Float Nurse vs. Staff Nurse

There are a few different names for float nurses: flex nurse, pool nurse, etc.. What ever the title, the description is the same – you show up to work and “float” to whichever unit is understaffed for that shift. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little biased because I LOVE being a float pool nurse. For me, the benefits outweighed the drawbacks which is why I’ll never go back to being a staff nurse. That being said, float pool isn’t for everyone. In this post, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of float pool nursing to hopefully help better your understanding.

Please take this post with a grain of salt – my pros may actually be cons in your opinion, and vice versa. Also, keep in mind that every hospital has different policies and requirements for their nurses.

Pros of Float Pool

  • THE PAY! As a staff nurse, I made 25.76/hr on night shift – at the same hospital I make 35/hr as a float RN.
  •  You get to go to all the units in the hospital (except PEDS, NICU and L&D usually)
  • You don’t have the responsibilities of a typical staff nurse. i.e. unit meetings, committees, etc.
  • You get to make you own hours for the most part. For example, at my hospital we are required to work 24hrs a month with one major (ex: Christmas) and one minor holiday (ex: 4th of July).
  • As an added perk, we can break up our hours. For example, I’m not required to work 3 12hr shifts like a staff nurse, I can work 4, 8 or 12 hours as long as I work 24 hours in a month.
  • I can work as many hours as I like (actually, I think the cap is 80hrs/week, but I’ve never tested this theory!)  
  • Skill expansion: becoming a float pool nurse has helped me expand my knowledge and hone my critical thinking and interpersonal skills.

Cons of Float pool

  • No shift differential pays. Most hospitals pay more for night and weekend shifts. As a float nurse, I don’t get this added benefit.  
  • No insurance coverage. At my hospital, float nurses are considered PRN, meaning you don’t qualify for health insurance coverage through the employer.  
  • Some nurses take comfort in knowing their co-workers and knowing what unit they are going to be on for their shift. As a float nurse, I don’t find out what shift I’m going to work on until an hour before my start time.  
  • Mid-shift floating. This is definitely my biggest con of float pool. Mid-shift floating is when you work part of your shift (usually 4hrs), then you are floated to another unit to work the rest of your shift. My hospital’s policy is that we only get floated mid-shift once per 12hr shift, but they also state that we aren’t supposed to have more than 3 patients on critical units *insert side-eye*.  
  • Getting a “bad” assignment. Now, as a nurse I resent the term “bad” when referring to patients, but please bear with me as I try to make my point. As a float nurse, you are usually new to the unit, so you run the risk of getting patients that none of the staff nurses want. Examples are getting all total care patients, combative/sundowning patients, and/or patients that are borderline critical care patients. This has never happened to me, but I’ve heard many horror stories.

I hope this post helps make your decision a little easier when deciding whether to join or leave float pool. As always, please let me know what you thought of this post by leaving a comment, and sign up to receive emails so you never miss out!

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