What is per diem nursing?
You may have come across the job title per diem nurse in the past but exactly what is per diem nursing? Per diem nursing is when a professional healthcare nurse is hired by a nurse staffing agency to work on an as needed basis. Per diem nurses are hired to fill hospital, healthcare facility, or clinical job openings when the medical facility needs to fill their vacant positions.
That is the general idea behind per diem nursing.
Next, let’s talk about what per diem means, and how it's applied to nursing.
What does per diem mean?
The phrase per diem is Latin and means “as needed” or “by the day”. Per diem refers to a job where an employee, of any kind, is paid when their services are needed daily to fill employee gaps.
Per diem pay refers to how much money a business, agency, company, or facility can afford to pay a temporary employee per day. Depending on the negotiated terms within the employment contract, per diem can refer to a few different things.
There are many careers that have per diem employees outside of healthcare. For some, per diem pay may cover all expenses for a temporary employee. For other positions, per diem pay might only cover partial expenses.
Travel nurses, for example, are given options for their living expenses when they travel and how it's paid for. To learn more about travel nursing and per diem nursing, check out how to become a travel nurse vs per diem article here.
With per diem nursing, the amount of pay depends on the staffing agency and the healthcare facilities that use these agencies to hire nurses. We'll go over per diem nursing pay in a minute.
First, let’s talk a bit about what per diem nursing is and how per diem nursing works.
What is per diem nursing and how does it work?
A healthcare facility that needs to hire nurses quickly, goes through a nurse staffing agency to hire a registered nurse as a contract employee. Once a nurse is hired as a temporary employee and their contract is negotiated, they’ll work the shifts they’re scheduled for.
Many times a hospital, clinic, or healthcare facility will have call-offs, unexpected emergencies, or understaffing issues. Per diem nurses will apply for those positions and are hired to fill those vacancies.
Per diem nurses are contractors not fully employed by one facility. This gives them the freedom to work at any healthcare facility they choose.
Since per diem nurses don't have to work for only one hospital, this gives them more freedom on their work choices. It also allows per diem nurses to make a very comfortable salary working as a contractor at different medical facilities.
While per diem nursing is a perfect career for many, some may prefer a definite part-time position. Keep in mind there are pros and cons to both positions. To learn how they’re similar and different, check out our article, are per diem or part-time positions better for nurses?
Do per diem nurses get benefits?
Per diem nurses do not get traditional employee benefits because they usually work less hours than full-time. Per diem nurses can be hired through a nurse staffing agency or work directly for a hospital.
If they’re employed by contract through a nurse staffing agency, this means they’re not an official employee of the medical facility they work for.
Although per diem nurses don’t have access to health insurance or vacation pay through their employer, there are other benefits to per diem nursing. A few of them include job freedom and increased pay. But if you get sick or want vacation time off, this will have to be paid out-of-pocket.
On the plus side, although benefits would be nice, they’re usually offered more money. The increase of pay is an incentive for the lack of benefits offered for their role at a healthcare facility.
How much do per diem nurses make?
Per diem nurses can make over $80,000 per year. Their annual salary is widely based on their nurse staffing agencies' pay rate negotiated in their contract. It also depends on the amount of hours that a per diem nurse is willing to work.
Zip recruiter’s data shows that the average per diem registered nurse salary differs by state in the United States.
While per diem nurses don’t get paid time off, they have the option to take breaks in between jobs. Though these breaks can be beneficial and necessary, at the end of the day, they are unpaid. These breaks can negatively impact a per diem nurse's annual salary.
There are many pros and cons to per diem nursing aside from the unpaid breaks. Since hours vary depending on if the healthcare facility needs to hire more nurses, this leaves per diem nursing hours uncapped. Which allows for a per diem nurses salary to increase.
Next, let’s talk about per diem nurse schedules.
How many hours do per diem nurses work?
Per diem nurses aren’t guaranteed hours since they work on an as needed basis. Per diem nursing hours can vary greatly. This depends on the amount of open positions available at the hospital and a nurse's availability.
While per diem nursing schedules can be satisfying, the total amount of hours worked by a per diem nurse depends on a few factors.
A few things that can impact the need to hire more nurses can include:
A healthcare facility’s budget
If a healthcare facility is trying to budget their spending, they may have less or more capital than other hospitals or clinics. Their funding allows them the ability to hire more help when needed.
The amount of nurses needed to fill vacant positions
The amount of help that a hospital, clinic, or healthcare facility hires, will reflect on the amount of hours worked by a nurse. For example, if a healthcare facility doesn't hire enough help, a smaller number of nurses will have more opportunities to fill more shifts.
How long a medical facility will need extra help
Hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities can have a multitude of reasons they’re demanding more help. Understaffing can be due to nurses calling off sick, taking vacations, not enough on-call nurses, or an overwhelming increase of patients. The pandemic of 2020 and 2021 is a prime example of hospitals having nursing shortages due to increased Covid-19 patients.
Asking a healthcare facility to renew your contract
Nurses also have the option to ask their staffing recruiter if the current healthcare facility they’re working for is willing to extend their contract. This can help nurses receive more hours before their contract expires.
If you’re a nurse looking to branch out in the world of per diem nursing, you’ll need to go through a nurse staffing agency. This can take time especially if there are no positions available in your field.
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