A reader recently contacted me with the question, “Am I required to float as a traveler?” The short answer is: Yes, welcome to the life of a traveler.
In most facilities when the unit census is low, the travelers will be the first nurses to float to other units. However, this is another one of those rules that will depend on the facility in which you work; the way this rule is applied will also differ.
Some hospitals will deem travelers as outside staff or agency employees, while others will consider travelers the same as their regular staff. However, it seems that when it comes to floating, a traveler will almost always be the first one called to do so.
If there are a large number of travelers in your unit, the charge nurses should keep a record of the floats. This way they can at least make sure that among the travelers, everyone has their turn. In some hospitals they might even put the travelers into the float rotation with the regular staff; however, in over a decade of travel, I believe I have only worked at one facility that did this. You can always try to negotiate a contract where you are not required to float, but this too will be a rarity.
Before you accept a position with a hospital, you should ask in the interview what their float policy is in regard to travelers. You should also ask which units you might be asked to cover. For example, on my current contract, as a critical care nurse, I am only asked to cover other critical care areas in the hospital, and not tele or med-surg.
If you are ever asked to float to an area that is outside your scope of practice, you must seriously consider what it is you are being asked to do. For example, if I was ever asked to float to OB, I would want to know what was required of me. If they told me they just needed someone to help out and possible start an IV or two, I would have no problem with that float. However, if they wanted me to take patients who were on fetal heart monitors or immediate post delivery, I would have to tell them that it was a float with which I would not be comfortable, and decline.
Never let a charge nurse or nursing supervisor pressure you into a float that is clearly outside your scope of practice. After all, it’s YOUR license and it’s doubtful that anyone else will take the responsibility to protect it.