How To Handle Floating During a Travel Nurse Assignment - TNS 987839088534212 [9:30 AM] Katie Iglewski

If you’re a travel nurse, chances are you’ve considered taking a floating assignment at some point in your career. 

While the idea may feel intimidating, the reality is, it will likely happen at some point in your career. 

Before you jump ship and say that floating is a no-go for you, consider how floating can actually benefit your career. 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of floating between units during a travel nurse assignment, as well as offer some tips and FAQs.


Table of Contents



FAQs About Floating During a Travel Assignment 

What Is Floating in Travel Nursing and How Does it Differ From a Typical Travel Nurse Assignment?

“Floating” refers to when a nurse is temporarily assigned to different units during their assignment.

Facilities need nurses to float for a variety of reasons, typically when:

  • A colleague is out due to an illness or injury and needs help to cover their shifts
  • There’s an emergency at another facility nearby that requires more nurses than they currently have on staff; or
  • A facility decides not to renew a travel nurse’s contract at the end of their assignment and they need someone else brought in immediately

During a typical travel nursing assignment an agency sends a nurse to cover shifts for a unit at one facility for a specific amount of time. In this circumstance will likely be on assignment in one unit for the duration of their contract.

Nurses on floating assignments have the potential to travel from one unit to another instead of remaining on the same unit. 


Can a Travel Assignment Require Floating Between Facilities?

Yes, it is possible to float between facilities during travel nurse assignments within hospital networks.

However, it is an uncommon practice unless there is an emergency or the traveler has very specific qualifications.


Why Would a Nurse Have a Floating Travel Assignment?

If a hospital is short-staffed, they may ask travel nurses to float between different units because: 

  • It’s easier to have one nurse take care of multiple patients than to hire additional staff
  • A particular nurse’s skills are needed in a specific unit; or
  • Because of an acute shortage, nurses may be temporarily assigned to a high-need unit in a hospital

As a result, travel nurses will often be the first to be asked to float at the beginning of their stay at a new facility.


travel float nurse


Are Travel Nurses Required To Float?

Nurses are not required to float. 

In fact, some nurses will never float in their entire career. 

Travel nurses who choose to float must do so for the entire duration of their assignment.

For example, if you are on a 13-week contract and have chosen to float during your assignment, you will most likely float until it ends.

There’s no right or wrong answer here because everyone has different priorities with travel nursing assignments: 

  • Some travel nurses want weekends off
  • Others don’t mind working seven days a week; and
  • Still, others want more than one weekend off per month but don’t care whether or not they float 

The important thing is that before signing up for an assignment, make sure you know what floats mean for that particular facility so you can make an informed decision about whether floating will work for you.


What if You’re Asked to Float to Units Outside of Your Expertise?

Even if you’re a nurse that can wear several different hats in different specialties, there may be times when a manager asks you to float to units that are outside of your expertise. 

While some of these requests may seem reasonable or even appropriate, situations like these can still cause problems for travel nurses who:

  • Aren’t prepared for assigned floating assignments; or
  • Don’t have adequate training opportunities at their disposal when they arrive at their new assignments

What is the best way to prevent this type of situation? 

Discuss your options with your recruiter. You may be able to add into your travel nursing contract which units you’re willing to work on and which you cannot work on. 

However, even if you take steps in advance to prevent floating outside of your expertise …

  • Accidents happen
  • Shifts get messed up; and
  • There could be a shortage of staff at any time

To fully prepare for a float assignment, we encourage you to build a strong relationship with your recruiters so you can discuss these situations with them if situations like these ever occur. 


What Can You Expect if You Are Asked To Float in the Middle of a Shift?

If you are asked to float at any point during a shift, your primary responsibility will be to pick up where your fellow nurse left off. 

For example, if you are working one floor, but the floor above is short staffed and one nurse needs a break, you may be expected to head up to the floor and take over the nurse’s responsibilities until she returns from her break. 

This can mean that you are responsible for caring for an entire hall of patients or just helping in another department.


How Long Will My Assignment Stay Floating?

It is difficult to predict how long an assignment will stay floating because the duration depends on the:

  • Facility
  • Travel nurse; and
  • The facility’s particular needs at that time 

Some facilities have a policy of not floating for more than a week at a time; while others allow for longer periods. 


Is the Pay Different When You Float?

Your salary for being a floating travel nurse generally remains the same — never assume that your salary will increase, or that your bonus pay will change when you become a float. 

When traveling nurses are hired, they typically receive the same pay regardless of whether they’re floating. 


travel nurse float


What Are the Benefits of Floating During a Travel Assignment?

While floating will not be for everyone, it can be an excellent way to gain new skills and experience. 

By floating from one unit to another, you can:

  • Get a feel for the hospital and the units you’re in
  • Work with different patients and staff members; and
  • Explore more suitable units and positions for your nursing career 

If any of the above sounds interesting to you, consider taking advance of the opportunity by finding out how to start a floating travel nurse assignment.

Contact Trusted Nurse Staffing, the number one travel nurse staffing agency for 2022, by clicking below.




5 Tips for Surviving a Floating Travel Nurse Assignment 

If you’re new to travel nursing, however, it’s difficult to know what to expect with floating assignments.

With the following five tips, you can be prepared and survive your first float assignment with a positive experience.


Tip #1: Ask Questions About Floating in Your Interview

The most important tip for surviving a floating travel nurse assignment is to ask detailed questions about floating in your interview. 

Ask the following:

  • How often are travelers asked to take on floating assignments?
  • Will you be expected to float throughout the entire hospital or just on certain hospital floors (e.g. intensive care unit )?
  • How many different units have travel nurses worked on at this facility?

In addition, ask that pertinent details about floating be spelled out in your travel nursing contract so you can avoid problems with your assignment.


Tip #2: Always Be Prepared for Any Changes 

Second, remember that you should always be prepared for changes. 

You may have been working in one area all week and then get asked to float to another unit the next day. 

As a result, you may do things that are completely foreign to you and it’s difficult to adjust to a new unit if:

  • There is little time between shifts; or
  • Shifts occur at different times than what you are used to

Always bring your travel bag with everything you need (i.e., identification badge and laptop) so that when this happens, there won’t be any delays in getting started on your next assignment.


Tip #3: Be Open To Learning

As a travel nurse, you may enter some new environments and situations that you’ve never faced before. 

It’s important to:

  • Ask questions
  • Be open-minded to new ways of doing things
  • Admit that you don’t know how something works
  • Take a minute or two to educate yourself on how things work in the unit 

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if needed, either—your co-workers will appreciate it. 


Tip #4: Stay Organized and Have a Plan for Each Day

Having a plan will help you feel more in control during your assignment, even though things out of your control can change at any time. 

It’s up to you to be prepared for those eventualities and keep moving forward.

Here are some ways to stay organized:

  1. Keep a physical planner (or app) with you at all times. When something comes up, you’re able to write it down or mark it as done without having to worry about forgetting something important later on.
  2. Make a list of the tasks that need completion each day, so when it’s time to round out your shift, you can make sure all work is completed. That way, there aren’t any unfinished tasks hanging around for colleagues.
  3. Use Siri or Google Assistant on your phone, or a voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking on the computer, giving you the ability to dictate. This makes taking notes faster than typing them out by hand.


Tip #5: Speak Up if You Have Any Patient or Safety Concerns

You should never feel you’re not allowed to speak up if you have any patient or safety concerns. 

If something doesn’t feel right, be sure to let your facility and your team know before it’s too late.

Some reasons travel nurses may not speak during floating assignments may include: 

  • “I was afraid to speak up when I had a concern”
  • “I wasn’t comfortable with the assignment”; or 
  • “I didn’t trust my nurse manager.”

Your concerns are never frivolous. Staff members who want to keep patients safe should take all concerns seriously. 

Speak up and advocate to share with those who can help the patient or situation.


travel nurse float pool


Trusted Nurse Staffing: Helping Nurses Successfully Navigate Floating During Travel Assignments

Floating as a travel nurse has its perks and it can be a great opportunity for nurses looking to travel. 

But it also requires some work and preparation on your part if you want to ensure that your experience goes smoothly. 

If you’re considering this type of work, let Trusted Nurse Staffing help you find a travel nursing assignment that includes floating. 

We’ve been in business for over ten years, and have helped thousands of nurses navigate the world of travel nursing. 

Trusted Nurse Staffing has relationships with hundreds of hospitals around the country.

So, if you want to find a travel nurse assignment at …  

  • A hospital close to home; or
  • A new and exciting city

… we can help connect you with the nursing assignment of your dreams.

Contact Trusted Nurse Staffing today for more information on how you can start your next adventure.