Within inpatient facilities, the term “floating” can evoke frustration among nurses and be a major staff dissatisfier. This is understandable. Nurses who are “core” staff to a unit obviously prefer to work on their home unit. They have relationships with their coworkers, they know where everything is, and they have general sense of comfort and familiarity that helps them focus on their job – caring for their patients.
What would change if there was no more floating?
If we were to declare an end to floating, what would happen? First of all, nurses across the country would let out a collective sigh of relief. They would know that every day they would go to work in the area they are most comfortable.
There is also the chance that they could be over staffed and sent home. Or, perhaps they would arrive to their department to find that they are understaffed, and because there was no more floating, they’d have to hope they would get someone from the float pool, someone would extend their shift, or that their manager would be able to recruit last-minute help or bring in agency staff.
Floating, as most people in healthcare realize, is an occasionally necessary reality. There are a few strategies though that can greatly reduce the frequency as well as organizational changes that can eliminate the stigma of floating all together.
Leveraging Workforce Analytics and Predictive Modeling
Minimizing floating core staff can be achieved by having the right-sized workforce (the right mix of core staff and contingency resources, such as site-based and enterprise float resources) and scheduling to predicted patient demand.
Aligning staff that flexes to patient demand is possible by identifying the right number of resources needed. By evaluating metrics like workload, FMLA, demographic trends, and staff behaviors, organization can establish the optimal number of core staff FTEs per unit. This analysis also determines the amount of contingency resources need to adjust to the ebb and flow of patient demand. Once target staffing levels are determined, using predictive analytics to forecast staffing needs months in advance allows staff to be placed sooner.
Shifting the Culture
Understanding that scheduling core staff outside of their home unit may be occasionally necessary, how can we create an environment in which this is more accepted by staff? Having all employees onboard with an organization’s objectives ensures everyone is working together for the greater good – a true enterprise mentality.
Transparency and communication are key when attempting to align employees with an organization’s goals. When bringing new employees into an organization, the expectation should be made clear to them that they will work within a certain peer group, rather than one specific unit. Policy and contract language should outline the expectation that core staff will be shared with “sister units” that have similar competency requirements to support the enterprise staffing mentality.
Creating Fairness through Standardization
Standardization of organizational practices and policies regarding the management of sharing resources should also be applied and monitored. An order should be established regarding which resources will be the first to be shared with other units. A best practice recommendation is to share contingency resources first, including staff in extra and overtime.
Taking a fresh look at the language, moving away from using the word “float” will diminish the negative connotation around core staff’s mentality to float off their home unit. Within organizations that have an enterprise staffing mentality, core staff should view themselves as a resource who has the competency to assist other units when needed. This reaffirms they are part of a larger team and want to do what is best for the organization and its patients.
Viewing core staff as resources that should be scheduled and utilized in the areas of greatest need may be a new concept for organizations that have not previously shared resources. Increasing the flexibility of core staff resources is a key initiative to ensure all shifts are adequately covered.
Changing the terminology will not automatically change core staff’s feelings about floating. It is a process that requires a change in organizational mindset. Building a culture that accepts sharing resources for the benefits they have for the enterprise and its patients takes effort. But the payoff is great. Having an organization that strategically places resources while not spreading core staff too thin creates a positive, results-driven workforce.