What Is a Float Pool Nurse?

Woman with short blonde hair and blue shirt.
Written by Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN Freelance Writer, IntelyCare
Float pool nurse with tablet smiling in hospital hallway.

Joining the nursing profession gives you almost limitless opportunities to make a career for yourself. Some registered nurses (RNs) don’t want to work full time, and that’s okay! After getting a little experience, many RNs work as float pool nurses — that is, they work as needed instead of full time.

Float pool nurses may join full-time staff members at a hospital to help cover staffing shortages, or they may be called to work if a facility has a high patient volume. Sometimes, these nurses are referred to as PRN, which stands for pro re nata (Latin for “as needed”).

They’re also different from per diem nurses, who typically work by the day in various locations. The great thing about nursing float pools is that you can accept shifts that best suit your lifestyle; there is never any contractual obligation to work if you cannot or do not want to.

What Are the Typical Responsibilities of a Float Pool Nurse?

Float pool nurses have all the same responsibilities of a full-time RN. However, they need to be prepared to work in almost any clinical environment. Healthcare facilities will call upon float pool nurses whenever the need arises — this means that you may work on a med-surg floor for one shift, then pick up a second shift on a stepdown unit.

Float pool nurses must be competent in all aspects of patient care. As registered nurses, all float pool nurses complete a variety of tasks and duties each shift, including:

  • Administering and monitoring medications
  • Assisting patients with their daily activities
  • Completing and documenting physical assessments
  • Educating patients on their diagnosis and treatment plan
  • Performing basic and advanced life support if necessary
  • Preparing patients for surgery or other bedside procedures
  • Reviewing and maintaining medical records
  • Supervising other nurses and nursing students

Many nurses who work float pools help patients in long-term care facilities. They help patients bathe and dress themselves, eat, and complete daily chores or other tasks. In many cases, long-term care float pool nurses move between facilities that are part of the same health system.

How Can You Become a Float Pool Nurse?

To work in a float pool, you’ll first need to get your nursing license and work as an RN for a few years. Completing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) will prepare you for entry into the healthcare industry. Generally, ADN programs take two years, while BSN programs last about four years.

After receiving your degree, you’ll need to pass the National Certification Licensing Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). This licensing exam takes several hours to complete, and you’ll need to be ready to answer questions related to various aspects of nursing.

Passing the NCLEX-RN is your ticket to employment as a registered nurse. After passing the exam, you can apply to any RN jobs at any healthcare facility. Keep in mind that you may need to get some experience before you can work in a nursing float pool — most facilities require nurses to have a certain amount of experience before assigning them PRN shifts.

In some cases, medical staffing agencies hire nurses to work in a float pool. Depending on the agency, you may face stricter requirements regarding your experience or skills. It’s best to talk directly with the staffing agency to find out how you can work in a nursing float pool.

Some long-term care facilities may hire their own nursing float pools to be available to fill shifts at their various locations, or on various wings of a singular location. This can provide you with a work experience similar to per diem nursing jobs, but with more familiarity in terms of your work environment.

What Are the Benefits of Working as a Float Pool Nurse?


Working in a nursing float pool means you set your own schedule. You can accept work on your own terms. There usually isn’t a set schedule you’ll have to stick to. Instead, you can work when you want to.

Stronger Clinical Skills

Float pool nurses must be able to adapt to any patient assignment. Because each shift may have you working in different areas of the hospital or clinic, you’ll need solid clinical skills to succeed. Working in various clinical environments also expands your skill set, so you’ll be more prepared for future nursing float pool shifts.

It’s Always Different

Because float pool nursing means you’re employed as needed, there’s no telling what assignment you’ll receive for the day. It’s almost impossible to fall into a boring routine since every day is different from the next.

What Is the Average Float Pool Nurse Salary?

The average registered nurse salary is $89,010 every year. That’s about $43 per hour. Keep in mind that float pool nurses are often paid more since they don’t receive full-time employee benefits. Also, some RNs use nursing float pool shifts as a way to make extra income while still keeping their full-time jobs.

Is Becoming a Float Pool Nurse Right for You?

Float pool nursing can bolster your clinical skills while providing a better work-life balance. But if you want a change and need a choice as to where you work, IntelyCare has a full range of jobs. Start a new career direction right now.