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Dumb ? from a new nurse. What does "floating pool" mean?


I've seen a couple of jobs listed for FT "floating pool", and I'm not sure what that is. I assume they just send you to whichever unit needs help that particular day? But if it's FT, how do they know they'll need you? Wanted to clarify what this is before I apply.


Been there,done that, ASN, RN

Has 33 years experience.

Please, don't even consider floating as a new nurse. Been nursing for 28 years now, and found a recent 3 month float position to be VERY difficult.

You need the stability of knowing where things are, what co-workers you can count on....etc.

The hospital should not consider a new nurse for this postition, most don't.

Good luck, you will find something!


Has 18 years experience.

The float pool at my hospital hires new grads. They are given a very good orientation to the service they will work on. You're hired for Medicine, Surgery, or Women's Services, etc. You are given orientation shifts on every unit within the service (it's a better orientation than you get being hired for a specific unit),

The float pool covers sick calls and vacations. Trust me, floats are needed. On the rare occasion that there aren't sick calls, vacation days, stat holidays, moving/personal leave days, bereavement days, etc, the floats work as "extra" hands.

I have several friends who are permanent floats and they started as new grads. They love the fact they aren't anywhere long enough to get involved in unit politics, never have to work more than a few shifts with nurses they don't like, and have learnt which unit they would never want to work on.

enchantmentdis, BSN, RN

Specializes in Hospice, ONC, Tele, Med Surg, Endo/Output.

Float pool means that you will not know where you are working every single day you arrive at the hospital. You are used to fill in spots where nurses call in sick, etc... You do not have a home base. You are always on the outside looking in. You are expected to work, jump right in, and not ask many questions. You may float two or more times in your shift at a moments notice. And you can't complain because you chose to be a float pool nurse and this is what you get. Not the kind of job for a new nurse. Why put your hand in the meat grinder so early in your career? I take part of this back. If you have been looking for awhile and couldn't find a better position, you had better take this job, then you can impress a manager on one of the floors and you can transfer later. Ask if you can go to post-partum a lot.

mmutk, BSN, RN, EMT-I

Specializes in Emergency Dept, ICU. Has 11 years experience.

Float pool is what the hospital does to all nurses some just do it full time :)


Has 36 years experience.

As you can tell, each place is different. I was once a 'permanent' float nurse on a particular unit where they couldn't get a charge nurse for nights. The policy at that hospital was no more than 3 shifts/week (in the time of 8 hour shifts) and I worked 4 nights one week and 5 the next. Excellent money in its day.

But orientation may be scant, or it may be deep. Ask, ask, ASK as many questions as possible.


Has 36 years experience.

You asked if the hospital will know they need you.

The float staff is the first canceled if the census is low. You will get a schedule that covers four weeks. You should be asked ahead, let them know days you won't be available, or what days work best for you. The schedule will have what days you are considered available, 2 - 4 - 10 days a pay period what ever you sign up for, and you will be expected to work those days when they call you. The staffing person/nurse will call you (depending on what shift you work) from 2 - 4 hours in advance of that shift telling you where you will be working. They also will call you 2 - 4 hours in advance saying, "we don't need you today." Where I worked it was fine for the float staff to call the staffing person a few hours ahead of shift to ask if or where they would be working.

A very good question to ask when you apply is a rough estimate, guess, of how often you will be cancelled. No one has a crystal ball but they should give you some idea.

Nurses either HATE floating, or are OK with it, or LOVE it. I LOVE floating.:D These days with jobs hard to find give it a try, don't let the nurses who hate :down:it scare you away. I floated as a new grad and still float 28 years later.

All-Nurses needs to start an I Love to Float section.

I will sign up for the "I love to float" section; I started doing it as soon as I had put in six months in my first nursing job and loved it so much that I never looked back. At my current job they keep asking me to be a full time nurse on a specific unit and I just keep telling them no, I want to float.

But you really do need to have some strong orientation and experience, you absolutely have to be prepared to hit the ground running and be prepared to handle anything that comes up and not ask a lot of questions.

I wouldn't recommend it for a new nurse.

ChristineN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric/Adolescent, Med-Surg.

I have worked in the float pool for the last 4 months. I LOVE it!! I see something different every month, it's great. I go to pediatric floors, med surg, and step-down. I love being able to set my own schedule, and work the shifts that work best for me. I also love the fact that end of a difficult day, I know that I probably won't see that pt again. There are certain floors I love being assigned too. The previous poster was right though, you need to be able to hit the ground running. When I go to an unfamiliar floor I get no orientation, and am given a full assignment just like the other nurses, so there is only time for minimal questions.

Up2nogood RN, RN

Specializes in pulm/cardiology pcu, surgical onc.

They were hiring new nurses into our float pool as these were the only open positions. We've had three new nurses hired onto our unit on my shift-nocs since they liked our unit so much. And in the float pool they never had a say in their schedules unless they requested a vaca. On our unit we have self scheduling so more flexibility.

As float nurses (and new) they never realized they were getting easier assignments than us regular staff. They thought our unit was a great place to work and they thought they'd never have to float again. Hahaha I don't know what our NM was thinking (or upper management) they are trying to get rid of the float pool (no more hiring) as that NM retired and they couldn't find a replacement so now we're severely overstaffed and float a lot.

I have to say it's better to float sometimes, last week I floated for 8 hrs to sit with a confused pt.

Our float nurses got at least a week in every specialty on the shift they will be working and they seem to be fairly competent by the end of orientation. It also seems that the our remaining float nurses are a lot less stressed (probably because they don't have to deal with BS politics).

Edited by Up2nogood RN

Thanks, everyone! It sounds like it might be fun if I were experienced, but I will wait until I know what I'm doing before I ever try floating. Thanks again! :)

I like being float pool. It is like an adventure. I get to go 7 different units depending on their needs and I make friends in different units. The tough part is being put on call 2 days in a row because it cuts my income but I use my pto's. I just keep counting my blessings when the going gets tough. I had a little over 1 year of exp in one hospital then became float pool nurse in a hopsital near me. I pray when it is tough and being on call. When Im on call and they call me, I get lots of money. But if they dont call me, I pray and use my pto. I wash clothes and clean my kitchen and fold clothes and pray when im on call.

Floater here. LOVE it. I get to go to different units. I just jump right in. From tele to post partum to psych to medsurg to acute rehab to tcu to outpatient. I love outpatient. Admission and discharge. It is a fast track. It is exciting. The draw back in float is if it low census, then I have to use my pto. But sometimes they are short staffed on my days off and post partum and outpatient calls staffing and ask for me. Love the adventure. I love the daily change. I must be nuts. :-)

True hehe. Im a float pool. Sometimes I see a friend floating to acute rehab from medsurg. It is different of course, but I get to set their heart at peace and let that person know the staff is great and help them through the day. It just becomes a beautiful day of ministry, helping those who are i need of us nurses. Nurses are molded by God in a very special way in heaven. Nurses are God's beautiful angels with invisible wings and beautiful hearts and ears and eyes and mind. We are God's rainbows for those with clouds hanging above them.

Firstly, don't listen to what all is said on this forum. Every opinion is different. I started as a new grad in the float pool, HRP- House Resource Pool, Central Staffing. It gives a new nurse a wonderful "base" of nursing knowledge! It is difficult because you have to know a great deal in such a short amount of time. I always joked that I "know a little, about a lot". I think this is great because it exposes new nurses to a wide variety of nursing knowledge. Yes it is hard as a new grad, 1: because we are learning about nursing itself but 2:, we are are expected to learn all the units of the hospital. this could be a pro or a con. If you are strong and can adapt to change and have flexibility, then this is the place for you.

Yes you won't have the "home environment" that units get, but you won't get dragged into the "unit drama " either. you will know all the employees of the hospital and that is a great thing. As your longevity grows, so will know your knowledge and other departments and RN's will depend on your knowledge. you will see what departments you like and ones you don't and eventually you will determine if you want to be a "float" full time or you will like a certain unit that you will want to call "home"

I believe that a float position is great for a new nurse because it will give you so much nursing knowledge that you can carry on in the future. I won't deny that it is more stressful for a new grad but if you can make the cut, Float Pool is the way to go!!

I was a new grad and was a float nurse for 4.5 year when I discovered Emergency Department Nursing was the right fit for me and I transferred to the ED Department, with this , I bring a certain amount of nursing knowledge that is welcomed to the ED .