Floating Tips for Nurses

It’s happened to all of us…..we walk on the unit, ready to go and then we hear the words “you have to float to _____”. For most of us, immediately panic sets in (especially the 1st time you float). Your Nursing brain starts thinking about the patho of the unit you are floating to. I recently floated to CICU and I started thinking of heart meds, trying to visualize abnormal EKG’s, and going over the ACLS protocol! When I float to Neuro I immediately think of all the sections of the brain and what each part is responsible for. Not only are you floating to an area that you feel like you know nothing about, but you also have to leave behind your friends, leave behind the unit that you can navigate with your eyes closed, and leave behind the patients that you feel the most comfortable with. Once you find out where you are headed, give your hugs, and tell your colleagues to bring you food (because it never fails that I float when we are having a party or pot luck) you get directions to where you are going and head off into the great unknown! I have a few things outlined below that I have learned over the years that I wish I would have known on my 1st float. I hope you find these helpful….if you do, please feel free to share!

1) Check your attitude– Let’s face it…we don’t like it, we don’t like getting out of our comfort zone, going to somewhere that we have never been with people we have never met. Nurses know this, we all have the same feeling so there is no need for your non verbal and verbal communication to show it. Think about the times on your home unit when a float comes up and they look like they have just eaten poop and are about to vomit!!! Don’t be that Nurse! Dig deep and find a smile, look at the positive-you are still the nurse and not the patient, open your mind and heart to what is ahead for the day. We all know that a positive attitude yields assistance from others, calm patients, and positive feedback. Taking a bad attitude to another unit will only make your day longer, your patients grumpy, and give other nurses a bad impression of not only you as a nurse, but your unit as a whole! Turnover is a real thing for all units and a bad attitude is one way to be sure no one ever wants to come to your unit!

2) Floating is a network opportunity– Use your float shift as an opportunity to meet new professionals with a different set of expertise. Healthcare is one big circle and we all end up bumping elbows at some point and time. You never know when you will need these folks again or when you will see them again. The impression you make will either come back to help you or hurt you. Use this as a time to get to know new Doctors, Nurses, and Technicians because you will more thank likely see them again. It may even be in your personal life. Wouldn’t it be horrible to be a crabby pants nurse on a unit and then get admitted to that same unit or even worse, have a family member admitted to that unit after your float? I mean, how awful?? Also, Nurses change career paths rather frequently and you never know when you may see a familiar face sitting across the desk from you as you interview for a job. What if you meet an awesome practitioner and you are able to call on them for help for yourself, a recommendation for a family member, or even a personal reference? Floating is often times your first chance as a new grad to network and meet new faces. This is your chance to make an impression, and network with new professionals that you may see again in a different capacity one day.

3) Floating is a learning opportunity– I love how everyone thinks that Nurses know everything about anything medical. You know, your Aunt calls about a rash, your brother calls about vague symptoms, and we all have the pregnant friend that asks us questions! My answer is always “I have no idea, if you aren’t burnt I don’t know how to help you”, hahahaha!! As nurses we get very tuned in to our specialty and often that is as far as our knowledge goes. Yes, we all have a basic knowledge of the human body, disease processes, and how to help but when it comes to specific specialties if it isn’t ours, we have a hard time! Floating really gives us a chance to learn a new area or even dust off the brain cells of a certain area that we learned about in nursing school but haven’t used in a while. The other really cool thing about learning more about other specialty areas is that you may have a chance to use it with your own patients on your own unit, then you will be the expert!!! Just recently after my float to CICU we had a patient with bilateral PE’s and the Cardiology team was following her as well. The Cardiologist was speaking to her about a new procedure that we (our hospital) started doing to treat PE’s and I was able to talk to her about the recovery process because my patient in CICU. The Cardiologist and the patient were very grateful and I was so excited to be able to help and share my new knowledge!! Learn as much as you can from anyone and anywhere because knowledge is POWER!!!

4) Offer to help others– A lot of times we are nervous and uncomfortable as a float nurse. I have learned that helping others when I float helps me to calm down. Other nurses are grateful for you to even ask if they need help. It speaks volumes about you as a nurse when you offer to help out on a unit where you know no one. I had to float to CICU on Christmas Day (yep, I was so sad because I could not wait to see my patients on Christmas morning) but I checked my attitude and had a good day. Once I was caught up I asked a nurse that day if there was anything I could help her with and she said “Wow, I don’t think I have ever had a float ask me that before”…….about and hour after I helped her I had to set my patient up for a bedside procedure that I knew absolutely nothing about. Thanks to our interaction earlier I felt comfortable asking for her assistance and her response was warm and helpful. Just because you aren’t “home” you should never stop being a team player. Remember you will probably rub elbows again, work together in a different capacity or be at the mercy of the team you float to. Make an impression that will last long after you have went back to your comfort zone.

5) It’s ok to ask for help– there is nothing more dangerous than a nurse who has no clue about what he/she is doing. If you don’t understand something, please ask for help. It is also a good idea to ask the charge nurse if there is anything specific that you need to document. Every unit has it’s set of do’s and don’ts and that is always good to know!!

Hopefully these 5 tips will come in handy the next time you have to float to the great unknown! No matter where you go you are still the nurse and there is still a patient in need of someone to take care of them. When you move beyond your comfort zone and see floating as an opportunity to network and learn, you will see that floating allows you to grow professionally.


2 thoughts on “Floating Tips for Nurses

  1. Thanks for posting these great tips. I agree that a positive attitude is crucial. Negativity can spread like a virus and darken a shift for everyone, including the patients!

    1. Absolutely Diane! In the burn world we say “positivity spreads like psuedomonas”! The same goes for negativity. Thanks for reading 🙂

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