The Frustrated Float Nurse

Here’s the deal…

As a traveler in labor and delivery, I can be floated within women’s services, which includes antepartum and postpartum (PP) units even though I have no PP experience. When you are a traveler, you go where they tell you, unless safety is compromised. During the phone interview, the manager reassured me the likelihood of floating to PP was low. Last week revealed a different reality as I floated 5 times in 4 shifts.

Most of my nursing career, I have worked in specialty units (ICU and L&D) in which I managed one or two high acuity patients. Even though PP acuity is low, managing eight patients (4 moms and 4 babies) requires a different set of skills and organization.

Four hours after I assessed, medicated and tuned up my patients, I was sent to a different unit, antepartum. My assignment included a postop GYN patient who was being ruled out for a pulmonary embolism, a stable antepartum patient and a new admission. The new admission had ruptured her bag of water and was losing her twin pregnancy of 21 weeks.

This was a busy assignment especially after settling in all my patients the previous 4 hours but I was much more in my comfort zone and that made all the difference. Shortly before I went off shift my patient moved into active labor, requiring an epidural. When the next shift came in, they felt terrible that I floated twice and had a challenging assignment. Of course venting felt therapeutic but I went home annoyed and I woke up annoyed. Then I was annoyed by my bad mood!

I had a choice, I could remain cranky for the next five weeks anytime I floated or I could change my attitude. Sylvia Boorstein, author of It’s Easier Than You Think has a saying that comes in handy for situations like this.

“It’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I’ve got”.

We can have a physical pain or a negative circumstance but how we relate to it impacts whether we add more stress to it or neutralize it. I decided I needed an attitude adjustment or I was going to make myself miserable for the remainder of the assignment. There is no part of floating that I want to embrace but I adjusted my expectations to be prepared to float and when I went in that night, I indeed was sent to post partum for four hours. I was met with a lot of empathy from the staff and they adjusted the assignments to give me higher acuity moms without the babies.

The following shift, the other traveler floated and I had the comfort zone of an active labor patient who delivered on my shift.

It’s really easy to be happy and mindful when things are going our way. The true test is how we handle ourselves when we are challenged. It may not always happen in the moment but if we can create the space to reflect on how to approach a situation with less resistance, we often find we encounter a lot less stress.