Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing

Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing: How Do They Compare?

Curious about the similarities and differences between per diem vs. travel nursing? While it’s true that these two types of roles have a lot in common, they also differ in some fundamental ways. And all of these are worth knowing about if you’re a nurse trying to find your ideal position or a healthcare employer responsible for recruiting and hiring nursing staff.

To put things into better perspective, we’ve put together a quick breakdown of both per diem and travel nursing, which includes a comparison of the two types of nursing and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

The Basics of Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing

Both per diem nursing (sometimes referred to as PRN nursing) and travel nursing provide flexible alternatives to traditional full-time staffing. But in order to decide which one is right for your own needs, you have to dig a bit deeper into what each position really has to offer.

How Does Per Diem Nursing Work?

With per diem nursing, healthcare facilities bring on nurses and other specialty caregivers on a shift-by-shift basis rather than full-time. There are no contracts or long-term commitments, and nurses are free to pick and choose where, when, and how often they work. 

The benefits of per diem nursing apply to facilities and the nurses they bring on since both parties have much to gain from operating outside the confines of standard staffing agreements. Major pros include increased flexibility and convenience, high hourly wages, a better work-life balance for nurses, and a reduced risk of on-site staffing shortages. As for the cons, hours and shifts aren’t guaranteed on either end, and there’s always the chance that a nurse and employer will discover early on that they’re simply not the right fit for each other. 

So, how many hours do per diem nurses work, and is it a fair trade-off for the stability that comes with full-time nursing? That all depends on the specifics of the role, the preferences of the nurse, and the needs of the facilities. Some per diem nurses work 40 hours or more per week, while others work less based on personal choice or local demand. 

How Does Travel Nursing Work?

Similar to per diem, travel nursing allows nurses to lend their skills and services on an as-needed basis to healthcare facilities. However, rather than staying in the same geographic location, travel nurses go wherever they might be needed, even if it’s across the country. 

The purpose of travel nursing is to fill staffing gaps caused by things like nursing shortages or surges in patient demand. These assignments can last anywhere from several weeks to several months and include a contract outlining how long the nurse will be filling it at a particular facility. 

Travel nurses share many of the same benefits of per diem nursing, including job flexibility, premium pay, and the ability to provide care when and where it’s needed most. But there are several more drawbacks to this type of role since it requires increased onboarding and training without a full-time commitment, and both parties have the right to terminate the contract at any time. 

Breaking Down the Key Differences

Here’s how per diem vs. travel nursing compare at a glance, with a focus on the core characteristics that define each type of position. 

Per Diem Nursing

  • Provides increased flexibility to healthcare facilities and nurses by filling open shifts on an as-needed basis
  • Allows nurses to choose when they want to work, where, and how often
  • Offers nurses the ability to gain experience across multiple settings
  • Usually centered around local assignments
  • Premium hourly pay without benefits like retirement or paid sick days
  • Nurses may choose or be required to work different shifts or units, even within the same facility

Travel Nursing

  • Involves temporary nursing assignments at different locations across the country
  • Typically requires commitments of several months
  • Nurses are often provided with free housing or a housing stipend
  • Offers a high rate of pay and may also include bonuses as well as additional benefits like agency-provided health insurance and retirement plans
  • Provides nurses with an opportunity to gain new skills, meet new people, and explore new places
  • May require nurses to work long hours or weekends

Is Working Per Diem Worth It?

When it comes to the benefits of per diem nursing over travel nursing, we’ve seen time and again that nursing professionals prefer the increased flexibility of PRN work, particularly in terms of job flexibility and work-life balance. 

Per diem nursing is the ultimate in convenience for nursing professionals and healthcare facilities, with lots of opportunities for adapting to staffing needs in real-time. Couple that with great hourly pay, and it’s easy to see why so many are choosing per diem as the go-to solution for their needs. 

Interested in getting started? NurseIO is a platform dedicated to connecting per diem nurses with local facilities looking for their help and experience. Facilities can post open shifts days, weeks, or even hours before they need them filled, and nurses can search and accept shifts as they choose. No contracts, no long-term commitments, and no cross-country travel required. 

NurseIO is currently available in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with more states coming soon. Search available shifts and experience firsthand what’s so great about per diem nursing!

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