Using Float Pools to Reduce Nurse Overtime Costs

Using Float Pools to Reduce Nurse Overtime Costs

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

Often, it can be hard to properly manage staff scheduling. Flexes in patient intake volumes can sometimes make having a set schedule a waste of hospital and facility resources. For example, a healthcare organization may see a flood of patients at mid-day, but this might slow to a trickle overnight. If nurses are on set schedules, this means they might be getting paid to work when they aren’t even needed.

One way to reduce this waste is to create a float pool scheduling system. This will help to ensure that the proper amount of nurses is always available when patient volumes are projected to be high.

What Is a Float Pool?

A float pool is a flexible system of scheduling that lets leaders adjust for fluctuations in volume and activity. Nurses will not be assigned a regular set shift; instead, they’ll be invited to come in and work when volume levels are high. For example, instead of simply having four nurses work a 12-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on a Monday, leadership might do some investigating and realize that patient intake levels are lower on Monday mornings. Because of this, they can stagger nurses’ schedules to better accommodate these influxes.

Benefits of a Float Pool

Clearly, a float pool has many benefits for healthcare organizations. Several studies have found that float nurses are typically more competent and provide higher quality care than regular nurses. This is because they are cross-trained in different areas of care and may know how to better monitor rare conditions.

Not only that, but float pools offer nurses more autonomy and flexibility over their schedule. Instead of being stuck in a repeating schedule that offers limited time off, nurses can pick and choose which shifts they’d like to work. Even better, they’ll be able to gather more clinical experiences which they can use to broaden their knowledge and sharpen their teamwork skills.

As for the healthcare organization itself, float pools can help save thousands over the course of a year. There won’t be any wasted productivity on the job, and patients will receive the optimum level of care they need to heal faster and better.

Tips for Helping Float Nurses Adjust

It doesn’t matter if a float system will help an organization save money if their patients aren’t getting the care they need. Unfortunately, some float nurses often feel unprepared for the job if they are shifted to an unfamiliar unit. This may make them feel unengaged and also mean they aren’t adequately prepared to provide specialized care to patients.

To prevent this, leaders might want to create orientation packets or tip sheets for floating nurses new to the unit. Additionally, having one nurse without a caseload is a great tool for guiding and assisting float nurses.

How to Implement a Float Pool

It might take some time to transition into a float pool system, as some nurses may be reluctant to switch to the new system. This is why it’s important to give nurses the right to decline floating, especially for seasoned veterans who might scoff at the change. Instead, leadership can give them the offer to use benefit time or to take time off without pay if patient volume is too low to justify them working.

Implementing a float pool is not as hard as it sounds. The most important tool for an organization to have in its arsenal is cloud-based workforce management software. With this kind of system set up, it becomes incredibly easy to manage the variable scheduling of nurses. There won’t be any more miscommunications about who is coming in and what time their shift starts. Instead, nursing leadership can instantly check their computer or tablet to see the schedule. Perhaps most importantly, they can also make changes to the schedule on the fly while still keeping things up-to-date in the system.

Healthcare Staff Scheduling. Developed by Nurses for Nurses.

ShiftWizard makes nurse scheduling and communication easy, so you can focus on what really matters---improving patient outcomes.