The conventional wisdom
A float pool is a team of nurses who typically practice across inpatient units within a hospital, rather than specializing in a single unit. Nurse leaders deploy float nurses to staff surges or cover long-term vacancies, reducing the organization’s reliance on agency labor. In the past few years, hospitals created specialized float pools, such as critical care and medical teams, to better match float staff skill to patient acuity.
This success hasn’t come easily. Float pools can be particularly difficult teams to recruit for and retain staff. They typically contain experienced nurses, who are in short supply. And leaders have traditionally struggled to create a supportive work environment, or to connect float teams to the larger nursing workforce. These struggles resulted in high turnover.
But, in the past decade, nurse leaders made progress in reducing float nurse turnover and vacancies. Many organizations have also increased the number of float roles in their workforce. But overall, the fundamental structure and function of float pools has changed little since their inception—because they’ve been working as intended for inpatient facilities.