Floating:The Nursing Nemesis. Tips from a Float Pool Travel RN

Ahh Floating… You either love it or hate it. I find that most nurses are the latter, totally dreading floating to a new unit! You don’t know the people, the codes to the doors, the specialty… It can be a stressful experience! I felt the same way for a while in my nursing career. The last few months I was at my staff job, I was being floated a lot to ICU and CV step-down because of low census on our cardiac unit due to Covid. And I started to enjoy the change and learning new things! I then took my first travel contract- as a float pool RN! I was really nervous to be starting at a new hospital, on my first travel assignment, in the float pool. Talk about stress! However, I have learned that floating can actually be a good experience!

I floated to 12 different units as a float pool travel nurse. I got two days of orientation then I was on my own! I found out what unit I was going too on a sticky note that was attached to the phone I clocked in on. So I had no idea what unit I would be on until I am at the hospital!

Go in with a Positive Attitude

I know, floating sucks sometimes. However, walking onto the unit angry and in a bad mood does no one any good. Take a deep breath before you step on the unit. Visualize a good shift. Know that you can make it through the next 12.5 hours. Walk onto the unit, smile, and introduce yourself. Find the tech/nurse you are working with and discuss the patients you have together. Tell the nurses you get report from to “have a good day” after report. These may seem small, but it not only helps other people perceive you in a more positive light but it can help with your mood too!

Have a notebook

If you don’t float often, you may opt for just a piece of paper or a sticker on the back of your badge. Have a place where you can write and easily access door codes, important phone numbers (charge, unit) to make your shift go more smoothly. Having a notebook allowed me to have a general section for hospital wide information (doctors numbers, policies) as well as specific unit information (door codes, etc).

Offer Help to Coworkers

If you have a moment and you see a coworker looking for someone to boost a patient or waste a med, offer to help. If you are caught up and you see a nurse on the unit is still running around trying to medicate patients, offer to help. Helping the nurses and CNAs on the unit will hopefully make people more receptive to helping you.

Ask Questions

If you don’t know something, ASK. Yes, sometimes you feel like you are asking questions every 5 minutes, but if that’s what you need to do to safely care for your assignment or find what you need, do it. Especially during report, if I am getting a patient with a diagnosis, medication, or procedure I’m not use to- I’ll ask the reporting nurse for a quick rundown and important things to know (I did this a lot on ortho and surgical.) Typically, people are happy to answer questions and are understanding. If they aren’t, don’t take it personally. Get your information and move on.

Utilize your Resources

I use the charge nurses and people I feel are more experienced on the floor a lot. However, I also have really learned to utilize the policy and procedures on the website, resource books on the units, or other departments- like pharmacy and lab. Think about who or what could answer your question and start there. I also have watched YouTube videos for procedures/skills I need a refresher on (find good sources!) For example, I hadn’t use a Jelco IV since nursing school. When I asked for help, I was brushed off by the charge nurse. A quick YouTube video helped refresh my memory and I was successful with my IV stick! Your facilities resources and google (again, ensure reliable sources) are also helpful for unfamiliar medications, procedures, etc.

Speak Up if You Feel Unsafe

As a nurse, you do have a general knowledge of patient care and can care for patients that are outside of what your specialty may be. However, if you have a patient that you know it is not safe for you to be caring for without more training, speak up! You have to protect the patient and yourself. Sometimes, it’s an honest mistake. The charge nurse making assignments most likely knows nothing about you or your experience. Sadly, sometimes it’s intentional. Advocate for yourself and your patients.

Embrace the Uncomfortable

Being on a unit where you don’t know the people, patient population, or layout is just uncomfortable. There is no way around it. But uncomfortable does not always have to be bad. I find if I embrace and realize things may be difficult or uncomfortable, it doesn’t bother me as much. Realize I will make it through the shift, helps to make floating less stressful.

Floating as a Travel RN

I think this could be used in any situation, but this is part of my thought process in floating as a travel nurse. Hopefully, I’m going to have a good shift and learn something new. However, it could be a terrible shift. That’s just the truth. The charge may not be nice, the staff may ignore my request for help, I may have the heaviest assignment on the floor. This is when I look for happiness outside of my job. What is travel nursing allowing me to do? I’m in a new place. I’m making more money. I’m only on this assignment for 13 weeks. Sometimes, the happiness may just not be at work that day. And that’s okay. Think of something fun you have coming up (I know this is harder with Covid) or of an aspect of you job you do like to help get through the tough times.

Floating can cause a lot of stress but it also can result in a lot of learning and new experiences! I have learned so much from my time in float pool and taken care of patient’s with disease and disorders I may have never seen if I stayed on cardiac units. It also can help you see specialties you may be interested in pursuing and also specialties you have no interest in! Please reach out if you have any questions or thoughts on floating, I would love to hear from you!

Do you enjoy floating? Why or Why not?

2 thoughts on “Floating:The Nursing Nemesis. Tips from a Float Pool Travel RN”

Melissa Weaver

Great post! It’s good to share both sides of traveling and no matter which hospital you’re at, it won’t always be a great day. Your attitude most definitely can make it better.


Good useful information

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