How to Spend Less on Float Pool Scheduling

Hospitals have been using float pool scheduling for almost four decades for a reason: they’re effective. But scheduling and managing float pools can still be complex and time-consuming. Luckily, with the right system in place, you can make float pool scheduling more efficient and cost-effective.

Float pools keep hospitals adequately staffed and able to handle any challenges that might arise during a shift. They’re literally designed to meet the fluctuating nature of the clinical setting.

With a well-run, high-functioning float pool, nurse managers can not only ensure there are enough medical professionals on staff to address patient needs but, at the same time, prevent overstaffing and, in theory, reduce labor costs. Hospitals that employ float pools effectively can save 2% to 5% on labor costs.

The key word here is “effectively.” Managing float pool schedules can also be time-consuming and resource intensive. The result of an inefficient float pool? Employee turnover, staffing shortages, and plenty of headaches—all of which negate any potential cost savings a float pool might have provided.

Additionally, float pool scheduling can take up a huge part of a nurse manager’s workweek. If you’re manually adjusting and coordinating hundreds of schedules, you are likely missing out on some key benefits of effective float pool scheduling.

Why is float pool scheduling so time-consuming?

There are many ways to manage float pool schedules, but the most common is the low-tech spreadsheet. While spreadsheets are inexpensive and powerful when handling simple, linear needs, they can’t keep up with the complicated needs of organizations that employ hundreds of workers with different schedules, locations, capabilities and duties.

All these variables push the limits of what spreadsheets can manage. For example, matching rotational nurses with the right units is a challenge that just can be managed very well with spreadsheets.

Scheduling a rotational nurse in unfamiliar units too frequently can place a strain on the unit’s processes. Because they aren’t familiar with the protocols, it can be difficult for rotational nurses to perform key tasks such as completing assignments, managing equipment and supplies, and coordinating with other unit personnel.

Additionally, overwhelming float pool nurses with too many unfamiliar units can lead to frustration and, potentially, employee turnover. It costs hospitals an estimated $80,000 every time a nurse must be replaced, and this adds up fast.

With an annual turnover rate of 10%, a hospital with 100 employees might incur $800k in turnover expenses a year—and this is a conservative estimate. Some hospitals report turnover rates of up to 40%.

3 Secrets to Better Float Pool Scheduling

#1 Maintain a Single Source of Truth

The first, and often most important way to streamline float pool scheduling is to have a “single source of truth”—essentially a single record of the timesheets that stakeholders can collaborate on.

When different departments approach scheduling in different ways and in different systems, the result is understaffed units, late and confused rotational nurses, and exhausted nurse managers.

While spreadsheets on a shared drive or a pen and paper log can work, these methods lack the flexibility and speed that a dedicated system can provide. The most efficient way to streamline float pool scheduling is to implement enterprise workforce management software.

With a single system of record that can be accessed by anyone from anywhere, nurses won’t have to check two or three times to know where they’re supposed to be and when.

#2 Leverage Your Data

To reduce the time spent on scheduling a float pool, it’s important to know what the labor needs are of the units they’ll be supporting.

Data-driven scheduling allows you to predict staffing needs before they happen. A good workforce management system can use data from previous schedules to anticipate days and times that typically have a higher demand for rotational nurses. Additionally, it can track data from core workforce schedules and provide insights into needs and potential shortages.

When you leverage your data, you can forecast the supply of and demand for rotational nurses and optimize scheduling, making float pools less reliant on overtime. And a more optimized and predictable system provides rotational nurses with better work-life balance, reduces burnout and turnover and saves nurse managers time.

#3 Give Nurses Scheduling Autonomy

Float pools are successful because of their dynamic nature. It’s also what can make them time-consuming to manage. Having to swap nurses manually between shifts takes a lot of time and effort, especially on spreadsheets but even in some of the common scheduling softwares.

That said, the idea of nurses swapping shifts themselves sounds like a compliance nightmare.

Complexities such as individual qualification requirements and overtime restrictions have historically meant someone needs to be accountable for confirming no scheduling errors are made.

Today, however, some innovative workforce management softwares offer a solution to this particular challenge. Look for software with shift swapping built in that includes automated enterprise credentials management.

With such a system, rotational nurses can self-manage assignments and shifts within pre-defined business rules, and the system ensures all regulatory, union and staffing requirements are met. This gives rotational nurses autonomy and saves managers time on float pool scheduling.


It shouldn’t have to take you your entire work week to manage float pool scheduling. With a deliberate and well-integrated system in place, it can be less time consuming—and less stressful. The right workforce management software can save time on float pool scheduling and make the complex manageable.

Interested in learning how you can work smarter when it comes to float pool scheduling? Tell us what your biggest challenge is right now.

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