Per diem, also known as prn nursing, is a special type of nursing that allows for a lot of flexibility, but lacks some of the benefits of permanent staff nursing. Per diem nurses work as needed (prn). The nurse is usually considered ‘staff’ at the facility, not as a contract or travel nurse. Depending on the facility needs, the nurse could opt to work full time or only enough to meet their commitment. Some units may require 1-2 shifts per pay period and others may structure needs around a monthly commitment. ‘Per diem travel contracts’ are not realistic. Travel nurses are used when hospitals are in dire need of staff, and they need them full time, not only 1-2 times per week.
Do Per Diem Nurses Make their Own Schedules?
Per diem nurses usually give their availability to the schedule manager and are used to fill gaps in staffing. When you work per diem, you can pretty much make your own schedule, as long as your unit has needs. If you work in a hospital that is chronically short staffed, you can most likely work as often as you want. On the other hand, if the units that you help staff are usually pretty well stocked, you may be floated or even cancelled for the day.
Some nurses opt to work full time as a travel or staff nurse, and maintain a per diem job at another facility for extra money. Depending on your commitment and agreement with the hospital, nurses can potentially leave their per diem jobs for 13 week travel contracts, and return home between assignments to work. This also helps maintain a ‘permanent tax home’, which travel nurses need to be eligible for the tax-free stipends in their contracts.
How Much Does Per Diem Nursing Pay?
Working per diem usually pays better than working as a full time staff nurse. Most facilities pay a percentage more than what your ‘base rate’ (full time equivalent) would be, or they may have a set hourly wage for per diem nurses. Some healthcare systems use per diem nurses regularly to help staff their facilities, and pay nurses very well to be a part of those programs.
Do Per Diem Nurses Get Benefits?
The lower pay is because, as a prn nurse you are not eligible for benefits like medical, dental, 401K, and tuition reimbursement. Those options are usually only available to part or full time committed staff. Per diem nurses can look into third party insurance suppliers or their state provided insurance (found at healthcare.gov) for medical and dental coverage. Those that are married or in a domestic partnership can also explore being added to their partner’s coverage.
Do Per Diem Nurses Get PTO?
Per diem nurses also do not accrue paid time off (PTO). So, any days that they are not able to meet their commitment due to illness or vacation, are not paid for. The positive side of that is as a per diem nurse you do not have to get vacation time approved, you would simply not schedule yourself during that time. And, the holiday commitment for prn nurses is usually far less than a staff nurse, often only one per season (winter and summer).
Why Do Nurses Work Per Diem?
I have been working per diem since for almost a year, and I can honestly say that it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I work anywhere from 2-4 days a week while I am in town, depending on how I feel. I work in a unit that has a lot of needs so my schedule is flexible. I have taken two month-long crisis contracts, plus two escapes to Mexico and a few road trips. It was far less stressful to plan those things without worrying about if I would get my time off approved.
The per diem nursing perks are worth it if you’re looking for flexibility, a little bump in pay, or a side hustle. During the interview you can ask how often they cancel their per diem nurses and how many days a week do they anticipate needing you to get a feel for their staffing needs. Whether you work a lot, or a little the per diem nursing pros pay off in the work/life balance category.