Create a Culture of Caring for Float Staff

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How to create a culture of caring for float staffA culture of caring is CRUCIAL in healthcare. Especially when it comes to caring for float staff.

One of the worst experiences nurses have is when they THINK they are working on their home unit only to find out they’ve been pulled to another unit. Ugh. We all know what happens to float nurses, travelers, and agency nurses. They often get the worst assignments, don’t get a lunch break, and are treated like gum on someone’s shoe!

One nurse shared that every time she was pulled to a particular unit, she was always assigned patients who were incontinent, in isolation, or in alcohol withdrawal!

A manager of a float pool told me that when her nurses were assigned to one particular medical surgical unit, they would NEVER get a lunch break, the staff would hide the good equipment leaving her nurses with the broken ones, and they would change the code on the staff bathroom door, forcing the float nurse to use the public bathroom (two hallways down from the unit)! When she talked to the manager of this unit (based on my advice), the manager said, “Well, you know how nurses are.”

REALLY?? Shame on her.

If you work in an organization that pulls nurses from unit to unit to meet the needs, work as a traveler or from an agency, it is an unfortunate expectation that you get the worst patient assignments and are treated with cruelty.


Most units depend on other people to fill the gaps in staffing needs, sometimes on a daily basis. This means that on any given day, a nurse or nursing assistant might walk into work expecting to work their normal shift only to find out they’ve been pulled to another unit. Other times, the staffing needs are so significant that the organization is forced to hire temporary help through an agency. Regardless, when nurses are asked to work on a unit that is not their home unit, they are typically treated terribly. In fact, many nurses would rather go home without pay than work on another unit!

Why, why, why do we treat float staff and travelers this way? Because they make more money? Think about it – should how much a nurse makes per hour play any role in what assignment they receive? What if your mom was a patient on your unit? Wouldn’t you go out of your way to support that float nurse or traveler if he/she was assigned to your mom?? What difference does it make how much money someone makes?

Remember, when someone works on your unit, they are a reflection of you.

The issue of treating pulled or agency staff like gum on our shoes is a common problem across all healthcare organizations. These disruptions are happening every day in every healthcare organization and it’s got to stop but the problem is…NOBODY is DOING anything about it.

Until now.

At the Healthy Workforce Institute, we are stepping up to address common disruptions in healthcare, like how we treat floaters, as a part of our Culture of Caring initiatives. All across the country, healthcare organizations are finally starting to recognize the negative impact these disruptions have on employee satisfaction, retention, costs, and ultimate patient care. And it’s working!

We’ve just launched The Culture of Caring mini course as part of our Healthy Workforce Academy. The initiatives in this mini course are designed as a partnership between the leader, who can be a manager or director, and their nurses. By partnering, leaders can empower their employees to step up and become involved in addressing these common disruptions so that it’s not just one more thing the boss has to do.

Our “Roll out the Red Carpet” initiative ensures float/pulled staff and travelers are welcomed and well supported. This initiative may start on one unit but then scale to the entire organization so that any time an employee gets pulled or if you have help from an agency, they are treated like celebrities, or as I like to say, “guests in your home.”


Check out how Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami Florida is stepping up to create a culture of caring by rolling out the red carpet within their patient care units:

I’ve been working with the nursing leadership and employees at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital over the last year. Like many organizations, they realized that although they provide amazing clinical care to children, they weren’t always supportive and respectful to each other. In particular, the nurses voiced the issue of how pulled people are treated and decided to adopt the “Red Carpet Treatment.” Led by their Nursing Practice Council, each unit selected one of the four initiatives within the culture of caring program (sacred spaces, red carpet, shift success, mother bear) to roll out first (empowered employees).

On 2 South, which is a surgical unit, they adopted the red carpet treatment. Here is an email we received from a nurse, Natalia Lopez-Magua, who found herself pulled to 2 South one day.

Hello Ladies

I wanted you to know the staff yesterday did a great job at rolling out the red carpet for me. I felt they were genuinely worried about how my day was. I was asked multiple times if I was ok, needed help, and not to feel bad for asking. No one seemed annoyed or aggravated with having to help me, or answer all my questions.

In particular I would like to recognize Vicky. My assignment was changed early in the shift due to her concerns of a complex discharge. As she was explaining it to me she felt the patient would be better off with her. She gave me a lighter patient from her team that she felt I could handle. She didn’t care to take on more work; rather she felt it was more important to provide the patient the best care.

I am truly grateful for how your staff made me feel yesterday (especially since my day started off so crappy) Not sure if rolling out the red carpet is your initiative, but you are doing a great job at it.


I had the opportunity to talk with Natalia about her experience. Truth be told, she had NOT had a good experience on that unit in the past when pulled and she was dreading the day. She shared that while Vicky was making the decision regarding the difficult assignment, she actually stopped and said, “You know what? I’m going to ‘red carpet’ you and take this assignment myself. He’s too complex and that’s not fair to you.”

She actually turned “red carpet” into a verb!!!

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is stepping up to say that the way we treat each other is equally as important as the clinical care we provide.

What about your organization?

At first, these initiatives were only available to organizations that brought me in as a consultant to help them create and sustain a healthy workforce. But now, because of how successful they have been in creating a culture of caring, I’m making them available to any organization.

If you’d like to find out how you can bring the Red Carpet Treatment to YOUR organization, click here to get instant access to a 10-minute training about the 4 most common disruptions and find out how you can bring the Culture of Caring to your organization.

To cultivate a culture where float staff are treated professionally, with respect, and with a sense of appreciation for their help, adopt the Rolling Out the Red Carpet Initiative as part of a Healthy Workforce!!

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected.

Helping you cultivate a healthy happy workforce,

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4 thoughts on “Create a Culture of Caring for Float Staff”

  1. I work as a bank HCSW for the NHS and on frequent occasion endure ignorance/silence/feeling outcast purely due to the fact that I like to move around and refuse to be part of the clique. Add to that, I often challenge poor practice, which doesn’t go well and I can sense the gang culture/whispering going on. It’s a shame, as I love banking and have done it for 6 years and it has given me tons of confidence, adaptability and forces me to be uncomfortable which only means I get better at my role all the time. Its a shame a few nurses spoil it for the rest out of jealousy and low self esteem etc

    1. Exactly!! That’s why one of my healthy workforce initiatives is “Red Carpet Treatment” for nurses who float to other units. We should treat them like guests in our homes!! What strategies are you using to protect yourself from them?

      1. Thankfully now, I tend to ignore the gossip and whispering as I know all the wards that I work on and the routine. Ultimately my focus is on the patients, so I concentrate on that and let them get on with it. I think BECAUSE of the banking is the only reason why I can handle treatment like this as it’s really forced me to deal with a great deal of staff. Something you don’t get working on the same wards for many years. I’ve exercised my assertive muscles over the years, lets put it that way.

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