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To float or not to float


Curious of the general consensus

What is the average expectation of floating, every other week? once a month? once a week? how often is too often? where do you draw the line?

imintrouble, BSN, RN

Specializes in LTC Rehab Med/Surg. Has 16 years experience.

Floating occurs about once a week where I work. That's one shift out of three.

Nobody likes it, but with staffing cuts, we're injected into positions like pegs in a hole.

I don't see an end until somebody stupidly sends an inexperienced nurse to an area they're not qualified for, and the inevitable happens.

As far as where I cross the line, there isn't one. So far they don't send us to CCU, or the ER. Maybe that will be the line.

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 40 years experience.

We float often. IF we are going to a 'similar' unit (inpatient peds or NICU) we are expected to handle a normal assignment. If we float to (shudder) the adult hospital- it is as a helper or sitter ONLY.

Our floating is done in rotation by the date you last floated. Preceptors and charge nurses are exempt from floating- and certain nurses who are cross-trained sometimes offer to float out of turn rather than getting a low census day.


Specializes in PACU, pre/postoperative, ortho. Has 10 years experience.

Used to only float about once or twice a month. The past several months it has been more like once a week. Currently though my floor tends to be more poorly staffed than others & I float less again. Like imintrouble stated, they just plug available staff into empty spots.

We do float to ER, ICU & OB but only to aide or pass meds (usually). I did go to ICU several weeks ago to hear "We're giving you 2 pts." Whaaaat? Worked out just fine; both very stable with one having transfer orders for the floor for the next morning.

Where to draw the line? Well, where I'm at, you just don't refuse to float but I suppose the line would be if it's a truly unsafe assignment. I can't manage pts on vents or deliver babies!

classicdame, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

depends on where you work. Some hospitals need nurses to be very flexible if there are not enough staff to cover all the slots. Others may rely on agency or contract. Money is tight now. We would rather pay nurse OT then call in Agency.