Working Per Diem

Is There a Difference Between Working Per Diem and Being a Contractor in the Healthcare Industry?

Working per diem or as an independent contractor can be a great choice for people looking to enter the healthcare industry or reconfigure their careers. Still, there are a number of details to consider, as they can have a direct impact on your work. To be successful as a per diem worker or as an independent contractor, it’s important that you know how these two work and what the differences are between working per diem vs. contracting in the healthcare field.

Independent Contractor vs. Per Diem Healthcare Worker

While a majority of on-demand nurses and healthcare workers, including medical technicians, behavioral health technicians, and certified caregivers, are paid as 1099 employees, there are some differences between working on a contract and being employed on a per diem basis. As these slight differences will be further explored below, it’s important to note that agencies and facilities can have varying definitions of the terms; to some, they mean the same thing. For assurance, always confirm how those you’re working with define these two roles. 

Generally, independent contractors are healthcare professionals who do not work full-time at a single facility or healthcare center. Instead, they work on a contract basis, which allows them to work locally or travel to various locations to help during nursing shortages. Per diem work is very similar to contract work. Per diem healthcare professionals work when they are needed, whether that’s for a single day or a single week. As such, they are not salaried and do not always have set schedules. 

While both situations offer benefits over being a full-time employee, certain perks come from working on a per diem basis rather than being on a contract that is worth digging into further.

What Does Per Diem Mean in Nursing?

Per Diem stems from the Latin phrase “per day,” which means just that in the healthcare industry. Nurses and other healthcare professionals work as the facility needs them on a shift-by-shift basis. Per diem shifts may be for a single day, or they may extend for a period of time, as in the event a worker goes on temporary leave. Mainly, per diem nursing offers more flexibility in scheduling than full-time employment, giving you the ability to design a schedule (and career) that suits your lifestyle.

How Does Per Diem Nursing Work?

As the healthcare environment becomes more complex, some on-demand nurses and other healthcare professionals are turning to nurse staffing agencies or staffing platforms that contract with individual facilities to fill their “per diem” or PRN shifts. Per diem shifts are sometimes scheduled in advance, such as to cover a planned absence, but they can also be assigned at the last minute to fill real-time needs due to call-outs or higher patient census during the shift itself.

Working with an agency, per diem workers may be matched with a role based on their interests, schedule, and specialization. If they are working with a platform like nurseIO, they can look for open shifts and accept those that fit into their schedule. 

In terms of pay, it depends on the conditions, the position, and who is responsible for payment. Nonetheless, PRN compensation is competitive, with reports that working per diem shifts can make you more money than full-time, salaried positions in the long run. However, that is also dependent on how much you opt to work. 

How Many Hours Do Per Diem Nurses Work?

The working hours of per diem professionals vary depending on their employer. If they are hired directly by a facility, such as a hospital, the number of hours required to work is determined by that facility’s rules. On the other hand, if they work as a per diem employee or independent contractor through an agency or staffing platform, the working hours are subject to the rules set by those organizations. 

Per Diem Nursing: Pros and Cons

For healthcare professionals seeking more flexibility and convenience, the per diem route is preferred. Before getting started, it’s important to assess the per diem pros and cons first. 

As stated, perhaps the main benefit for a PRN worker is the freedom and flexibility it allows in building a schedule around your life. Not just when it comes to when you work but where you work, which can go a long way in contributing to workplace happiness. For facilities looking for per diem workers, the biggest positive is that you typically don’t have to pay health or retirement benefits, payroll taxes, or unemployment insurance, which keeps labor costs down and allows for higher wages.

In terms of negatives, per diem work is obviously much less secure than full-time employment, and while the pay rate is sometimes higher, employers don’t have to pay state or federal taxes for 1099 employees. Thus, the onus is on the per diem healthcare professional to pay those taxes when it comes time to file. Other than that, many healthcare professionals find that the pros of per diem employment far outweigh the cons. 

Join Today

If you’re looking for a quick and convenient way to find per diem jobs, or you’re a healthcare facility seeking a reliable pool of per diem workers, nurseIO is your solution. nurseIO is a web and app-based technology platform connecting healthcare professionals with local facilities’ open per diem shifts. Learn more and sign up today to get started! 

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