Tips for Nurses Who Have to Float

floating as a nurse
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There’s nothing worse than showing up to work and seeing on the assignment sheet that you’re… floating.  As a travel nurse or a staff nurse, floating is oftentimes unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  Especially when you thought you’d be working in your home unit during your shift.  The reality of being a nurse is that flexibility is key.  And instead of looking at floating as a punishment, instead, try to look at it as something new that you get to learn.  Typically, travel nurses and new nurses are the first to float.  And having been a travel nurse for 4+ years I’ve had a lot of experience in floating.  Here are the best tips I have to ensure you’re making the most out of floating to a new unit.

 

Tips for Floating As a Nurse

empty bed in the NICU

 

INTRODUCE YOURSELF

One of the best things that you can do when you float is to introduce yourself – before anyone even asks who you are.  This sets a good tone for the day and also lets everyone around you know that you’re not familiar with the unit.  Hopefully, this means people will be checking in on you regularly.

 

ASK FOR HELP

Do not be afraid to ask for help.  The only way to make it through your shift stress-free and without complications is with others’ help.  You’re not expected to know everything, you’re only expected to be there lending a helping hand to a busy unit.  Plus, when you ask for help you’ll know the right way to do things and it’ll make you more comfortable overall in case you ever have to float to the same location again.

 

ALLOW CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

Once my shift is up and I give report, I always leave my work email address with the nurse I gave report to.  I ask him/her to please email me if I made any mistakes on my charting or patient care.  Not only does this let the person know that you are doing your best, but it also allows you to take constructive feedback and fix any mistake that you may have made during your shift.

 

THINK OF FLOATING AS AN OPPORTUNITY INSTEAD OF A PUNISHMENT

Just because you’re asked to float does NOT mean that you’re being punished!  It more than likely means that it’s your turn since most hospitals seem to rotate nurses through floating.  Instead of huffing and puffing to a different unit, take a deep breath, and realize that this is an incredible opportunity to learn something new.  Who knows, you may just fall in love with the unit you float to and end up switching roles down the line.

 

KEEP TRACK OF WHEN YOU LAST FLOATED

Even with keeping an open mind and being positive about floating, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to want to do it often.  Keep a record of where you floated and when and make sure to speak up if other people are getting skipped and you’re asked to float repeatedly.  As a nurse, it’s important to have a backbone.  Our profession can be emotionally and mentally draining and even more difficult if you don’t know how to advocate for yourself.

 

KNOW THE FLOATING POLICY

Not only is it important to keep track of where and when you floated, but it’s also important to be clear on what the hospital policy is for floating.  Which units are you allowed to float to?  Are there certain restrictions when you float?  You should also note how floating works.  Do you start with the newest person on the unit and rotate through all of the nurses?  Or do senior nurses get skipped because of their seniority?  Know the policy so that you know whether or not you’re being taken advantage of.

 

SPEAK UP IF YOU DON’T FEEL SAFE

Chances are when you float, you’re not going to feel comfortable.  But there is a difference between not feeling comfortable and not feeling safe.  And if you don’t feel safe it is okay, and necessary, that you go straight to the charge nurse or manager about it.  Hopefully, they will either reassure you to the point that you do feel safe or rearrange the assignments so that you have more appropriate patients.

 

AS A TRAVEL NURSE MAKE SURE TO ASK ABOUT FLOATING REQUIREMENTS IN YOUR INTERVIEW

As a travel nurse, you should always, always, always ask about floating requirements in your interview.  This is the time to speak out about what you feel comfortable with and uncomfortable with so that when you start your new job there aren’t any questions about it.  When I interview, I always ask, “Where do travelers float to?”  “What kind of patient assignments do they take/what kind of patient assignments are off-limits?”  And because I work in the NICU, I also ask, “What age of kids am I expected to care for?”  Make sure that you write everything down and you’re clear on the rules once you start.  Do not take a job if you don’t agree with the floating policy because chances are you’ll be required to float at least once.

 


If you’re a travel nurse, don’t miss:  Six Questions I Never Forget to Ask During My Travel Nursing Interview


 

So yes, floating as a nurse can be scary and intimidating.  But with these simple steps, you’re simply on your way to being a better, more well-rounded nurse!  And who knows, you may even end up switching units because of it.

Have you floated before?  I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

 

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passportsandpreemies
passportsandpreemies

Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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