Ask any experienced travel nurse and they’ll tell you that at some point, you’ll probably be asked to float, and we’re not talking about heading to a swimming pool or one of those new trendy spas. But what is a float pool and exactly what is a float nurse? If you’ve never thought about the benefits of being a float nurse, we got you!
Unfortunately, “floating” has become the equivalent of organic chemistry for the working RN—a real pain in the tush. We get it, it can be uncomfortable to join a nursing float pool to float to different units, especially in a hospital you’re unfamiliar with. But truth be told, you’re there because the hospital needs you because they’re understaffed. And that’s usually the case in more than one unit. While some travelers reject working as a float nurse or ask to keep pool nursing out of their contract, remember, it’s job security. When a hospital needs travelers and you say yes to working as a floating nurse, you’re solidifying your worth as a traveler and a team member.
Pardon the broken record over here, but it needs to be said again: as a traveler, you have to be okay with stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s what separates you from your permanent counterparts—the willingness to leave the comfort of your hometown, family and friends in exchange for adventure (and often, a better paycheck). If it were easy, everyone would do it, right?
Float Pool Meaning: What Exactly is It?
What is a float pool nurse? Quick simply, this is a nurse that goes from unit to unit, filling in whenever necessary. Perhaps the unit is busier than normal on a short-term basis or another nurse has called out due to illness. Whatever the reason, these units that need floaters typically don’t have a long-term or consistent need, otherwise they’d hire a traveler full time!
Where Can Pool Nursing Specialties Go?
|Cardiac Cath Lab||EP, IR|
|PACU||Typically do not float, but may go to Pre-Op or Same Day Surgery|
|OR RN||Typically do not float|
|Operating Room Tech||Typically do not float|
|Behavioral Health/Psych RN||Typically do not float|
|ICU/CCU||Other ICUs, PCU/Stepdown, telemetry, or ER, depending on experience|
|PCU/Stepdown||Telemetry/Med Surg, ICU (less acute patients), ER holding|
|Med Surg||May go to telemetry (if you have an ACLS)|
|Oncology||Med Surg (if experienced)|
|ER||Typically do not float|
|Labor & Delivery||HROB, Postpartum, Nursery and Gyn, depending on work experience|
|Postpartum/Mother Baby/Newborn Nursery||HROB GYN, NICU (depending on experience and skill level|
|NICU||Typically do not float, potentially could to newborn nursery|
|PICU||Can float to PCU/Stepdown when experienced|
|Pediatrics||Typically do not float|
If you’re in a specialty that typically does participate in pool nursing, you may be asking why you should be willing to float. After all, some travelers try to put it in their contract that they will not float. However, there are plenty of reasons to give floating a chance and we’ve compiled our top few reasons based on the opinion of some of our very own travel nurses.
#1: You Get Experience in Different Units
Maybe you’re a labor and delivery nurse being asked to work in postpartum or the mother/baby unit. Diversifying your experiences as a nurse can only add more depth your skills pool, strengthen your resume and make you more marketable. Also, you just might fall in love with a unit you’d never even considered.
Many nurses are apprehensive to float because they’re afraid of royally messing up and jeopardizing their license. We never want you to feel uncomfortable in any situation on assignment. If you’re asked to float to a unit you’re not comfortable with, you need to have a conversation with a charge RN or manager letting them know your concern. If they persist, reach out to your recruiter or your clinical liaison immediately—we’ve got your back.
#2: Float Experience Boosts Your Resume
Seeing “travel nurse” on your resume tells a hiring manager a whole lot more than you’d think. It shoes that you have a high level of clinical skill in addition to personal attributes like flexibility, adaptability, and dependability. When a hiring manager sees “float travel nurse” it probably makes them a little giddy because it conveys an even greater degree of all the above characteristics. Float nurses must be a bit more flexible, a little extra adaptable, and highly dependable if hospitals are going to rely on them to work in different units and sometimes even different facilities.
#3: You’re Less Likely to Be Sent Home
Many travelers fear being sent home early from a shift or an assignment getting called off altogether. And yeah, it does happen. However, this typically isn’t a concern if you’re a float nurse. Hospitals know that they can send you to whatever unit needs additional staffing and you’ll be able to adapt quickly. You’re seen as a team player and often the relief for their permanent staff, so a valuable player (maybe even MVP). Giving their perm staff a break helps them prevent turnover, which makes them happy and earns you major brownie points.
#4: Float Nurses May Get Paid More
Did you know that your willingness to float and be flexible could turn into extra moolah on your paycheck? True story—hospitals often offer higher pay rates for float positions because your flexibility usually saves them money. It can offset the additional cost of having to hire a nurse specifically for a unit that may just need a little help from time to time. In some cases, floating can pay up to 15 percent more than the average travel nurse salary rate. If maximizing your earning potential is a high priority as a travel nurse, you should be floating, for sure.
#5: Float Nursing Brings a Lot of Variety and a Fast Pace
There is never a dull moment when you’re a floating travel nurse because you’re always needed. Each day brings the potential for experiences in a different unit, the chance to learn from new people, and the opportunity to provide care to different patients.
Bonus: Travelers Willing to Float Are Easier to Place
As more and more nurses started to travel the past few years, competition for jobs has increased at an incredible rate. Sometimes well-paying jobs in desirable areas can have as many as 20 applicants in the first few minutes. If you try to restrict floating from your contract, it will be harder to find you a job. If you’re concerned about floating to an area you’re not comfortable with, have a conversation with your recruiter so you can add in a list of units or specialties that you’re willing to float to. This shows that you are flexible, but also that you care about your patients and the skills needed to care for them.
So, if you want to expand your skill set, increase your sense of independence, have more assignments to choose from and possibly even make more money…be a float nurse. If you didn’t know, now you know.
If you’re looking for allied or travel nurse jobs, Triage is a healthcare staffing agency that can help you get where you want to go. Use our quick apply and someone will be in touch to explore your options.