What Is Per Diem Nursing?

What Is Per Diem Nursing?

Nursing can be a demanding profession, but it can also be one of the most flexible when deciding when you want to work. While many nursing professionals work in full-time or part-time positions for one employer, “per diem” nursing shifts are becoming a popular option for those who want more control over their schedules or crave a variety in their work environments.

If picking up shifts on an as-needed basis sounds appealing to you, read on to learn more about per diem nursing and the benefits of pursuing this type of nursing employment.

What Do Per Diem Nurses Do?

The Latin phrase “per diem” means “per day.” Per diem nurses fill in the gaps where regular staff members are not available on any given day. These nurses may cover shifts when regular full-time staff members are out sick or on vacation, or help hospitals serve additional patients during periods of high demand, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic or cold and flu season.

Specialized staffing services and agencies partner with facilities that have a need for on-demand nurses and help match their network of nursing professionals with daily open shifts that fit their schedule. Nurses can also be employed by one hospital system as a per diem employee. 

The flexibility of per diem nursing can be a great option for nursing professionals who have family obligations or simply want greater work-life balance. This employment model allows you to increase or decrease your availability based on your personal needs and schedule. Shifts typically range from eight to 12 hours, but shorter shifts may be available based on a particular facility’s needs

The downside to per diem nursing, however, is that nothing is guaranteed. If available shifts at nearby facilities don’t align with your schedule or specialization, you may find you’re not working as many shifts as you’d like. Keep in mind that most per diem jobs do not offer benefits, however, the daily rate is generally higher. If you prefer a consistent schedule, stability, and predictability, per diem nursing may not be the right choice for you.

Why Should You Consider Per Diem Nursing?

Nurses who work per diem often do so for the flexibility, but there are plenty of other reasons to explore this employment model. If you’re already working part- or full-time as a nurse, you can pick up per diem shifts in a different hospital or health care system on your days off to earn extra cash. It may also be a good avenue to explore different nursing specialties as you continue to advance your nursing career.

Here are some of the main reasons for certified, licensed nursing professionals to consider per diem nursing:

1. Explore Different Facilities Before Committing Full-Time

The best way to get a feel for a hospital or a company is to work there. If you’re considering switching companies, or you’re looking to experience some different options before pursuing a full-time nursing job, working on a per-diem basis is a great way to get your foot in the door. This will not only allow you to see how each employer operates, but also provide you with the opportunity to meet other nurses and doctors, thus expanding your network of industry professionals.

2. Gain More Control over Your Schedule and Work-Life Balance

As a full-time nurse, your schedule is determined by your employer and their staffing needs. You may find yourself scheduled for shifts that interfere with your personal life or family commitments. Per diem nurses set their own availability, so they’ll never be called into work for a shift that’s inconvenient for them. This can be especially helpful for parents who want to pick up night shifts so they can be more available to their children during the day, or for career changers who want to gain experience after nursing school while still keeping their current day job.

3. Earn a Higher Hourly Rate

Because hospitals and health care facilities don’t have to offer benefits or paid time off to per diem nurses, they can afford to pay these professionals a higher hourly rate than someone in a full- or part-time position for the same type of work. This may be especially true if you’re picking up hard-to-fill shifts like nights, weekends, and holidays. The more open your availability is, the more per diem shifts you can potentially work.

4. Consider Different Nursing Specialties

If you’re looking to expand into another specialty or earn additional certifications, picking up per diem shifts in another specialty can be a great way to test things out on the side. You may be exposed to different emerging technologies and patient care techniques through per diem shifts, which can give you a valuable fresh perspective in your other nursing work.

Is Per Diem Nursing Right for You?

Per diem nursing can be a fulfilling side gig or a way to earn a full-time living, but is it the right move for your career? Here are a few things to consider before you apply to start picking up per diem shifts:

  • Do you have an active state license as a CNA, RN, or another nursing specialty?
  • Does your schedule allow you to commit to eight to 12-hour shifts?
  • Are you looking to gain a more well-rounded experience in the nursing industry?
  • Do you want the opportunity to earn more money picking up extra shifts outside of your full-time employer?
  • Are you able to obtain benefits coverage like health insurance and retirement savings plans through another employer or on your own?
  • Do you want to advance your nursing career without sacrificing your work-life balance?

If you answered “yes” to most or all of the above questions, per diem nursing is likely a good fit for you.

Ready to begin picking up shifts? Companies like Clipboard Health help nursing professionals find and book per diem work with its health care facility partners across the country. We connect Certified Nursing Assistants, Registered Nurses, LVN/LPNs, Medical Assistants, Surgical Technologists, and other health care providers with open AM, PM, and NOC shifts on their schedule, in the locations they want to work. There are no minimum shift or hour requirements to work with us, which ultimately means a better work-life balance for you.

We currently have partnerships with facilities in the West, Northwest, South, and Northeast regions of the United States, and we’re constantly expanding our partner network to give our nursing professionals even more flexibility. Visit our Professionals page to learn more about working with Clipboard Health.

Justine Nelson

Justine Nelson RN, BSN, has been a registered nurse for over 11 years with experience in home health, community health, school based nursing and healthcare based tech startups. Justine is passionate about developing new and innovative roles for nurses outside of traditional nursing roles. She currently serves as an RN content Specialist for Clipboard Health.

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