The F-Word of Nursing

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When hospitals are short on nursing staff, factors arise that can cause legal trouble for nurses. Today’s bedside nurses are faced with ever increasing responsibility that can set nurses’ up to fail. Let’s talk about the F-word of nursing… floating!

Most every nurse I know dreads floating to another unit of their hospital to work. This is usually done because the unit is short-staffed and there is not enough regular hospital float pool staff. The hospital sees floating nurses’ as “allocation of their resources,” moving their employees to different parts of the hospital is cheaper than hiring more nurses or using agency.

Oftentimes, the floated nurse doesn’t know the regular procedures or even where the supplies are on the unit they are floated to. I feel like this is setting nurses up for failure. The nurse being floated to a foreign unit will have difficulty providing quality nursing care in a timely manner because they do not know the routine of the unit.

What about floating to a unit out of your specialty such as a peds nurse sent to an adult unit or vice versa? I haven’t personally experienced this myself, but I’ve heard horror stories.

Most often when you are floated to another unit in the hospital it means that unit is short-staffed. When a unit is short-staffed it might be hard for the floated nurse to get help from the regular staff when they need it. This is yet another factor that sets nurses up for failure when they float.

As a possible solution to this problem hospitals should include cross-training to the units they are expected to float. I’ve never worked at a hospital where they cross-trained staff to units they could possibly float to. Cross-training would help alleviate problems many nurses face when floating.

Does anyone have a cross-training program set-up at their hospital for floaters? How is floating handled at your hospital?


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