Hospitality for Your Floaters & Travelers

When I see a nurse or CNA I don't recognize creeping sheepishly into our conversation-filled report room at shift change, I make a point to say hello, ask if they're joining us and give them a warm welcome. Let's face it, for new and experienced nurses alike, floating can be stressful. It's even worse when you walk into a room and your co-workers for the next twelve or so hours don't acknowledge your presence, or they do and it's smile-less and brisk. This can set a sour tone for the shift and put the balance of the team off-kilter.

If you need a floater or a traveler to complete your staffing for the shift, you'd better treat them well. After all, the whole point of them being there is to help you. Otherwise, those extra patients get spread around an already thin staff.  I believe in the five-star treatment for our guest nurses and CNAs. Introduce yourself, get them connected with the charge nurse for their assignment, and don't forget to show them around - the bathroom, med rooms, linen closets, light switches, etc. Wasted minutes and frustrations add up when you can't find things during a busy shift.

I had a particularly bad float experience years ago when I went to a unit where I didn't have access to the bathroom. My badge wasn't recognized by the door readers on that unit, so each time I had to pee or access my personal items, I had to ask another staff member to let me in. I got rolled eyes and huffy replies. To this day, I hate floating there. It's all about how I was treated. Not as a helpful staff member, but as an do you think I felt asking permission to pee?

Here are my top tips for Floater Hospitality, in no particular order:

1. Intro to the unit and the staff. Give a general idea of the layout, what support staff are usually around, if there are special expectations or times for care of your patient population, and introduce them to other nurses and CNAs. Let them know who to ask if they have questions or problems.

2. Check in periodically to make sure they're acclimating ok. Just a throw 'em a quick "Hey, you doing ok? Need anything?" when you have a free minute.  This should be a courtesy extended to every member of your team, but especially to staff members who might be struggling and not know how or who to ask for help....unless you took my advice from step 1, in which case they know how to get the assistance they need. ;)

3. If you have time, be chatty and learn something about them. They might have a particular strength that you can learn from, or they might be an ally to you when you float to their unit. Who knows - maybe they'll love your unit and apply for a  permanent job and make your team that much better. Networking in nursing is never a bad thing and can lead to relationships and opportunities that become valuable down the road.

4. If they're going to be with you awhile, or if they're new to the area, adopt them. Include them in any out-of-work activities your colleagues might participate in on days off or after work. I found a new nurse bff that way....he knows who he is. ;) I've met lots of cool traveling nurses and many have decided to stay with us for many "re-ups" of their contracts. We just said goodbye to a great lady who was with us for 6 months. That's because we have our nursing hospitality down. We love our floats and travelers and we want them to WANT to come back and work with us.

5. On a more serious note: set aside your resentments that travelers make more money than you to work alongside you-you get to go home to your family and own bed at night. Sure, I wish all nurses, travelers or not, made a nice little bankroll. But look at the non-monetary rewards and drawbacks of travel vs stationary nurses. Set aside any bitterness towards these nurses who are taking a huge chance of leaving home to work somewhere they may know no one. Treat them like you would want to be treated if you were the new kid on the block.

6. If you see any co-workers being less than hospitable, do what you can to show that a bullying mentality is not gonna fly on your unit. If you don't feel comfortable telling someone to stop negative behavior, you can at least be a positive example of a hospitable nurse and team player.

If I've learned anything working in a hospital for years, it's that a person you work with once today may someday become a permanent co-worker. Or you may find that you're on their unit, feeling stressed and out of your element, looking for a friendly face to make the float less stressful. In any case, it's always best to foster good working relationships, including with those single-serving co-workers helping out for a shift or short-term travelers. Keep your nurse karma good and treat your nursing brothers and sisters to a warm welcome when they come your way.


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