On the surface, the concept of becoming a hospital pool nurse might not sound enticing. After all, there is no guarantee of steady work, and the hospital doesnt supply health benefits.
However, the benefits of pool nursing, not only to those who accept such positions but to the hospitals that hire them, are so widespread, it is an area of nursing with only growth in sight.
Vanessa Vuong, RN, BSN, prekidney transplant coordinator at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia and a former pool nurse for six years at Jefferson, says the flexibility afforded pool nurses is the biggest attraction.
You can make your own schedule, where you want to work, how many hours, she says.
Mary Marczyk, RN, MSN, CHCR, nurse recruiter at Jefferson, adds that pool nurses earn premium rates and [work] in a variety of areas that may be of interest to them to explore opportunities for a regular part-time or full-time position.Mary Marczyk, RN
That ability to move around the hospital played a key role in Vuong being hired to her current position at Jefferson. She came to the transplant department in June as a pool nurse and was asked to work a three-month position. Later, when the prekidney transplant coordinator resigned, Vuong jumped at the chance to take the position.
She is one of more than 20 pool nurses at Jefferson who accepted permanent positions at the hospital last year.
The three months I worked in transplant, I really liked it I enjoyed it a lot, she says. They offered me the position, so I decided to take it.
Although Vuong now finds having a full-time position gratifying, she enjoyed being a pool nurse. However, she says that it requires a different mindset to be in the pool, and Jefferson takes that into consideration when filling those positions.
Pool nurses need to be confident in their abilities, Marczyk says. They need to like the challenge of working in different clinical settings. We hire nurses who fit the demands of being flexible to work on many nursing units and have recent high acuity experience in a similar institution.
With more patients flooding hospitals and with forecasts of extreme nursing shortages for the not-so-distant future, its a good bet hospitals will look to pool nurses to fill the gaps. Pool nurses offer Jefferson, and other hospitals, several advantages.
We have been able to eliminate expenses associated with travel [nurses] and contract nurses, Marczyk says. We ensure that Jefferson-trained and -oriented professionals are at our patients bedside delivering quality care, [and] pool nurses assist our organization to staff up and down based on patient census.
Marczyk adds that Jefferson retains its pool nurses by offering them career choices that accommodate lifestyle challenges presented by education or family commitments.
Of course, not every RN can be a pool nurse. Jefferson, which has more than 200 pool nurses in a variety of clinical settings such as ED, OR, med/surg, neuro and critical care, requires that nurses have a minimum of two years experience in their specialty to be hired as pool nurses.
Given the benefits to hospitals and nurses seeking flexibility, the concept of pool nursing seems certain to become more popular in the future. But Vuong says it is the patients who are the ones who benefit most.
Pool nursing is essential to all hospitals, she says. The hospital runs 24/7. Theres always someone [on staff] sick, someone on vacation, someone on maternity leave. There are patients there who need to be attended to.
Tom Clegg is a member of the editorial team at Nursing Spectrum.