Healthy Workforce

Welcoming Floaters, Travelers and Registry Nurses

Roll out the red carpet

Nurse in green scrubs standing on red carpet waving to the viewer while holding a clipboard

Bad Behavior: Unkind and unsupportive treatment of outside nurses
Culture of Caring Solution: Be welcoming and grateful for their help

One of the most anxiety-provoking situations for nurses is to come into work and find out they have been floated to another unit. The unfamiliar environment isn’t usually the problem — the anxiety comes from the painful awareness that temporary nurses are usually ignored or treated with disdain.

Float staff and nurses from travel or registry services frequently receive the worst treatment and toughest patient assignments. I’ve heard nurses say, “Well, travelers and agency nurses make the big bucks — they should expect to get the worst patients.” We often exclude, ignore and torment float nurses as well.

Here are some real-world examples of how this poor treatment might manifest:
  • The nurses refuse to give float nurses the code to the staff bathroom, forcing them to leave the unit and find a public bathroom.
  • The staff hides the blood pressure cuffs and won’t give travel nurses a med cart.
  • Registry nurses are regularly assigned all the isolation, incontinent and dementia patients.

Rather than being hostile and horrible to fellow nurses who are there to help, instead make a point of welcoming them by rolling out the red carpet. Treat colleagues who don’t normally work on your unit as if they were honored guests in your home. For example:

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Give Them the Easiest Assignments

Resist the temptation to give the floater or registry nurse the difficult or demanding patients everyone else dreads dealing with. Remember, any newcomer will be spending time and energy just getting used to your unit. By giving them the easiest patients, you are ensuring they can acclimate to your workflow and focus on why they are there — patient care.

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It will be much better for everyone if you assign particularly challenging patients to nurses who are already familiar with their situation, needs and family dynamics.

Thank Newcomers

Before they leave for the day, every employee in your unit should thank floaters and agency nurses for being there, for helping and for being guests in your “home.” If they feel appreciated, they are much more likely to come back.

As nurses, we have an ethical responsibility to make decisions based on what’s best for the patients we serve. How you treat staff who float to your unit is a reflection of the type of care you provide as a team.

Remember, you are only as good as the weakest member on your unit. By welcoming and supporting newcomers rather than undermining them, you ensure a stronger, more cohesive, healthier workforce.

RENEE THOMPSON, RN, DNP, CMSRN, is the CEO and founder of the Healthy Workforce Institute. As a speaker, author and consultant, her goal is to eradicate nurse bullying and incivility.


JASMIN MORA is a Los Angeles-based illustrator. Reach her at

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