Most nurses focus their training and education in one specific area, so that they can work in a single department for the rest of their career. This is not the case for float nurses, who have risen in prominence following the recent nursing shortages. For the uninitiated, a “floating nurse” means an HCPs with the capacity to move between departments. In doing so, hospitals can theoretically maintain sufficient nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for each of their units, without any long term commitments or staff changes. Float nursing is as uniquely challenging and demanding as it is rewarding, for the travel nurses who are up to the task. What exactly are these challenges? How can you find out if you are fit for per diem nursing? Read on to find out all this and more.
Floating nurse job description
Float nursing can be employed in a number of different ways. For example, it is not uncommon for permanently-staffed nurses to be asked to “float” between different units. This is done to cover for sudden shortages, turnover or structural shifts. Other times, they bring in “travel float nurses” with flexible skill sets as needed, for a few days or weeks. This is done by contacting staffing agencies or using cutting-edge applications such as VitaWerks, which instantly matches hospitals with the best per diem nurses in their proximity. Finally, there is sometimes a “pool” of float nurses who are hired for their ability to move between departments. These nurses know what they are signing up for, which can maintain staff satisfaction and lower turnover rates in the long term.
Why become a float nurse?
Although float nursing is not easy, it comes with its share of perks and benefits. The most obvious is flexible scheduling. Whether you are employed or a travel nurse, hospitals will typically allow you to choose your own hours. You can give yourself more freetime, or put in your 12 hour shifts for some extra income–the choice is yours. Understandably, full-time and part time nurses will usually have less flexibility, since they are guaranteed a number of hours. Depending on the facility, you either have to work on set days or your situation changes week-by-week. Per diem nurses, conversely, have complete control over where and when they work.
Nurse floating is also perfect for HCPs who are looking to diversify their portfolios. You get the opportunity to work in different departments, which lets you build diverse workplace experiences and skill sets that will look great on your resume. By trying a little bit of everything, you also get to discover what you prioritize in a work environment. For example: you may have never considered ICU or NICU work as you plan your career.. It is possible that a couple of shifts is all that it takes to convince you that this is what you want to do. If not, you did not commit to anything and you can move on to the next department.
Finally there is the income. Contrary to what you might have heard, float nurses have more earning potential than the average RN. On average, the floating nurse salary is 15% higher than a regularized nurse’s. When you think about it, the reasoning is obvious. Hospitals are rushing to fill critical vacancies with flexible and skilled temporary nurses. With such high and immediate demand for intense skilled labor, it only makes sense that these float nurses are compensated accordingly.
Are there downsides?
No job is perfect, and float nursing is no exception. Compared to full-time HCPs, float nurses have limited stability with their working environment. They have to adapt to different departments, floating nurse policies and protocol wherever they go. Just when you think you have a grasp on how things work, you are now in a different unit and must relearn everything from step one. For nurses with clear and narrow career plans, float nursing may also not be the best fit. You will have a hard time building experience in a single field, when you are spread out between so many different specializations. If you are a nurse who prizes set routines, this may not be the lifestyle for you.
Go out there!
Nurse floating is as exciting as it is daunting, in some ways. Within the field of per diem nursing, it allows you to take in a diverse array of looks, experiences, and skill sets. For nurses who are constantly pushing themselves to grow, both as professionals and as people, you will not find such opportunities anywhere else. It is true that the lifestyle can be a bit too volatile for professionals who prefer a steady pace. For those who can adapt and learn on the fly, then float nursing is a uniquely rewarding career path that is worth a try.