Seven Methods for Managing Floating Nurses Blog 02. Blog Image-MD-V2

Seven Methods for Managing Floating Nurses

October 26, 2023
October 26, 2023

With flu season fast approaching, it’s time to gain valuable insight into how you can leverage your team of nurses and optimize floating in your facility without hurting retention or employee satisfaction.

Research has found 44% of nurses were unhappy working in acute care hospitals that require them to float and work away from their typical assigned units, and with the healthcare staffing crisis and burnout in healthcare professionals continuing to grow, your organization needs a strategy that allows leaders and managers to float nurses in a way that meets patient demand and supports your valuable employees.

Below are seven different strategies to manage floating your nurses in your healthcare organization during one of the busiest times of the year.

  1. Float Pools - Float pools involve creating a pool of internal staff who work within their unit of the hospital; designation and rules can vary from organization to organization, but typically this method involves staff being placed in the pool and then sent out where they’re most urgently needed. Float pools are especially valuable during peak demand periods, such as flu season, as they work to prevent staffing shortages and maintain your organization's high standard of patient care. While this option is the most traditional option, hospitals and healthcare systems are trying new methods to boost recruitment, retention, and patient care.

    Additionally, when done correctly, float pools can save an organization at least 2-5% of their total nursing labor costs as it lessens the dependency on agency and travel use, which comes at a premium cost. A potential challenge that can arise within these pools is that they can easily become disjointed or too fragmented between departments. Without proper visibility across an organization, this process could be cumbersome and potentially hurt recruitment, staff satisfaction, and ultimately, patient outcomes.

  2. Central Staffing Office (Resource Pool) — Central staffing offices manage this centralized employee pool, often simply referred to as your organization’s “resource pool.” These pools consist of nurses who can be assigned to various units or departments within a healthcare system as needed. Centralized management ensures that the right staff, with the right credentialing, is available at the right time, working to reduce the administrative burden on individual units or departments.

  3. Flex Pool —A flex pool is similar to a float pool, however, this option offers staff who are willing and able to float across departments. Typically, these employees float between departments or locations, assuming they have the proper qualifications, and receive a higher rate of compensation. These pools are especially beneficial for multi-facility or multi-location healthcare systems. This method can be especially helpful when you have your set staff, your planned census, and your average daily census, but patient volume inevitably increases.

    In recent times, healthcare facilities have seen a trend in newer nurses preferring this option as it not only allows them more flexibility and control over their schedules but also opportunities to learn more skills and gain experience across numerous departments.

  4. Unit-Based Per-Diems — Unit-based per-diem nurses are typically staff members who are assigned as per-diem employees to a core unit or specialty area within their hospital or healthcare system. They may work on a part-time or as-needed basis, providing consistent coverage to their assigned unit. This approach can be extremely beneficial for units with specialized needs, such as critical care or specialty departments. It also works to support employee satisfaction as it gives nurses an option to set their schedules at an increased pay rate.

  5. Agency Nurses — Hiring agency nurses is a common strategy for managing floating nurses. External agencies provide experienced nurses who can quickly fill staffing gaps. However, because this option means leveraging immediate access to qualified healthcare professionals, it comes at a premium price, making agency nurses a valuable resource during unexpected patient fluctuations or staff shortages, but ultimately, a strain on budget and resources.

  6. Travelers — Travel nurses also come at a premium rate; however, these nurses are long-term contract staff members assigned to a specific area or department within the hospital for an extended period, typically ranging from a few months to a full year. While this route is a valuable option as it brings specialized skills and experience to the facility while helping to address chronic staffing shortages and work to provide continued quality care, it can be a burden on resources and place a strain on core employees’ long-term satisfaction, with core employees feeling frustrated or unhappy as temporary travel nurses are offered higher pay and better hours. Additionally, travel nurses lack insider knowledge of the department layout, organizational processes, and workplace community; yet arrive with specific contracts that allow them more say in their daily tasks and assignments than traditional employees. While travel nurses can be extremely beneficial in specific circumstances, long-term dependency on them can greatly affect staff satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

  7. Gig Workers — Another emerging trend in managing floating nurses is to leverage gig workers. Your healthcare facility can hire gig nurses as contractors employed directly by your hospital or healthcare system, not a traditional nursing agency. These gig nurses can pick up extra shifts at a higher rate of pay. This option is ideal for when units are short-staffed and extra coverage is needed without creating dependency on an agency.

Make the Most of Your Resources While Taking Care of Your Staff

No matter which route works best for your hospital or healthcare system, it's critical that you manage floating employees in a way that leaves your staff feeling valued, heard, and supported.

Nurses are the largest segment of healthcare professionals, making up nearly of the entire workforce. However, with 18% of newly licensed registered nurses quitting within the first year and burnout exacerbating the staffing crisis, the current projection estimates a shortage of 200,000 — 400,000 nurses by 2025. It’s critical to meet patient demand without decreasing retention or staff satisfaction, which means having the right tools and resources for your specific team.

A Solution Built for Efficiency, Staff Satisfaction, and Floating Employees

Navigating the complexities of managing floating employees during flu season can be daunting — your facility needs to meet patient demand, account for the unexpected changes this season brings, and accommodate your nursing team. At ShiftWizard, we understand these challenges, and we're here to support you while simplifying your scheduling processes.

Our innovative scheduling system empowers leaders and managers to effortlessly filter and allocate employees based on availability, preferences, and credentials. This works to optimize your existing workforce while also granting your employees newfound control and autonomy over their schedules, even during the high-demand flu season.

ShiftWizard provides next-level visibility across any organization, department, or unit, enabling you and your team to confidently tackle the challenges of flu season without compromising patient care or your staff's work-life balance. Discover how we can streamline your scheduling needs and enhance your facility's operational efficiency.

To learn more about how to effectively float your employees and gain a first-hand look at how to use ShiftWizard this flu season, check out our Floating Staff During Flu Season Webinar