Float Nursing: Career Nightmare or Advantage?

By Nanette Wiser, contributor

Whether you’re a new or experienced RN, the idea of floating fills many nurses with anxiety. Some nurses worry that working as a float nurse can damage their credibility or even jeopardize their license.

Success as a float nurse all depends on the circumstances and the facility. Under the right circumstances, floating can have tremendous benefits. Float nurses gain valuable experience, never get bored and can avoid the politics in a unit.

Float nursing can have its benefits

Abigail Schneider MSN, RN and Clinical Content Manager for AMN Healthcare explains, "Floating is not always seen as an opportunity, but rather as a necessary chore when your turn to float comes up. However, floating is a way to get a feel for how nursing care is managed and delivered in units other than your own. I have known several nurses who were floated to other units only to discover they really enjoyed the patient population so much that they eventually transferred to the unit they floated to." 

For a travel nurse on a new assignment, knowing how to stay poised and effective as a float nurse is essential. With the right attitude, float nurses can establish themselves as team players, willing to jump in wherever necessary, increasing their chances of getting invited back.

Since many permanent staff members hate floating, hospitals often bring in travel nurses who are willing to float to prevent turnover of their regular staff. The result? More career opportunities for travelers.

Why is Float Nursing Stressful?
Change is always difficult, but one of the biggest concerns many RNs have about floating is their lack of familiarity with the new unit’s processes and protocol (making assignments, storing supplies, completing tasks, contacting physicians, locating equipment). If the unit is outside of their core competency, they might find it stressful and frustrating. However, the more often a travel nurses floats, the more comfortable it becomes and the easier it is to transition into new situations in the future.

Float Nursing Gives Travel Nurses Experience
For travel nurses, especially those relatively new to nursing, float nursing can provide valuable experience. New nurses get first-hand experience in a variety of units, working with multiple specialties and with diverse patient populations.

The same skills required of a travel nurse translate to float nursing. With each assignment, travel nurses become more adaptable. Learning names, navigating supplies and getting up to speed with a unit’s processes are all part of the travel nurse’s core competencies so it’s only natural that travel nurses make good float nurses.

How To Cope If You’re Floated
Being a team player is the most important factor. Do your best, give the patient excellent care, ask for feedback and be pleasant and upbeat with a thank you at the end of the day. Put on your thinking cap, learn quickly and consider your floating nurse assignment an essential step in your RN career.

As part of your Onward Healthcare travel nurse benefits, you can expand your nursing horizons with free continuing education. For more information about the benefits of travel nursing with Onward Healthcare, contact a recruiter today.


About Onward Healthcare, an AMN Healthcare Company
Onward Healthcare, an AMN Healthcare company, specializes in career building travel nursing U.S. assignments in most specialties at hospitals, outpatient clinics, government facilities, schools, and long-term care facilities. Onward Healthcare provides career counseling and education for its travel nurses who want to take their nursing career to new places. To learn more about Onward Healthcare’s continuing education program, visit our website or call at 1-800-544-7255 today.
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