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Employer Resources / Healthcare Workforce Development / 5 Ways Float Pools Can Help Address Healthcare Worker Burnout

Healthcare worker burnout has become an increasingly significant issue throughout the healthcare industry. Burnout among healthcare workers affects patient care and can cause decreased job satisfaction and performance, leading to high clinician turnover, exacerbating staffing shortages, and threatening staff and patient safety. Healthcare administrators continuously seek innovative solutions to this challenge. One such solution is clinician float pools, which have been gaining traction for reducing clinician burnout and turnover, lowering labor costs, and offering clinicians flexibility. In this blog post, we'll cover five ways float pools can help address healthcare worker burnout.

What is a float pool?

A healthcare float pool (also known as a labor pool or internal resource pool) is an on-demand roster of pre-verified, credentialed clinicians and other healthcare professionals that can be called in to support a hospital's core staff in times of unexpected spikes in patient volume or to cover open shifts on short notice. Float Pools have been around for decades and have historically been viewed as a disruption to the standard operations of the hospital's core, full-time clinical staff. However, COVID-19 brought to light the healthcare labor crisis that has been building for years, and float pools have been critical to hospitals' ability to maintain operations and protect hospital staff from physical, mental, and emotional burnout

Here are five ways float pools can help address clinician burnout.

1 - Decreases fatigue and excessive overtime of full-time clinical staff

When a hospital lacks a well-functioning float pool, full-time clinical staff endures the pain of sudden staffing shortages and last-minute callouts. Many organizations will float a nurse from their home department to the department that needs additional resources. However, nurses working in a permanent role typically prefer the consistency and stability that permanent placement positions provide, and sending them to unfamiliar departments can cause anxiety, job dissatisfaction, and ineffective patient care. 

Clinicians that enjoy the opportunity to work with new types of patients and environments are attracted to float pool arrangements. By building a dedicated float pool, hospitals can keep their departmental clinical units intact, support in-house teams when needed, and ensure patient needs can be met. 

2 - Maintains safe nurse-to-patient ratios and quality patient care

Patient overload is one of the top causes of chronic stress and burnout for clinicians and is proven to lead to poor patient outcomes, medical errors, and unnecessary deaths

study conducted by a Penn Nursing CHOPR team headed by Aiken found that in hospitals with high nurse-to-patient ratios, "...each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 7% increase in the likelihood of dying within 30 days of admission and a 7% increase in the odds of failure-to-rescue (or the failure to respond effectively to post-surgical complications). Each additional patient per nurse was associated with a 23% increase in the odds of nurse burnout and a 15% increase in the odds of nurse job dissatisfaction." 

Despite the evidence and the recommended baseline nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:4, hospitals nationwide typically set nurse-to-patient ratios higher to cut costs. Ironically, spreading the hospital's nursing staff too thin negatively affects financial performance. A study published by Healthcare Management Review found that appropriate nurse staffing levels positively affect financial performance.  

Given the negative results understaffing can have on a hospital's performance, the answer isn't reducing clinical staff; but rather more effectively and strategically utilizing your resources. Float pools can ensure that safe nurse-to-patient ratios are maintained when there are staff shortages or increased patient volumes while protecting the hospital's operational and financial stability.

3 - Float Pools give clinicians flexibility and control over their schedules

Float pool models help empower and meet the needs of healthcare professionals for both full-time and float-pool clinicians. As mentioned above, full-time employees get the stability of a consistent work schedule, paycheck, and benefits. On the other hand, float pool workers receive flexibility and control of when and where they work. By supporting flexibility and autonomy in your float pool model, you create an environment where your clinicians feel supported and valued, increasing their engagement and job satisfaction.

4 - Provides opportunities for clinicians to grow their skillset

Since members of the float pool are deployed in different areas of the hospital and across facilities, they support clinicians looking to grow their skillset, experience, and clinical expertise. For clinicians early in their careers, floating is a great way to train in various clinical specialties and care settings, obtain additional licenses and certifications, expand their professional network, and discover their passions. 

Float Pools' variety of work keeps its members engaged and motivated by the challenge of something different every day. Additionally, floating staff can feel supported in their career development with the tremendous experience that float pool variety provides. 

5 - Builds a supportive and inclusive work community

A float pool can help build a supportive and inclusive environment at a hospital by providing clinicians with the flexibility to have more work-life balance. By adjusting their schedules according to their needs, members of the float pool can attend important events in their personal lives without worrying about missing shifts or being overwhelmed by too many hours of work. With the reassurance that qualified professionals are available for unexpected callouts or open shifts, full-time teams can maintain their regular work routine and not worry about being understaffed or unexpectedly moved to a different unit. 

Furthermore, a strategically built float pool can increase the diversity of your clinical workforce. In-house teams are introduced to talented professionals with a wealth of experience and diverse backgrounds. In addition, having access to experienced clinicians who understand the unique challenges of working in various departments can support new or struggling nurses. Because float pool members are regular fixtures at the hospital compared to traditional contract or travel workers, deeper connections can be made between the float pool team and the core team, leading to better teamwork, a more enjoyable work environment, and improved patient care.  

Float pools allow hospitals to promote collaboration between staff members while giving clinicians more control over managing their time and workloads.

Final Thoughts

Float pools provide a much-needed respite from healthcare worker burnout at a time when the industry needs it most. They can maintain safe staffing ratios and quality patient care and support a more empowered and inspired community of clinicians while reducing labor costs. Furthermore, they can give clinical staff flexibility and control over their schedules and offer growth opportunities for their skill sets. It's no wonder that healthcare administrators are increasingly turning toward float pools to alleviate burnout. 

If you'd like to explore possible solutions for your organization's float pool management system, join us for our webinar, Address Clinical Workforce Challenges with DirectShifts Float Pool Management Solutionon Wednesday, July 12th at 3:00 PM EDT, where we discuss how we are modernizing the traditional float pool model to address today's clinical workforce challenges.


Jake Behnke
Post by Jake Behnke
June 15, 2023


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