    boogalina and BSNbeDONE like this.
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    I've been floating for years...wouldn't have it any other way. Homeless is the way to go!
    AJJKRN likes this.
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    Y'all make it sound fantastic! I hate getting stuck in a rut. I think I will start looking into floating.
    BSNbeDONE likes this.
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    How times have changed! Way back in the mists of time when float pools were a common thing in hospitals the attitude that prevailed in the places I worked was that the float pool nurses were the elite. Why you might ask? Because they had to have a large array of skill sets, mental flexibility and knowledge to work all types of floors from L & D to CCU to the ER and the people skills to be able to adjust to the different floors. To be a float pool nurse was da bomb lol.
    VivaLasViejas likes this.
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    I have only worked float pool and it is my "home" without a home. I recently worked on the same unit for three shifts in a row and had the same patients all three nights and it was almost torture
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    We have such a hard time getting floats to come to our floor, our charge usually gives them the best assignment. The floats are scared of having vented patients so we make sure they avoid them.

    I don't know if floats can refuse to work on a floor everywhere, but they can at my hospital. We treat them well, because our float pool is teeny, and we are forced to work enough overtime as it is.
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    I used to be THE float nurse at my hospital back in the day. I also doubled as the admissions nurse when all the units were fully staffed. It was a pretty sweet position on the surface---my shift was 11A-7P on weekdays only. So why did I quit? Because I was spread far too thin and got the absolute WORST assignments whenever I had to take a team. Sometimes I had 100% patient turnover in four hours! I was also expected to give all the other nurses their breaks, which meant I almost never got one myself until about 3 PM, which was usually when I'd be assigned to and have to take report on a whole new group of patients, instead of the ones I'd been caring for since they arrived on the floor. So I really didn't get breaks, let alone lunch.

    But what really did me in was an assistant department manager on M/S who for some reason had taken a dislike to me as far back as when I was a CNA at that hospital. She was constantly looking for mistakes and chewing me out for some real or imagined infraction. One day there was a missing Demerol syringe and she was on me like a duck on a chunk of bread, all but accusing me of taking it out......and I didn't even have a set of keys yet. The nurse who did it immediately owned up, but the way that woman looked at me was like "Damn---I thought I had you!"

    I wound up having a quiet nervous breakdown in my DON's office a little while after that incident and never returned to the floor, but in retrospect I think my issues with being the float nurse were being pulled in too many different directions in too short a time, and receiving absolutely NO support. As far as the hospital administration was concerned, I was nothing more than a pack animal. Granted, it didn't help that I had some undiagnosed mental health concerns and wasn't really suited for a job that required me to adapt to constantly shifting priorities and multiple demands at the same time. But the other floors were happy with my work, they trusted me, and their managers ALWAYS told me they were grateful for my help so I couldn't have been all that terrible.
    txredheadnurse and AJJKRN like this.


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