What does per diem mean?
Per diem is a Latin term that means “by the day.” A per diem nurse is a nurse who is employed “by the day,” or as needed by a medical facility.
What is a PRN nurse?
PRN is a Latin term for pro re nata, which translates in English to “as the situation demands.” Both “per diem nurse” and “PRN nurse” have essentially the same meaning and can be used interchangeably.
Whether your nursing job title is per diem nurse or PRN nurse, it means you only work when that institution has additional staffing needs that they cannot fill with their own “career” nursing staff. With the increasing demands of today’s healthcare environment – and the fact that patients are living longer (and are often sicker) than ever before – per diem, or PRN nurses are in high demand.
About per diem/ PRN nursing
Most hospitals have their own unit of staffed per diem nurses. These nurses may be assigned to one particular unit in a hospital or can be resource nurses who cover many different specialties within the hospital setting (as long as they are trained to do so). Hospital staffing needs usually increase during holiday seasons or during times of high census in the hospital (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic).
In addition, there are nurse staffing agencies that set up outside nurses to work in hospitals that have additional staffing needs. These nurses work for “per diem nursing agencies” and may end up working in a variety of facilities. Often, these nurses might work a few shifts at one hospital, and then a shift in another facility, all in one week.
Additional recommended reading: 5 Non-Bedside Jobs You May Not Know About
Per diem (or PRN) nurse vs. full-time nursing: what should I choose?
Most nurses work full time, at least for their first few years after graduating from nursing school. Novice nurses need to put the time in and develop their clinical and critical thinking skills. It takes many years to build up nursing expertise at the bedside, which is why I would never recommend that a new grad nurse work per diem. If you are considering per diem as a nursing avenue for your career, make sure that you are experienced enough to manage the stress of working in many different working environments.
As a per diem nurse myself, I have found many benefits to working per diem that I would not have had if I was working as a “staff” or “career” nurse. If you are teetering on making a change into the per diem nursing environment, these are benefits of working as a per diem, or PRN, nurse.
Benefits of being a per diem/PRN nurse:
#1. Higher pay then a career nurse
Per diem nurses are usually paid more money per hour than regular staff because they generally do not receive benefits, and do not have set hours.
Some states pay more per hour than others. California, for example, is known for having a higher hourly wage than many states with a lower cost-of-living, like South Dakota or Illinois. Per diem nurses in California have even been known to make over 15K or more in a single paycheck by working multiple days in a row, and taking advantage of overtime pay!
#2. You can make your own nursing schedule
One of the most significant benefits of working per diem is that you can choose precisely when you want to work. As a working mom, it makes it much less stressful to know that you won’t be scheduled during a time you don’t have child care.
#3. Per diem nurses can pick up seasonal work
There are times of the year when more nurses are needed to meet staffing needs, such as flu season or summer time. During the current COVID-19 global crisis, there are many hospitals with increased staffing needs in coronavirus “hot spots,” such as New York City and Seattle, where some of the first clusters were found. Per diem nurses who are willing to be flexible and work in new facilities have the opportunity to work more often.
Additional recommended reading: 8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became A Nurse
#4. Per diem/ PRN nurses can decline shifts
Unlike career nurses, who often do not have complete control of their schedules, per diem nurses can choose to decline shifts if they don’t jive with your schedule. This means that if you don’t want to work nights, holidays, or weekends, you usually don’t have to.
#5. Have the possibility to add on a shift at the last minute
Some per diem nurses work for two different hospitals at the same time. Therefore, if they end up getting canceled to work at one hospital, they can call the staffing office at their other hospital to see if they have any nursing needs. Often, they do, and you can work that day and not lose income.
#6. Cancel a shift the last minute
Working parents understand the need for flexible scheduling. If your child (or yourself) become ill the day or two before a per diem shift, then you have an opportunity to cancel yourself ahead of time. You don’t need to worry about whether or not you have a vacation or sick time saved up.
#7. Opportunity to cross-train in different specialties
Per diem nurses, often have additional learning and educational opportunities because they get new opportunities to cover many specialties.
For example, a per diem emergency room nurse, who also floats to ICU units, might also be able to cross-train for a PACU unit they have staffing needs. Here is another example: a per diem NICU nurse, might be cross-trained for post-partum or antepartum units if they needed additional nursing support.
Nurses who can be flexible and open to additional learning opportunities may find that they have more opportunities than ever to work. When you have experience working in several different nursing specialties, then you have a decreased chance of being canceled and not making any money that day. Per diem nursing can provide nurses with increased job stability and add valuable work experience for your resume.
#8. Build vacation time right into your schedule without taking time off
For per diem nurses, there is no need to put in vacation time, because it is possible to build vacation time right into your schedule.
For example, full-time nurses often work three 12-hour shifts a week. You can schedule yourself to work on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday one week, and then on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the next week. That leaves you with eight days off in-between your shifts to hop on a plane for a week’s vacation.
#9. Working per diem is a great way to keep your license active
Many nurses who only want to work part-time, appreciate the option to work as a per diem nurse. Whether you have small children at home or you have other side careers that you are persuing, per diem nursing allows you to have that flexibility without altogether leaving the bedside, or your profession, behind.
As nurses get closer to retirement, some may choose to work a little less and spend more quality time with grandchildren. If that is the case, then per diem, nursing is a great option. You can keep your foot in the nursing industry, keep your skills and knowledge sharp, continue to bring in some income, while also having time to dedicate to the other passions in your life.
I hope this article helped you clarify whether or not being a per diem or PRN nurse is right for you. There are many factors to consider, but it is wonderful to work in a profession where this type of work environment is possible. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.
Additional recommended reading:
- Nurse Flexibility In The Workplace: How Becoming A Per Diem Nurse Gave Me A Work-Life Balance
- Unpaid Maternity Leave As A Registered Nurse: How To Make It Work
- 9 Personal Self-Care Goals I Set For Myself As A Nurse
- 5 Best Nurse Jobs For Moms