Tips for Travel Nurses Who Fear Floating

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FlexCare travelers are known for providing great patient care. That's one of the reasons why it's important to be ready to float - especially if you are a travel nurse. Floating to a unit other than as specified in a traveler’s work agreement may be necessary so the healthcare facility can maintain adequate staff to provide safe patient care.

Travelers are expected to float to other units, as needed, provided the traveler has the appropriate competency and skills to provide care to the patient populations in the alternate unit.

All FlexCare assignment contracts include language stipulating that a facility can float you, as needed, but floating can only be to an area where you have the appropriate skills and competencies.

What to do if you are asked/told to float to another unit/department
  1. Be flexible
    • Recognize that floating, especially for travel nurses, is often necessary to ensure adequate staffing and safe patient care throughout the healthcare facility. You may not know what is going on at the facility that is resulting in the need for you to float, or agree that floating is necessary, but that isn’t for you to decide.
    • Be willing to help other staff by floating. Ask yourself if your unit needed additional staff, would you want someone to float to your unit to help?
    • Most RN licenses require you to maintain basic nursing competencies. These basic competencies can be used in most floating situations.
  2.  Ask for orientation to the unit (where things are located, access codes, etc.) and for another nurse to be the primary person for you to go to with questions. DO NOT expect the facility to automatically provide you with orientation to the unit where you are floating to.
  3. Do not act like you know more than you do. Explain any limitations you may have related to working in a particular unit.
  4. Do not operate any equipment you are unfamiliar with – ask for assistance.
  5. If you feel you do not have the clinical skills and competencies to take a patient assignment, request to be assigned to a limited assignment of clinical care duties, which utilize your current clinical competencies and skills. This is a great way to demonstrate that you want to be a team player and that you also want to do what is in the best of interest of the patients (i.e. helping even if not assigned a patient load).
  6. Never refuse to float unless you do not have the skills and competencies to work with the patient population on the unit you are being asked to float to. Ask yourself if accepting to float would be more detrimental to the patients than refusing to float,
  7. If you believe it is appropriate to refuse to float, inform the unit supervisor (and the charge nurse) and explain that you do not possess the skills and competency for the floating assignment. Don’t forget to offer to help by providing basic nursing skills and helping all the other nurses, but not taking a patient assignment. ALWAYS notify your recruiter if you’ve been asked to float but have refused due to not having the appropriate skills and competencies.

Keep an open mind when floating. Most nurses are not comfortable floating because it is rarely comfortable working anywhere you are not familiar with where things are, who you are working with, or working with a different patient population than you are used to. However, please understand that feeling “uncomfortable” is not an acceptable reason for refusing to float. If you have the skills and competencies for the patient population/patient assignment, then you need to float when asked.

Floating to a unit/department where you DO have the skills and competencies for the patient population will NOT jeopardize your license.

Edeli Kinsala, Director of Clinical Services
Edeli Kinsala, RN, BSN, MBA, Director of Clinical Services