Per Diem Vs Part-Time Nursing | Para
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The per diem vs part-time nursing demand and which is better?

Choosing between per diem vs part-time positions depends on the needs of that nurse. For nurses that want the flexibility to work at their own pace, per diem nursing might be a better option.

It goes without saying that nursing is one of the most commendable professions in the world.

Nurses work long shifts on their feet to keep us healthy. For that, we take our hats off to the nurses around the world.

And because the demand for nurses is high, this provides a sense of job security. As long as the population continues to grow, the nurse demand will continue to expand over time.

Nobody enjoys working long hours. Sometimes life happens, and you may need options you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Per diem nursing agencies solve this problem by making your work schedule flexible. Do you need time off to finish school, raise a family, or have an unexpected life change? Per diem nursing is a great route to consider.

This article is meant to give you some insight into the world of per diem nursing and will cover the following:

  • What does per diem nursing mean?
  • What's the difference between per diem and part-time?
  • How many hours is per diem nursing?
  • Is per diem better than full-time?
  • Is per diem considered income?
  • Do per diem employees get raises?
  • How does per diem work in hospitals?
  • Is a per diem nurse the same as PRN?
  • How much do per diem registered nurses make?
  • Is per diem nursing worth it?
  • How can a healthcare facility find a per diem nurse?
  • Summary

Before we dive into per diem nursing and how it works, let's talk about the term "per diem" and the differences from part-time.

What does per diem nursing mean?

Per diem is a Latin term that means "by the day" or "per day". Within the healthcare system, it refers to "as needed".

As a per diem nurse, you get a set amount of money, specific financial coverage, or hours filled by the healthcare facility.

Healthcare facilities hire per diem nurses on a "per day" basis, and their service is only needed for a specific amount of time. You're temporarily employed until your service is no longer required.

Depending on the healthcare employer's needs, this could mean a few things.

Some hospitals will pay a temporary clinician for a handful of hours per week. Other hospitals might need a clinician for a longer term. Depending on their need, hospitals may cover a nurse's salary, flight expenses, traveling expenses, and living expenses. This of course depends on if the nurse is needed locally or in another state.

When a healthcare facility is short on staff, a few reasons a hospital might hire a per diem nurse could be:

  • A nurse is sick and needs a replacement on short notice
  • Filling a nurses position for maternity leave
  • A nurse is on vacation and needs coverage for a few weeks
  • The healthcare facility is going through hiring stages and needs to fill vacant positions quickly
  • An overwhelming increase in patient volume. The Covid-19 pandemic is a prime example of this.

Depending on a nurse's availability and schedule, many will opt for something that's a bit more stable. That's when choosing part-time or full-time work might be a better choice.

What's the difference between per diem and part-time?

Part-time, by our standard definition, is working for a company 30 hours per week or less.

However, the hours that qualify as part-time are different for every employer. The reason for this, is that the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, doesn't have a defined amount of hours that qualifies as part-time. 30 hours or less has become a universal standard but isn't set in stone.

What qualifies as part-time will depend on your employer's definition and ranges from company to company. Part-time jobs have a set schedule ranging from 1 to 30 hours per week while per diem doesn't have a set amount of hours. Since hours can fluctuate, your pay will benefit or suffer, as a result of this.

Working for a healthcare facility as a part-time nurse offers job security. You're guaranteed hours and have a steady paycheck to depend on.

How many hours is per diem nursing?

Per diem nurses work on an as needed basis. You aren't subject to a routine schedule and aren't guaranteed a set number of hours.

As mentioned before, you're covering the gap in staff hours and are subject to change. Because of this, per diem nurses hours will vary based on supply and demand. You can compensate for fewer hours at one facility if the pay rates are higher there.

If your healthcare facility is looking to fill a few part-time positions, you might work a full 12-hour shift per day to cover those. If a handful of hours needs to be covered, you may work less than 30 hours per week.

Keep in mind, with scheduling, full-time and part-time staff get first choice of the schedule they want. Anything that is open and isn't filled can be assigned to a per diem nurse.

Most hospital's and healthcare facilities have full-time, part-time, and per diem clinicians on hand. It's better to know you have extra available in case of understaffing emergencies.

Is per diem better than full-time?

There are different benefits of both full-time and per diem employment. If you prefer to have a consistent schedule every day, you'll enjoy full-time employment more than per diem.

The consistent work of full-time employment ensures you have job security. This means you won't have to worry about having the hours you want per week.

Most full-time employees are entitled to benefits that the facility offers.

These full-time benefits may include:

  • Paid Time Off (sick days, personal time, maternity leave, vacation)
  • Subsidized health insurance
  • Nursing tuition and certification reimbursements

The maximum nursing tuition reimbursement amount allowed by the IRS is $5,250 per year. A great thing about this reimbursement is its free of taxes. The downside is nursing school costs more than $5,250 per year. This is something to take advantage of if you qualify.

To find out more about qualifications, speak to your HR department and ask about your full-time employee benefits.

Per diem on the other hand is better for those who need flexibility in their schedule. For example; one nurse might work full-time for a facility that offers benefits. In addition to that position, they may work for an agency as a per diem nurse for extra income. However, with per diem nursing, work isn't always guaranteed.

Is per diem considered income?

Yes, per diem is considered income. If you work and get paid for that work, it's considered income. A per diem nurse is a contractor hired by a healthcare facility the same way a freelancer is hired to complete tasks.

You'll receive a 1099-MISC form. A 1099-MISC form is a government tax form that employers send to contractors for the work they've done.

If an employer pays you more than $600 per year, you'll receive a 1099 form.

Do per diem employees get raises?

Generally, per diem hospital administrations don't receive raises because they don't qualify as a contract worker. This is to offset whether the organization offers benefits to per diem nurses.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you can't receive a raise. Some healthcare facilities will offer raises based on employment anniversary dates regardless of the position. But this isn't common.

Per diem pay rates are usually higher than average full-time or part-time positions because of the supply and demand of hours. If you're unsure about pay raise qualifications, ask your employer's HR department.

How does per diem work in hospitals?

If a hospital needs to fill a position quickly, per diem positions are put in place to ensure hospitals aren't understaffed.

This could be a position for physical therapy, occupational therapy, or even social work.

Some hospitals may need more nurse's aides, lab technicians, respiratory technicians, x-ray technicians, and even surgical staffing assistants than other positions.

There are many positions at hospitals to explore when reaching out to hospitals for work.

Is a per diem nurse the same as PRN?

PRN stands for Pro re nata, a Latin term that means "as the situation demands". Many people interchange per diem nurses and PRN frequently. Even though both positions work on an as needed basis, a PRN is different from a per diem nurse.

How are per diem nurses and PRN's different?

As I had mentioned before, per diem nurses are contractors who can work as little or as much as they want. They can also work for different hospitals that aren't associated with one another.

Here are a few ways they’re different:

  • Flexible positions 

PRNs only work for one agency. If you prefer to work for a single unit and not for different health care systems, then a PRN position might be ideal.

  • Hours

PRNs are also guaranteed hours and can depend on shifts. Whereas per diem nursing, as mentioned above, is not always guaranteed. Again this boils down to supply and demand.

  • Pay

PRNs tend to make more per hour because they typically do not receive employee benefits.

Per diem nurses and PRNs have different benefits, pay, hours, and flexible schedules.

How much do per diem registered nurses make?

How much per diem nurses make depends on a few factors including:

Type of nursing specialty

  • Registered Nurse (PRN)
  • Certified Registered Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Critical Care Nurse (CNS)
  • ER Nurse
  • Cardiac Nurse

These are just a few examples of different types of nursing services available. There are dozens of positions available and this plays a big role in salary. You can find a more elaborate list of nursing specialties here.

The state you will work in

Each state has its own pay rates and the average Registered Nurse salary will vary from state to state.

For example, in 2019, Florida's average was $67,610. While in California, it was $113,240. This is quite a significant difference in pay.

These stats are according to the BLS Employment of registered nurses 2019 data.

Zip Recruiter has a more up to date average per diem nurse salary by state.

The pay at the healthcare facility you work for

Some health facilities pay nurses $30-35 per hour while others pay $70-$90 per hour for their service. These rates are obviously based on the factors mentioned above. If you're a nurse and want to know about pay growth within your medical facility, reach out to your HR department.

Is per diem nursing worth it?

Per diem nursing has its own rewards just like a full-time or part-time employee does. Since we're all different and have different lives, it really depends on what you want out of your career. There are  things to consider when choosing the right nursing position.

For someone that is single and loves to work constantly, full-time employment might be better for them. For a new mother with a financially supportive spouse, being a per diem nurse might be the better option for them.

Let's look at the upsides and downsides to working as a per diem nurse.

Per diem nursing pros?

Increased Pay

Per diem nurses are paid more than regular RN's. Also, if you can find the hours, you can work as much as you'd like. Since you're not tied down to one healthcare facility, you can work at multiple agencies, hospitals, and multiple healthcare systems.


If life demands your attention, and you can't continue working the same schedule every day, per diem nursing offers that freedom. You get to pick your availability in a way that's unique to your schedule. You also get the freedom of picking your schedule weeks in advance. This is called "block booking”.

“Block booking” or “master booking”, is a way for you to have some organization in your schedule. Let's say your schedule is all over the place because you want to pick up as many random shifts as you can. If there are a lot of openings weeks out, you can pick a more consistent schedule.

Doing this will give you some sanity and allow you to have a regular sleep schedule once in a while.

Leverage to negotiate

Different healthcare systems will have different pay rates, so it's easier to shop around to work more with higher paying positions. This leaves you leverage when negotiating rates. Networking is a great way to meet new people, learn how each facility operates, and understand the workload at each place.

Para gives you the freedom to seize different opportunities and build those relationships along the way.

Explore new career possibilities

If you're feeling overloaded or overworked in a high intensity environment, you can change paces by applying for different positions within hospitals.

Are you bored with your current position? Try something more intense and apply for an ICU position.

Becoming friendly with the higher-ups can lead to a great new position that you didn't know was available. Always be open-minded and try to not burn bridges. You'll never know when a new opportunity will arise and you might be the perfect fit.

Potential permanent positions

Since networking is always a great way to explore new opportunities, ask your favorite facility about a more permanent position. This is great to find out about in case you eventually want to make that commitment. If you want to break away someday from the per diem lifestyle, you'll have that availability to do so.

Build your resume for the future

Moving from different facilities and different positions is a great way to build your resume. If you're moving around enough, eventually you might lose track of where you've been and what you've done. Keep a notebook handy to keep track of where you've worked. This includes dates, locations, what position, and even new things you've learned or performed.

Eventually all of these new wonderful experiences should make their way to your resume. If you're organized then it shouldn't be too difficult. The more agencies, positions, and shifts you mention, the more your flexibility shines. Employers love hiring someone who is dependable and flexible.

Stay up-to-date with the medical field

Life goes by fast and technology is always changing. Whether you take time off to finish school, or raise a family, you should stay updated. Even working a few hours a week can help you stay in the loop.

Per diem nursing cons?

Unstable work

Unstable work is one of the biggest negatives when it comes to working as a per diem nurse. Many people prefer having a set schedule whereas per diem work is not guaranteed. So you might make more money this week than last week. Another thing to consider, is that some specialties might be harder to find consistent work in than others.

Lack of benefits

Many per diem nurses don't have benefits of healthcare insurance or vacation pay because they're not a part of the organization. This isn't always the case, but it's more common to not receive benefits than to receive benefits. Just like freelancers or entrepreneurs, you get to make your own schedule, but you also have to pay for your own insurance out-of-pocket.

How to find work with per diem nursing companies?

That's easy, with Para! While there are good amounts of per diem nursing agencies, Para is fast, easy, and reliable!

Para helps healthcare facilities fill vacant shifts and helps nurses find work.

How does it work?

A qualified medical professional downloads our app, creates their profile, and it will show their availability to facilities associated with per diem nursing companies.

This is the best way to find medical help on short notice without going through agencies that may take longer.

Para takes the frustration out of finding qualified medical professionals to fill your shifts.


Alright, let's recap with a brief overview of this article.

The best position for a nurse depends on their needs and lifestyle. Per diem nurses work on an as needed basis and offer more flexibility than full-time and part-time positions. PRN, whether part-time or full-time, nursing positions offer health benefits, stable work, and a consistent schedule. Per diem positions don't.

The positives of per diem positions are:

  • Increased pay
  • Freedom
  • Leverage to negotiate
  • Explore new careers
  • Potential permanent positions
  • Build resume
  • Stay up-to-date with the medical field

Negatives to per diem positions are:

  • Unstable work
  • Lack of benefits

Per diem nursing companies, like Para, are the easiest way to find available nurses and hospital jobs. Avoid the agency lines, download the app, and sign up today.

Are you a per diem, full-time PRN, or part-time PRN? What do you like or dislike about your position?

Comment below!