Tips for Floating as a Travel Nurse

Nurses in a hospital
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What is Travel Nurse Floating?

Floating is the practice of reassigning clinicians to work in a unit different than the unit they are regularly assigned. As a healthcare traveler, high-quality patient care and the ability to float go hand in hand because it typically occurs when the facility is short-staffed or when there is a higher demand for healthcare services in a particular department.  

For example, a travel RN specializing in L&D may work in the emergency department or intensive care unit if there is a shortage of nurses in those areas.  

Facilities expect travelers to float to other units, as needed, provided the traveler has the appropriate competency and skills to provide care to the alternate patient populations.


So, what can you do to become more comfortable floating as a travel nurse?


Be Flexible   

It's essential to recognize that floating, especially for travel nurses, is often necessary to ensure adequate staffing and safe patient care throughout the healthcare facility. Be sure to remain professional and willing, regardless of whether you agree with the need for a float. 


Be a Team Player   

Would you want someone to float to your department to help if your unit needed additional staff? It's best never to refuse to float unless you are sure you do not have the skills and competencies necessary to work with the patient population in the unit. Ask yourself, "What will be more detrimental to the patients - accepting or refusing the float?" If you are confident that you do not possess the skills and competencies for a floating assignment, inform the unit supervisor, charge nurse, and your recruiter. Offer to assist instead by being a resource nurse who provides basic nursing skills to help the unit's other nurses, but not taking a patient assignment. 


Be Transparent   

Explain any limitations you may have related to working in a particular unit when assigned to float. If you feel you lack the skills and competencies required to accept a patient assignment when floating, politely decline a primary care patient assignment and request to be a resource nurse, utilizing your current clinical skills and competencies. Transparency 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 interest of the patients (i.e., helping even if not assigned a primary care assignment).


Ask Questions

An orientation may not be automatically offered; however, you can set yourself up for success by asking questions immediately, such as equipment locations, access codes, and which nurse(s) should be your primary point person(s) for any further questions throughout your shift. Further, always ask for assistance if you need to operate machinery that you are unfamiliar with.


Floating Tips from FlexCare Travel Nurses

“Embrace it! You will see so many different cases and become much more well-rounded.” Patrick, Med/Surg RN 

“Look at it as an opportunity to help another unit! Always ask for help when you need it.” Elizabeth, Pediatric ICU 

“Enjoy it; if you don’t like it, you’re not stuck there forever!” Elsa, ICU RN 

“Ask for help and know your limits!” KayLeigh, Neonatal ICU RN 


Floating is an important aspect of travel healthcare because it distributes care where needed most. If you're uncomfortable floating, remind yourself that providing support on a new unit is also an excellent way to grow your skills, gain experience in different areas of healthcare, and expand your knowledge base.   

Another benefit of floating is that it allows travelers to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability. Establishing your ability to work in various settings and with different patient populations also provides additional experience to highlight in your interviews, making you more attractive for future assignments. Overall, floating benefits your healthcare career development and enhances the quality of care provided to patients.


Travel Nursing Jobs
Edeli Kinsala
Edeli Kinsala, RN, BSN, MBA, Vice President of Clinical Services

With a nursing career that spans almost four decades, Edeli Kinsala brings a wealth of experience to FlexCare. Starting her career in med/surg, telemetry, and trauma ICU, Edeli has held a range of positions, such as Director of Nursing, Chief Clinical Officer, and CEO, to name a few. Her exposure to various healthcare settings – acute care, long-term acute care, skilled nursing, drug/alcohol rehab, psychiatric/behavioral health, and travel staffing – enables her to deeply understand the needs and challenges of nurses and clinicians in different environments. Above all, Edeli's philosophy of caring for people and doing the right thing aligns perfectly with FlexCare's core values.