5 Steps to Build a Dependable Skilled Nursing Float Pool

By Valerie Kirk//Healthcare Staffing , Workforce Technology, ShiftMed
Two float pool nurses prepare for work

While there was already a shortage of skilled nursing staff and other healthcare workers prior to the pandemic, the past three years have pushed the shortage to critical levels. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 2.1 million job openings in healthcare, which is expected to grow to 3.2 million by 2026 as baby boomers age and require more care.  

Graphic stating 2.1 million job openings in healthcare by Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Historically, nursing shortages were due to issues like lack of training opportunities or retirement. The pandemic fundamentally changed people’s attitudes toward work, causing many people to leave traditional in-house positions. Today, many people want opportunities where they have more control over their schedule, allowing them to work when and how much they want.  

Solving healthcare staffing issues is a complex problem and includes identifying shift gaps, managing pay differentials, integrating contract workers into your culture, and providing meaningful benefits. Making headway requires facilities to think outside the box and tap into the growing skilled labor pool that doesn’t want to be tied to a full-time schedule.

Building a Healthcare Float Pool with a Flexible Workforce 

A healthcare labor pool or float pool is a group of skilled nurses and other qualified healthcare workers that can cover shifts to support in-house staff. Float pool nurses are primarily comprised of health system employees but can also be outside 1099 contractors or are employees of healthcare solutions like ShiftMed.  

Float pools benefit both the facility and the healthcare worker. The facility can access people with clinical nursing skills and other healthcare experience when they need to cover shifts. The float pool nurses can work open shifts based on their personal schedules, allowing them to work when they want. Healthcare facilities that invest in building a float pool can achieve their desired level of continuity of care.  

“Building a dependable labor or float pool needs to be approached strategically,” said Jacob Laufer, Chief Operating Officer at ShiftMed. “This isn’t about the short-term need of covering tomorrow’s open shift. Float pools should be considered an extension of a facility’s hiring strategy.” 

Pull Quote by Jacob Laufer, ShiftMed COO: "Float pools should be considered an extension of a facility’s hiring strategy.”

There are five steps facilities can take to build a dependable floating nurse pool. 

1. Do the Math  

It’s important to know how many people you will need in your float pool to provide the desired level of continuity of care. This starts with analyzing how many hours and shifts per day your facility requires. From there, look at what your in-house staff can reasonably cover adjusted for the average shifts that they may miss. On average, float workers pick up 2.5 shifts per week. By using data about your current situation, you can determine how many float pool nurses you will need to meet your care level goals.  

2. Manage Job Postings  

Once you start posting open shifts, managing those posts is important. The top reason shift workers don’t take open shifts is that the organization has previously canceled them.  

“We recommend posting only 50% of your open shifts prior to 48 hours in advance,” said Laufer. “This gives your in-house team the opportunity to pick up the shifts and potentially earn overtime and reduces the likelihood that you will cancel the shift on the shift worker. You can increase the posting within 48 hours to ensure you get your shift covered.” 

To help facilities overcome this issue, ShiftMed offers Guaranteed Shifts, which pays shift workers if the facility cancels the shift, keeping workers in your float pool satisfied. 

3. Make Your Shift Workers Feel Welcome 

Most facilities have an orientation plan for new hires. A similar plan should be made for your float pool nurses to help them feel welcome in your facility. Set up a welcome checklist. Greet them when they arrive for their first day. Show them around the facility - where the bathrooms are, where they can have lunch, where they can find extra linens, etc. ShiftMed research found that 87% of shift workers return to facilities that took the time to acclimate them to the environment.  

It's also important to talk about the company culture. The goal is to showcase why it’s great to work there so they want to come back, which makes them a dependable worker in your float pool. Also, a good float pool can also be used a recruitment tool when filling in-house positions.  

4. Introduce Them to Your Team  

In addition to showing them around the facility, introduce them to your team, including your leadership team. It’s helpful for shift workers in your float pool to know the names of people they will be working with. It’s also helpful to know who they will be reporting to and who to go to if there is an issue. By introducing your shift workers, they will feel like they are a valued part of your community.  

5. Provide Non-Monetary Benefits 

Float pool nurses typically aren’t eligible for your benefits package, but you can offer them perks. In addition to the flexible scheduling perk, you can accelerate payments for their work. You will see more clicks on your job advertisements when you pay your float pool nurses weekly or even the next day.  

Many healthcare workers also have transportation issues. Offering rides to work will help you build a dependable float pool. ShiftMed partnered with Uber Health to help facilities get shift nurses to and from work.

Finding the Right Float Pool Nurse 

Continuity of care includes quality of care. Facilities shouldn’t compromise nursing skills just to cover a shift. When building a dependable float pool, decide the qualities of a float nurse that you are looking for. Make a nursing skills list, including clinical skills and licensing.  

Partnering with ShiftMed to Build a Float Pool  

ShiftMed hires licensed RNs, LPNs, CNAs, STNAs, and CHWs who have the nursing assessment skills to deliver safe, quality care to patients in various healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, long-term care facilities, and hospitals.   

The ShiftMed nursing app has the right candidates that meet your float pool nurse skill set. Simply add your float pool healthcare jobs to the app, and skilled nurses can pick up the open shifts. From there, you can make connections and build your dependable float pool. You can also send open jobs directly to the nurses you know on the ShiftMed app.  

Because ShiftMed hires nurses as W2 employees, you don’t have to track invoices and payments to contract workers or send 1099s, reducing payroll headaches and back-office costs. ShiftMed also integrates with workforce management systems, including Smartlinx and UKG (Kronos) to streamline and automate HR functions, including timecard oversight.  

You can learn more about building a dependable float pool by requesting a demo to see how it can help your facility overcome nursing shortages.