Nurses are Masters at the Fine Art of Caring

Managers Need to Help Staff Nurses Cope With Floating Needs
©2008 Kathy Quan RN BSN
ALL Rights Reserved

Working conditions have always been a big issue for nurses. Floating to another unit can be one of the most irritating things nurses have to deal with on a fairly regular basis.
It's not just hospitals where nurses are most likely to float. Nurses in home health, clinics, and other ambulatory settings may also need to help cover other nurse's responsibilities from time to time.

Playing Hardball
Perhaps the most difficult part about floating is the administration's attitude about it.
Float or go home and "you're fired." On one hand, bullying in the workplace is not tolerated, and yet this same type of attitude prevails when administration has to puff out its chest and force nurses to float. This often leads to more resentment about having to float than is really necessary.

Nursing administration needs to learn to think outside the box and come up with better ways to deal with the ups and downs of the census and staffing. As our mothers taught us, you can gather more with honey than with vinegar. It does NOT show weakness to show some compassion and understanding!

Common Courtesies
Sometimes just the very act of saying, "Thank You" to the nurses who have to float can go a long way in making this a less stressful situation. Everyone wants and needs to feel appreciated, and just because the policy says nurses have to float does not excuse anyone from using common courtesies!

Some hospitals form float pools and offer incentives to nurses who will float. This can be very successful except when the situation requires even more nurses to float in a given day or week. If these additional nurses aren't given the same perks, resentments can quickly build. It can be hard to leave a float pool once you're in and that can become a problem.

Information and Incentives
Often nurses feel inadequate or unprepared to work on a different unit. Providing skills labs and orientation sessions can go a long way to help nurses feel more comfortable in floating. Posting maps on units to point out where supplies and other basics are kept can help to ease the feelings of being "lost." Each unit develops a culture of its own and providing an informal guide to who's who on the units can also help to ease some of the tensions.

Sometimes small incentives can make nurses feel that their efforts to be team players are appreciated. Partnering with local business can promote mutually beneficial opportunities. Movie tickets or coupons for 2 free drinks an popcorn at the theaters; discounts on such basics such as dry cleaning, groceries, drug store purchases and gasoline; and even just a "get out of jail" card good for saying no to floating after a nurse floats 2-3 times in a row, can take some of the sting out of this commonly distasteful process.

Listen to the Nurses
If poor working conditions are causing nurses to quit or to call off frequently, then the administration needs to take a careful look at themselves and how they can better handle the situation. What do the nurses want and need? It isn't always about salaries and benefits. Most of the time it's primarily recognition for the job well done! Again, a simple "please" and "thank you" can go a long way to improve the situation along with a few "bravos"!

Managers need to learn to invite the nursing staff to be a part of the solution. Ask for their ideas. Don't make it a time to vent frustrations, but rather a time to come with their ideas for solutions to the problems. Set ground rules for everyone that this is not a place for pointing fingers in any direction, nor for formulating retaliations.

Brainstorm together and let the staff have some of the ownership of the problems as well as the solutions. Keep the mood positive, and come ready to listen, and be willing to work together to make your facility a place where nurses want to work.

And lastly, thank the staff for their input and participation.