Per Diem Nursing: The Ultimate Guide

Per Diem Nursing may sound fancy, but it’s not as intimidating as it might seem.

Per Diem is just a Latin phrase that’s literally means per day.

The term doesn’t refer to any particular specialty care that the nurses provide. It relates to how these nurses are hired and paid.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about per diem nursing and find out if it’s right for you!

What Is Per Diem Nursing?

It’s all in the name. A per diem nurse works on a day-to-day basis.

To put it simply, the nurses aren’t regularly employed at a particular hospital or another medical facility. They don’t work in a single hospital division.

Instead, they work in various hospital units. They also usually work in different medical facilities and hospitals.

It should be noted that some per diem nurses do work for a single hospital. They switch between hospital units based on the current patient census and needs across different units.

However, most per diem nurses work for nursing agencies. The agencies then connect their nurses to various facilities.

In practice, these nurses might work at one hospital for two days and then a couple of nights at a different facility. All of that could be in the span of one week.

Why Do Medical Facilities Need Per Diem Nurses?

To say the least, hospitals need a lot of different professionals to provide a wide array of healthcare services.

The busier hospitals and facilities frequently need per diem nurses to fill their acute staffing needs. This tends to change from week to week.

For instance, a local flu epidemic might mean the nearest hospital will have an inflated patient census compared to their regular numbers.

However, hiring more nurses permanently wouldn’t make sense, because this need for more staff members is most likely temporary. That’s where per diem nurses come in to fill the gap.

By using per diem nurses, hospitals are able to rely on additional experienced nursing staff while also keeping their costs down.

4 Benefits of Per Diem Nursing

1. Make Extra Money

There are full-time per diem nurses that work exclusively with nursing agencies to find new positions. However, many nurses also take up per diem shifts in addition to their full-time nursing jobs.

The financial benefits of this are obvious. By picking up extra shifts, per diem nurses don’t have to worry about:

  • Paying their monthly bills
  • Saving for a downpayment
  • Paying off their student loans

Whether you’re looking to pay down your credit card debt, save some money for the future, or just see how various hospitals work, per diem nursing allows you to do it all.

2. Flexibility

If you’d like more flexibility in your nursing job, working per diem is the way to go. It gives you a lot more freedom in scheduling.

You can pick up shifts at your own pace and work out your own schedule in a way that suits you.

Plus, many of these positions need to be filled on short notice. This means per diem nursing shifts pay more than regular nursing shifts.

3. Expand Your Skillset

Working per diem means you’ll expand your professional skillset a lot faster than you would otherwise.

Per-diem nurses are frequently assigned to unfamiliar units. You get the broadest possible view of the hospital system by working at different hospitals and seeing how stuff is done at various sites.

While it may require stepping out of your comfort zone at first, it’s pretty gratifying.

4. Networking and Career Growth

As a per-diem nurse, you also get to work at all kinds of:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes

This means you’ll meet a lot of new people and have the best opportunities for networking.

Also, the career growth you gain access to by working in various specialties is truly astounding.

Many hospitals provide some training before you start. Exposure to all these different specialties means you’ll gain more experience and additional skills.

Apart from being useful for your career, this variety also means you won’t have to worry about burnout.

Does Per Diem Nursing Pay More?

Per diem nursing jobs generally come with higher wages than regular nursing jobs. However, rates do vary depending on your location.

There are plenty of reasons for this:

  • Unlike with a fixed salary, your pay is the direct result of your working hours
  • Hours on specialty floors like the ICU or labor and delivery likely pay more
  • Per-diem nurses frequently pick up shifts during the holidays, which pay more
  • Filling a last-minute opening quickly means more money
  • Hospitals don’t need to provide the benefits (PTO, sick days, health insurance) they have to for permanent employees

It’s worth pointing out that you can also take on per diem nursing work seasonally. Many full-time nurses like to go on vacation during the holiday season, such as summer or Christmas.

That’s when the need for temporary per diem nursing staff is the highest. Also, the demand has risen quite a lot since the outbreak of COVID-19.

How To Go From Full-Time To Per-Diem Nursing

Before you make the switch from full-time to per diem nursing, there are several things to consider.

Will You Have Health Insurance?

First of all, if you’re married, see if your partner can carry your health insurance.

If you’re seeking out per diem nursing positions on your own, it’s likely you won’t be covered.

Work with Nursing Agencies

There are also local nursing agencies and travel nursing agencies.

Both find per diem positions for you at different locations, and some of them provide health insurance.

How Flexible Are You?

Consider how flexible and independent you are. It’s a major deciding factor in whether you’ll enjoy per-diem nursing or not.

Remember, you’ll likely be floated to various units that require different types of patient care.

Start Reaching Out

When you’re sure about what you want, you can start putting out feelers for per diem positions. You can do this in your current facility or look for open positions in nearby facilities.

This process tends to be fast. That’s because there’s always demand to fill short-term nursing positions.

If you don’t want to do all of that on your own, you can register with a local or travel nurse agency. They’ll find open positions for you.

Should You Choose Per Diem Nursing?

Initially, many nurses who decide to go per diem start doubting their decision.

It’s only natural. After all, they’re entering an entirely new world, and not everyone can easily adapt to it.

The significantly higher pay is usually a good enough incentive. This is despite the canceled shifts that are a constant part of the per diem nurse’s life.

Pay Protection

Still, many nursing agencies provide pay protection to their per-diem nurses. It all depends on what kind of contract you sign.

If you’re moving to a per diem post within the same facility where you worked full-time, make sure to check their cancellation policy first.

Also, see if you’re entitled to any compensation. Some hospitals provide pay protection for shifts that are canceled on short notice.

Before You Make The Switch To Per Diem Nursing

Finally, before making the final switch per diem nursing, you can always try out per diem work for a short while before leaving your primary job.

See how you feel about working dynamically in different environments. Then you’ll be more confident about whether you’re fully prepared to take the leap and make a significant professional change.


All things considered, the benefits of working as a per diem nurse definitely outweigh the cost.

People with families appreciate the freedom to adapt to their loved one’s schedules and spend more time with them. Plus, the fact that you’re working less and making more money is always nice.

Once you make the switch to per diem nursing, it will be well worth it.

However, just like any other major life decision, it takes careful deliberation to do it right.

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