In one of my earlier blogs (click here), I wrote about how certain virtues are critical for me as I perform my daily duties as a float pool nurse.
I want to delve a little more into what my job looks like daily, weekly, monthly and talk about some of the pros and cons of my job (I’m a list maker and the “pros vs cons” is a definite favorite of mine).
Let’s start a broad picture: a monthly view of my job. It’s pretty easy. I know that I will work Monday-Friday, sometime between 7am-7pm.
However, I don’t know what specialty I will be in, what doctor I will be working for, or what location I’ll be at. I will confess, I’m an over-the-top planner, so adjusting to all the unknowns of working in the float pool was difficult.
The most long term scheduling I receive is the “Saturday On-Call” schedule sign up that comes out every four months. Even then, the on-call requirements are dedicated 1.5 hours on a Saturday morning, with the unknown possibility of being called into work for five more hours.
You must be available to work, but there are no guarantees that you will actually be called in.
Week to week, I tentatively know my schedule. The schedule for the following week is sent out around 3 pm each Friday afternoon, delineated in a grid-like format showing which doctor each float nurse or MA will be working for.
The float pool supervisor has the task of organizing all employees so that each provider has assistance for the clinical day while simultaneously ensuring that all employees have the time off that they need (i.e. for vacation, appointments). If every provider has the needed coverage, then the float pool staff are assigned to “orient” in a department so future coverage is possible.
So you see, I may be assigned to certain departments on the Friday schedule, but nothing is set in stone.
I haven’t mentioned the factor of illness yet. When an employee calls in sick the day-of, the float pool staff get shuffled around in a frantic yet calculated manner. My supervisor is basically a puzzle solver, sending trained floats to cover those who are sick, on vacation, or out for any other myriad of reasons.
Looking at the float pool from my supervisor’s perspective, I understand both the necessity and difficulty of managing the schedule.
From my perspective, though, it can get frustrating and tedious.
My phone is always on in the morning, and I know that I can get a call any time from 6:45 am to 7:30 am asking me to change location or provider. The traffic into Boulder is another beastly annoyance that makes the last-minute calls aggravating. Sometimes if the change of location is too late in the morning, I’ve already driven to my first assignment. Only to get back in the car and head to another place.
I haven’t begun my official “pros and cons the of float pool” yet, but I feel as if I’ve already touched on some of the negatives. So I’ll just continue with a few more. Then I can end on a positive note.
That’s better anyway.
Depth and Breadth
Another hard thing about the float pool is that my week rarely keeps me in the same specialty for days in a row. What this means is that I could be in Allergy on Monday, Pediatrics on Tuesday, OB/GYN on Wednesday, Orthopedics on Thursday, and Family Practice on Friday.
When my weeks look like this, the quote from Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring comes back to me: “I feel like butter, scraped across too much bread.” In other words, the depth of my knowledge of specialty areas pales in comparison to the breadth.
I know some things about each department, but I am never in one area long enough to truly develop the focused attention that the permanent staff has.
I find it tiresome to continually ask questions of the workers who spend every day in a specific practice, yet I know that my questions are necessary so that I don’t perform any task that I am not sure about. After all, patient safety is my number one concern.
On a Positive Note…
Despite all the negative aspects of working as a float, I definitely need to highlight the good parts of working as a float nurse. (Yes, there are good things).
First, I find that I avoid all the office drama. I try to avoid drama at all costs (always have), and this is a ridiculously effective way of doing so. I come into an office for the day, help out in the best way I can, and wrap up my day’s work before heading home.
I have to direct most of my focus to perform all the necessary patient care activities so that everything gets done in a timely manner.
When I get pulled to orthopedics, I have to make sure all the x-rays are ordered for the day, procedure supplies are prepared, and medications are ready.
In pediatrics, I have to check all of the patients’ immunizations to figure out who is up to date and who needs vaccines.
I honestly don’t have much time to talk about other staff or patients who “may have done this” or “have this home situation.” Not that I would really want to, even if I had time.
Secondly, I have been able to explore so many different areas of medicine while being a float nurse.
I’ve learned to set up pregnant patients on the baby monitors to perform non-stress tests.
I’ve memorized different pediatric developmental milestones and required vaccinations simply from repetition.
I’ve helped cast a 14-month old with an arm fracture.
I’ve sawed off casts and pulled stitches.
I’ve gotten sterile for cyst removal.
I’ve tested patients for allergies through skin-prick and intradermal testing.
I’ve also learned how to tactfully inform patients of abnormal test results and genuinely listen to patient’s concerns.
I don’t want to end on a cheesy note, but I think that the float pool has been a good opportunity for me, despite its challenges. I’ve grown immensely and I know that I don’t want to float around forever, but for now, I am content.