What is Per Diem Nursing?
Your RN license is much more than a card to carry in your wallet. It is a membership to a versatile and ever-changing workforce. Your nursing license is a ticket to make excellent wages, if you’re willing to get creative. It’s also a passport to exciting new locations around the country and even the world. However, if you’re looking to make more money but would like to stick close to home, per diem nursing is an excellent career move. Per Diem, which is Latin for “per day,” is a type of temp nursing that allows you to be paid premium wages in hospitals and clinics in your area. Less common than travel nursing or traditional full-time nursing, you may not be familiar with per diem nursing. Per Diem nurses are used by hospitals, clinics, and facilities to meet staffing needs in times of unusually high census, like flu season or natural disasters. Read on to learn six things you didn’t know about per diem nursing!
1. A per diem nurse can be employed by more than one agency, hospital, or healthcare system
It’s true! To be successful as a per diem nurse, you should consider employment by more than one agency, hospital, or healthcare system. This gives you better bargaining power when negotiating with each entity for shifts and wages. Additionally, if your goal is to make a full-time career out of per diem nursing, contracting with multiple agencies and facilities will improve your opportunities. Apply to per diem positions in internal float pools and specific units in local hospitals and healthcare systems. Work with local nursing agencies to find nursing jobs, as well.
2. Per Diem nursing is a great way to make more money
As a nurse, a full-time position generally consists of three 12-hour (or more!) shifts. It’s not always easy, but having four days off each week provides nurses with opportunities to work more hours and make extra cash. If your full-time nursing job doesn’t allow you to work overtime, consider per diem nursing as a side hustle. You can work with a recruiter to find shifts in local facilities that work with your schedule. Or, you can take a position as a per diem nurse in a hospital that is not in the same healthcare system as your own. It’s important that your per diem gig is not in the same system as your full-time position. Hospitals tend to get cranky when they have to pay overtime to full-time employees that didn’t work overtime in their unit; in fact, there may be rules against it.
Per Diem nurses tend to make higher hourly wages than traditionally-employed nurses because the employers do not have to offer benefits to per diem nurses. If you’re considering per diem nursing as a side gig to make extra cash, then you don’t need the benefits. However, if you’re considering quitting your day job to get full-time hours as a per diem nurse, be sure to calculate how much you’re receiving in benefits through your full-time employer. You may find that full-time per diem nursing isn’t the most fiscally responsible career move. Speak with a recruiter about how to get benefits as a per diem nurse.
3. Try before you buy: Thinking of changing nursing specialties?
In addition to making more money, per diem nursing is an excellent way to explore new career options. Perhaps you’re interested in telemetry, but don’t want to make the commitment of a full-time position. Get your feet wet with a few shifts in an internal per diem pool telemetry unit at a local hospital to see if it’s what your nursing future holds. The adrenaline rush of an ICU getting old? Work some lower impact shifts in a different hospital unit or outpatient facility. Conversely, are you ready to care for more critical patients? Work with a recruiter or float pool to be placed in acute care settings. Or, perhaps you’re less than thrilled about your current facility. Per Diem nursing shifts in different hospitals or units can help you to get your foot in the door for more long-term employment.
4. Per Diem nursing can improve your work-life balance
Full-time nursing in hospitals and long-term care facilities generally means nights, weekends, and holiday requirements. For some nurses, off-shifts mean less childcare expenses and being more present for school functions during the day; they can also mean less sleep. For others, having to work nights and weekends is nothing short of torture that is only relieved after years of service. Per Diem nursing may allow you to capitalize on your preference for off-shifts, since those shifts are notoriously difficult to fill. Conversely, per diem nursing may improve your work-life balance by working only shifts of your choosing, rather than being subject to the needs of a unit in which you work full-time. Ultimately, if you work, you get paid; if you need time off, there are no penalties, but also no sick days or vacation time.
5. Per Diem nursing is not the same as PRN nursing
As previously stated, per diem is Latin for “per day;” PRN is an abbreviation based on the Latin phrase, “pro re nata,” or, “as needed.” It’s important to note that per diem nursing is not the same as working PRN. Nurses who are PRN for a unit are employed by the unit and are therefore subject to the staffing requirements of that unit. This could mean you must work a certain number of shifts in a pre-defined time period to maintain employment. You might even have holiday or weekend requirements. Per Diem nurses, on the other hand, do not have schedule requirements. Again, if you work, you get paid; if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. As a per diem nurse, you will have the flexibility to work where and/or when you want to work. Nurses who are PRN in one specific unit are not necessarily afforded that same flexibility.
6. Per Diem nursing is an excellent way to keep up with the ever-changing medical field
If you have chosen to focus on raising a family but want to mitigate the hassle associated with re-entering the nursing workforce a few years down the road, working a couple of per diem nursing shifts a month can help keep you current. Or, if you have taken a nursing position away from the bedside, per diem nursing shifts can help you maintain your nursing skills and knowledge. If you are in a clinical support role like a manager or educator, it is not always possible to work extra shifts in your home unit. However, as a per diem nurse, you can work shifts in similar units in other hospitals. This type of moonlighting has a myriad of benefits. You can gain valuable ideas from different units that care for similar patient populations and remain current on the issues that are faced by the nurses you manage or educate. The money you’ll make picking up a few extra shifts a month in addition to your salary work won’t hurt, either.
Whether you are looking to earn some extra cash as a side hustle or you are interested in making per diem nursing your full-time profession, there are a myriad of benefits to this avenue of the nursing profession. You will be afforded the opportunity to care for a variety of different patients in countless different settings. The networking you do and the life-long friends you make in each unit will no doubt prove useful in the long-term.
You can forge relationships with human resources professionals and hiring managers in many different units in your area. Adding a per diem gig to your resume speaks to your flexibility and versatility as a nurse, as well. In the short-term view, per diem nursing is a highly lucrative and flexible career option for nurses who are willing to be flexible themselves. Additionally, per diem nursing can offer significantly improved work-life balance over traditional full-time unit-based nursing, circumventing nights, weekends, and holidays if you so desire. Regardless of your motivation, per diem nursing is an excellent career option and one that should be seriously considered by all nurses.
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