PRN Versus Per Diem Nursing: What’s the Difference?

PRN Versus Per Diem Nursing: What’s the Difference?

While searching for a job as a nurse, there are important things to consider before choosing what type of employment is best, like pay, scheduling, availability, benefits, and even current experience. While full-time positions require stricter schedules and longer shifts, there are part-time or “as needed” shifts available. These are classified as PRN or per-diem nursing positions. They allow for more flexible hours, opportunities in various locations or units, and higher pay.

What Is PRN Nursing?

PRN stands for “pro re nata,” which is Latin for “as the situation demands.” In other words, PRN nurses work on an as-needed basis for a specific unit. The shifts can last eight to 12 hours or for several weeks. It all depends on the needs of the unit. These types of nurses fill in for other nurses when they take time off, are sick, or have an emergency. They can also be on-call if needed. This type of work is flexible and allows nurses to choose a schedule that is best for them.

PRN nurses should be comfortable with traveling to new locations and adjusting to them, while also working with medical staff they may be unfamiliar with. Though it may be uncomfortable at first, this gives nurses a chance to build relationships with staff at various locations and gain support. This also gives them the chance to find out about and be considered for any full-time positions available at those health care facilities or hospitals. Each location may have different policies and duties that the nurses will have to learn and follow. This requires them to adapt easily to new circumstances and work well with others.

In order to be considered as a PRN nurse, some facilities or hospitals may require references, as well as an RN license and at least one year of critical care experience. Some agencies that hire PRN nurses require they take a competency test before being approved. Though the process may be stricter, nurses who take this route can receive up to or more than full-time position pay and benefits packages that include insurance and retirement plans. This depends on how many shifts they work per week, but payment is received immediately after each shift.

What Is Per-Diem Nursing?

“Per-diem” is Latin for “by the day.” Per-diem nurses work on call and can pick up shifts at various locations. This type of nursing also allows for a more flexible schedule and nurses can even be pre-scheduled for per-diem work during seasons where more staff will be needed. They may include flu season and summers where many nurses take time off for vacation.

There are no hours or benefits guaranteed for nurses working per-diem, which means there may be days or weeks without having any shifts available. On the upside, however, per-diem nurses are typically paid higher because of this. Shifts vary from partial to on-call shifts for sick visits or last-minute coverage shifts for emergencies. As a per-diem nurse, you have the freedom to turn down available shifts if you cannot work or are uninterested in taking them. Another benefit is that there are no requirements for hours or shifts per week.

PRN Nursing Versus Per-Diem Nursing

Both PRN and per-diem nursing allow for a more flexible schedule than working full-time and they allow nurses to explore different career possibilities and locations. Nurses are able to meet people and build rapport with each location they work, which can lead to full-time work in the future. With the possibility of working at different facilities with each shift, nurses should be quick to adapt to new environments and open to working with medical staff they may be unfamiliar with.


Per-diem shifts can be beneficial for those seeking part-time work or looking for experience in order to apply for full-time work. Nurses can pick up shifts in their free time and still be able to continue their education, take care of their family, or work a full-time position elsewhere. PRN allows the same flexibility as per-diem but offers more stability in terms of pay and benefits like health insurance.

PRN and per-diem nursing can both be beneficial depending on your schedule, what type of pay you are looking for, and whether you want to work in different units or stick with the one you are comfortable with. Both types require you to have prior education, certification, and experience. It is important to check with the hiring agencies or facilities to see what their requirements are before choosing your shifts.


  • Employment and Work Schedules. While there are similarities, PRN and per-diem nursing are different from one another in several ways. Per-diem nurses can be employed by several agencies or health care systems at the same time, while PRN nurses are employed by a single unit. Another difference is that per-diem nurses can choose their shifts whenever they have time to work but are not guaranteed hours, and PRN nurses are scheduled and guaranteed their shifts.
  • Learning and Flexibility. Per-diem nurses may have better opportunities for learning and can try out different specialties since they are not attached to one single unit. They also have more flexibility when it comes to accepting shifts and there are no requirements for hours or shifts per week. On the other hand, PRN nurses are required to follow employment policies because they work for one unit. Policies may include working a certain number of hours or shifts per week in order to stay employed.
  • Costs. Agencies or health care systems hiring per-diem nurses will pay more because the nurses do not receive health benefits and they typically work more hours than PRN nurses. On the flip side, PRN nurses receive health insurance packages that can be beneficial to nurses who may not have full-time positions. 

Clipboard Health has the technology to help you find per-diem shifts in your area or other locations that best suit your needs. They can answer questions you have and offer guidance and support in your search for the opportunities you want and need. Sign up today to start your search.

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