2. Floating nurses to other units
One nurse is not the same as another. Plugging a hole in a geriatric med-surg unit by bringing in a nurse from the pediatric floor results in an experienced, competent nurse suddenly becoming an unskilled newbie. A quick orientation won't solve those problems. Forced floating is usually indicative of larger staffing problems, but even so, its routine use is dissatisfying and compromises patient safety.
Instead, create a dedicated float pool staffed by nurses who volunteer and who can be prepared and cross-trained. Institute float pool guidelines that nurses float to like units. For example, critical care nurses find a step-down unit an easier transition than pediatrics.
Float pool shifts open up options for nurses who need more flexibility and offering a higher rate means you'll never be short of volunteers.
Nurses are already understaffed and overworked. Hospitals with too few assistants rub salt on the wounds. RNs shouldn't have to take time from critical patient care activities to clean a room or collect supplies. Gary Sculli, RN, MSN, ATP, patient safety expert and crew resource management author, offers a vivid analogy. Imagine if half way through a flight you saw the pilot come down the aisle handing out drinks because the plane was short staffed. It just wouldn't happen.
Yes, cleaning a room is important, but don't force nurses' attention away from their patients. Distractions are dangerous and compromise patient safety.
Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.