Per Diem Nursing, a side hustle for nurses
Money and Taxes

Per Diem Nursing: Is It a Good Side Hustle for Nurses?

From a nurse’s perspective, it’s frustrating to think about needing a side hustle to earn extra cash for everyday living. Ideally, nursing should provide enough income without the need for additional hours. However, there may be times when a side hustle for nurses is necessary or even beneficial. You may feel the urge to make extra money right after nursing school to start paying off student loans or to save for a down payment on a house, a big trip, a wedding or retirement. Everyone could use a little extra money sometimes, and nurses have numerous opportunities to leverage their skills and earn more. For many nurses, per diem shifts can fill that gap.

What is Per Diem Nursing?

Per diem nursing involves working on an as-needed basis, offering nurses flexibility in their schedules. Nurses in per diem roles typically fill staffing gaps due to illness, vacations or high patient volumes. This type of nursing is ideal for those seeking a flexible work schedule, making it perfect for a side hustle.

The table below shows key differences between working per diem and full-time staff nursing.

Per Diem Full-Time Staff
Schedule and Flexibility
  • Freedom to choose when you work
  • Set schedule required
Benefits and Compensation
  • Usually doesn’t include benefits like health insurance or paid time off
  • Higher wages
  • Usually includes benefits, paid time off and retirement plans
  • Lower wages compared to per diem or travel nursing
Job Stability and Security
  • Less job security and stability as shifts depend on staffing needs
  • More stability with consistent hours and predictable income

Per Diem Nursing as a Side Hustle vs. Primary Income

Per diem nursing

As a nurse’s side job, working per diem supplements the income from their staff position. Alternatively, some nurses do work per diem nursing jobs as their primary source of income. Per diem nursing provides flexibility both as a side gig and as a primary role. One drawback of using per diem as a primary income source may be the stress of trying to get 40 hours of work each week consistently. 

The short-term nature of on-call shifts means per diem nursing usually has better hourly rates than staff positions. The higher wage makes it lucrative as a side hustle and a primary source of income. However, per diem nursing usually doesn’t come with benefits, or they’re limited, and there’s less job security. Both of these drawbacks are essential considerations if you’re choosing per diem as a primary source of income.

Benefits of Per Diem Nursing as a Side Hustle 

Per diem nursing offers nurses additional income opportunities without needing more education in another field or learning new skills. The flexibility to choose shifts around your regular work schedule makes per diem nursing a great side hustle. Sometimes, nurses can even pick up extra work before or after shifts at their regular jobs. 

Additionally, per diem nursing exposes nurses to various healthcare settings and practices, helping them gain diverse experiences without long-term commitments. This exposure broadens your skills and professional network and allows you to explore different specialties and areas of interest. Thus, per diem as a side gig offers a flexible, financially rewarding way to enhance professional development.

Challenges and Considerations of Per Diem as a Side Hustle for Nurses

Compassion fatigue in nursing

Depending on whether you’re working 8, 10 or 12-hour shifts in your primary role, fitting in extra work hours can feel draining, no matter how much extra you’re getting paid. A study published in Nursing Reports showed that 91% of nurses experience high levels of burnout from their job. So, if you’re already feeling burnt out, taking on a side hustle in nursing can be incredibly risky for your mental and physical health.

Managing schedules between your primary job and a per diem side hustle can be exhausting. Add life on top of that, commuting between facilities, and soon you won’t even know what day it is. While picking up extra shifts a few weeks in advance may seem manageable, working nine days in a row with varying hours and 16+ hour days can quickly lead to questioning your decision. The risk of burnout significantly increases as you lose the time to recharge and care for yourself between caring for patients. 

If you need to make extra money, you may want to consider working overtime in your current role instead of working per diem shifts. You can often earn time and a half or even double time for extra shifts or holidays. Overtime in your primary role could mean staying late if the unit is short-staffed, switching from nights to days or vice versa, or coming in on your day off. Overtime is a great way to boost your income without the hassle of balancing multiple jobs.

Getting Started with Per Diem Nursing

If you’re already working as a licensed practical/vocational nurse or registered nurse, you’re qualified to work per diem. You must have the standard credentials, such as Basic Life Support certification. Depending on your specialization, additional certifications or training may be required, such as Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Trauma Nursing Core Course, Certified Emergency Nurse or a specific specialty certification required for your desired unit. Ensure your nursing license and certifications are current and renew them as needed for your state.

Tips to Find and Secure Per Diem Nursing Roles

Search Vivian Health’s job marketplace to find per diem jobs filtered by location, facility, pay, specialty, and more. You can research healthcare facilities that offer an easy commute from your home or primary job to your nursing side gig and see if they need per diem nurses. Tap into your professional network—do you know any nurses working per diem at certain hospitals? They may have an inside scoop on current hiring opportunities.

Once you’ve decided where to apply, you can create a profile on Vivian to connect with employers that suit your preferences for location and experience. You should create a resume tailored to per diem work, highlighting your relevant experience, certifications and flexibility. Ensure you emphasize your ability to adapt quickly to different environments.

After sending out your resumes, ensure you’re ready for an interview. During the interview, be prepared to discuss your experience, availability and how you’ll handle the challenges of per diem work.

RELATED: Tips for Nailing Nursing Interviews

Tips for Balancing Per Diem Work with Your Existing Schedule

Balancing two schedules for per diem jobs

When starting any side gig as a nurse, it’s crucial to be mindful of your mental health and the potential for burnout or compassion fatigue. Start by setting clear boundaries to determine how many shifts you can reasonably take without compromising your personal life and full-time job responsibilities. It may be tempting to go full steam ahead with your new side hustle, but make sure you set realistic expectations for your time and create a sustainable schedule.

To decrease the stress of feeling overwhelmed, find a way to stay organized and maintain clear communication. Be transparent with your primary and per diem employers about your availability and scheduling conflicts. To maximize your side hustle and increase your ability to keep both jobs, prioritize self-care to ensure you get enough rest and downtime.

Maximize the Benefits of Per Diem Work

Managing your time efficiently between multiple nursing roles is crucial for making the most of per diem work. Using effective strategies to avoid conflicts between per diem shifts and your primary job is important. You can use planners or digital calendars to organize your schedule and avoid double-booking yourself.

Leverage your per diem roles to advance your career by acquiring diverse skills and expanding your professional network. Working in different settings introduces you to new nurses with varied experiences who can offer valuable insights into other job opportunities. Each new environment presents unique learning opportunities that enhance your resume and potentially open doors to future career advancements.

Financial planning is important when handling additional income from per diem work. Because you’ll be making extra money, you may want to deposit these funds into a separate account and have clear goals for how you want to use this money. Otherwise, your additional income may just slip away on frivolous purchases. By setting up a detailed budget, you can ensure your earnings cover your regular expenses and still have savings for emergencies or future goals.

Setting aside savings is always a wise decision. An emergency fund can protect you from unexpected expenses like medical bills or car repairs. If you’re clever with your extra money, you can easily prepare for your future by saving for long-term goals such as purchasing a house, paying off loans or retirement.

Also, reviewing and adjusting your financial plan regularly is a good idea. Check your budget and savings goals periodically to make sure they still match your current income and expenses. This proactive approach lets you make necessary adjustments and keep your finances healthy over time. 

Is Per Diem Nursing as a Side Hustle Worth It?

Per diem nursing is a great way to supplement the income of your primary job and work in various settings. It allows you to pick up extra shifts when you want to, usually for a greater wage than a staff nurse in the same role. However, if you decide to go this route, make sure you’re taking appropriate steps to safeguard your mental health with support in place to cope with compassion fatigue and burnout. 

Only you can decide if per diem nursing as a side gig fits well with your lifestyle, career goals and schedule. Remember, it’s called a side hustle for a reason.

Browse Vivian’s jobs page to find per diem opportunities in a facility near you and start making extra cash in no time.

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Amanda Farquharson, BSN, RN

Amanda Farquharson, BSN, RN is a registered nurse, travel nurse, writer and wellness warrior. She practices from a holistic lens with a focus on health promotion and prevention. Amanda has been actively engaged with the wellness community for over 15 years, supporting and developing activities that strengthen individuals' and communities' emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health.

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