Is Per Diem Nursing Worth It? A Breakdown

Per diem in nursing has risen to prominence over the last few years. More and more nurses are valuing all the advantages provided by the temporary nursing lifestyle. To say that nurse staffing is a perfect replacement for full time nursing would be misguided, however. Like with anything, it is a lifestyle that comes with a host of advantages and disadvantages. In the end, the best possible path will ultimately depend on your priorities, disposition, career situation and financial goals. This article will go over both the pros and cons of per diem nursing to help you figure out whether or not it would be worth it for you.

What is a per diem nurse?

Before we go any further, it is important to define what per diem nursing is to avoid confusion. Per diem translates to “per day” in Latin. Within a healthcare setting, this refers to hiring nurses on temporary contracts that can last either a single day or a certain number of days. These nurses are typically brought in to cover for unexpected nursing shortages or gaps in employment. There is a certain amount of overlap with these nurses and pro re nata (“as the situation demands” in Latin) nursing. With regards to the per diem vs PRN conversation, there are a couple of key differences. Per diem nurses can be employed by multiple facilities at a time, are not attached to a single unit but do not enjoy employment benefits. PRN nurses still have more flexibility than full time ones, but they are employed by a single unit, are required to follow in-house employment policies but can qualify for some insurance packages.


There is never a dry day

The doldrums of full time nursing are well recorded. Although anything can change at the mere drop of the hat, you will typically be expected to handle the same tasks and responsibilities for all of your shifts. This is completely not the case as a per diem nurse. Temporary nurses get to choose from a bevy of different jobs at different facilities. There is never a sense of sameness as you are constantly getting new looks, working within different systems and internalizing more information. This diversity of experiences helps nurses become more adaptable and experienced in a wide variety of areas, which will look incredible when you make your next resume.

Per diem nurse salary is higher

Contrary to what you may think, per diem nurses earn significantly more than their full time counterparts. Facilities want to fill vacancies with the best possible healthcare professionals on very short notice. With such high and immediate demand, the rates will often reflect on this. Though you will have to file your own taxes and put extra effort into planning your finances, the dividends may be worth it if you can stomach the tradeoffs. Parking up with VitaWerks further increases your earning potential, as our platform instantly matches you with the highest paying shifts in the best facilities in the nation.

Pros: Per diem nurses work on their own terms

When you work for your facility, you are expected to clock in your hours and work along a rigid set of guidelines. This is absolutely not the case for temporary nurses, who have full control over where and when they can work. You are essentially the boss of your own tiny business, in this regard. You can set your own hours, choose your preferred facilities and even reject shifts or offerings that do not sit well with you. You will not find this level of career flexibility or control from anywhere else in the healthcare industry.


There is very little stability

Under temporary contracts, per-diem nurses do not enjoy benefits or a steady income. This means they are only earning whenever they are working. By nature, you also have to continue picking up new shifts in different environments while adapting on the fly. You will not get the chance to build familiarity with your work environments, like you would as a full-time nurse. If you are a creature of routine, then the frantic and ever-changing nature of per diem nursing may not be for you.

More financial responsibilities

Per diem in nursing’s increased freedom comes with added responsibilities. While employers deduct employee salaries to pay for their taxes, self-employed nurses have no such luck. This means they are responsible for calculating and filing their own taxes. Per the IRS, you will be expected to create an annual tax return, while paying your taxes on a quarterly basis. Hiring an accountant is highly recommended for HCPS who want to cut down on the hassle. They can handle all the difficult calculations, while providing sound advice on tax-deductible moves.

Little staff continuity

Working with different facilities on a regular basis leaves you little-to-no time to build a rapport with the staff at a hospital. A per diem-nurse will constantly be seeing new faces with every shift they take on. Some HCPs value the connections that they forge with their co-workers, over countless long shifts. It provides a sense of companionship and purpose to their work, no matter how difficult the shifts can get. These connections also facilitate a smoother and seamless team workflow between specialists who are well-acquainted with their hospitals’ very specific systems and procedures.

Choosing what you value

As we mentioned before, whether or not travel nursing per diem is for you will depend on where your priorities lie. If you work best in stable contexts and prefer risk mitigation, full time nursing is the best possible option. Per diem nursing, meanwhile, is best suited for nurses who want to challenge themselves. Temporary assignments will bring you to all sorts of different facilities, jobs and team contexts. You will be saddled with additional financial responsibilities, but you will earn more than your counterparts. Provided that you can stay on top of it all, you can work completely on your own terms and choose shifts at your own discretion. The tradeoffs come with massive benefits, if you play your cards right. There are even full time nurses who take per diem jobs on the side for added income or experience. As long as you know your limits and where you lie on certain matters, you are sure to make the right decision.