Per Diem Nursing vs. Traditional Nursing: Which is Right for You?

Picture of a confused female nurse

Healthcare is an exciting and ever-changing industry, growing and expanding by the day. Currently, healthcare professionals have two employment options to choose from. Both options have unique advantages and disadvantages, and nurses must understand the differences before deciding which path is best for their career goals and lifestyle.

This comprehensive guide explores the differences between per diem nursing and traditional nursing, helping nurses make an informed choice. We will delve into factors such as flexibility, job security, compensation, benefits, workload, and career prospects. By the end of this article, you will have a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of each nursing employment model and be able to make a decision that fits your individual needs.

Temporary vs. Traditional Nursing: A Comparative Analysis

  1. Employment type

  • Traditional Nursing: Traditional nursing positions are typically full- or part-time and have a set schedule. Nurses working in traditional roles follow regular shifts, including day shifts, night shifts, and rotating shifts.
  • Per diem nursing: Often referred to as “PRN (pro re nata),” per diem nursing allows nurses to work flexibly as needed. Per diem, nurses are not tied to a fixed schedule and can choose when and where they work.
  1. Flexibility

  • Traditional nursing jobs: Traditional nursing jobs offer less flexibility because nurses adhere to a predetermined schedule. It is difficult to change shifts or take vacations.
  • Per Diem Nursing: Per diem nursing offers greater flexibility. Nurses can book shifts based on their availability, priorities, and career goals. Additionally, they can also refuse shifts they are not willing to pick up. This is a level of career freedom not afforded to HCPs in the past.
  1. Job security

  • Traditional Nursing: Traditional nursing positions generally offer guaranteed income and job security. They also offer good benefits, including health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans.
  • Temporary Nurses: As a temporary HCP, whether or not you pick up a job depends on the market. If there are no shifts available, you will not earn or gain experience. Day temporary nurses have unstable employment and their income may fluctuate.
  1. Compensation:

  • Traditional Nursing: In traditional roles, compensation is received on a regular or hourly basis. Overtime pay is usually provided for hours worked more than scheduled hours.
  • Per diem nursing: Compared to their traditional peers, HCPs are paid more per hour; like HCPs, per diem nurses remain in high demand. This higher salary compensates for the lack of benefits and job security associated with the per diem role.
  1. Benefits

  • Traditional Nursing: Traditional nursing positions typically offer benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and professional development opportunities.
  • Per diem nursing: Per diem nurses typically do not receive the same benefits as full-time nurses. They may need to secure health insurance and retirement benefits.
  1. Workload :

  • Traditional Nursing: Nurses in traditional roles often have a more predictable workload with regular patient assignments and responsibilities.
  • Temporary nurses: Day nurses may experience a diverse workload as they care for a variety of patient populations and work in a variety of care settings. This diversity can be professionally enriching but may require frequent adaptation to different environments.


Per diem, nurses and traditional nurses are both valid options in the healthcare industry. Both ways of working have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for you depends on your career lifestyle preferences and priorities. Some nurses may prefer the stability and benefits of traditional nursing, while others may prefer the flexibility and potentially higher pay of per diem nursing.

Additionally, some nurses may choose to blend both models to create a hybrid schedule that meets their specific needs. Whichever path you choose, it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons, considering factors like job security, compensation, flexibility, and benefits. This informed decision will help you navigate your nursing career effectively and achieve your professional goals.


Read: Pros and Cons of Per Diem Nursing

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