Top Five Reasons to Embrace Float Nursing

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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 and 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?  

So now that we’ve dipped our toes into the waters of floating, let’s dive deeper into understanding what is a float pool in a hospital and the responsibilities associated with being a float pool nurse.

Float Pool Meaning: What Exactly is It?

What is a float pool nurse? Quite simply, the float nurse job description entails going from unit to unit, filling in whenever necessary. Every float pool nurse is expected to be proficient in Basic Life Support, ensuring foundational patient care skills across multiple units. 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 a float pool nurse typically don’t have a long-term or consistent need, otherwise they’d hire a full-time traveler! 

Where Can Pool Nursing Specialties Go?

Main Specialty

Float Specialties

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 
Telemetry Med Surg 
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 work in the 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. Whatever the case, taking on float nurse responsibilities means more than just filling in gaps at a healthcare facility, you’re also gaining unparalleled experience across different units, making you a more valuable team member. Diversifying your experiences as a nurse can only add more depth to 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. Consider expanding your skills in exciting fields, like being a telemetry nurse to boost your career path.

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 shows that you have a high level of clinical skill accrued throughout your nursing career 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 with the skills you’ve gained in other healthcare facilities as a float pool nurse, 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—a float pool nurse salary is often higher than traditional roles because your flexibility usually saves hospitals money. Float pool nursing 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, a float nurse salary 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.  

Whether you offer critical support in the emergency department, adapt to the fast-paced environment of an Intensive Care Unit or provide compassionate care in a pediatric wing, your flexibility and willingness to step into different roles make you an indispensable member of the healthcare team.

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.