Part-Time vs. Per Diem Nursing: Which is Right for You?

For NursesJanuary 10, 2021

As a nurse, you have a skill set that is routinely in high demand. And with thousands of hospitals, doctors’ offices, and long-term care facilities across the US, you can count on good job security. Yet, even with those perks, many nurses point to schedule flexibility as one of the primary benefits of their chosen profession. Because many healthcare facilities use a combination of full-time, part-time, and per diem positions to fill their staffing needs, nurses can often work as much or as little as they like. 

Whether you’re a seasoned RN, an aspiring nurse aide, or somewhere in between, one key to building a satisfying nursing career is determining what kind of schedule works best for you. If you want full-time employment, those opportunities are available. But if you want more control of your schedule, part-time and per diem nursing jobs can be the perfect solution.

What’s the difference between part-time and per diem nursing?

The most significant difference between part-time and per diem nursing is the consistency of schedule. Part-time nurses work regular shifts that total less than 40 hours a week, and per diem nurses work a more day-to-day schedule, covering open shifts or filling in for nurses who call out. A per diem nurse could very well work 40 hours a week — or even more.

Schedule flexibility is a benefit for both. While there are other similarities, the differences will determine which role is right for you. To help you understand the differences, we’ll look at each job type individually and then offer some suggestions to help you pick the perfect match for your schedule and your life.

What is part-time nursing?

In the medical industry, part-time nursing jobs vary by employer, but the term generally refers to positions that are scheduled for fewer shifts than full-time positions — often less than 30 hours per week. These hours do not have to be set for specific times or days, which means part-time nurses may work several shorter shifts or fewer shifts that last longer. While the overall hours may be less, a part-time time role offers several advantages.

For starters, part-time nurse hours offer more time to devote to other priorities, such as raising a family, volunteering in the community, pursuing further education, or working additional jobs. For this reason alone, many nurses choose part-time positions to help them achieve a healthy work-life balance. When it comes to benefits, some employers will offer coverage to part-time nurses while others elect not to. If health insurance or other benefits are an important consideration for you, be sure to ask potential employers for their part-time benefits policy.

What is per diem nursing?

“Per diem” is a Latin phrase meaning “by the day,” and that is exactly how per diem nursing jobs are scheduled. Unlike nursing jobs that follow a pre-set schedule, per diem nurses — also referred to as PRN nurses — are traditionally scheduled to fill in staffing gaps for hospitals, doctors’ offices, and extended care facilities. By delivering professional nursing care when regularly scheduled nurses are unavailable, per diem nurses provide a valuable service. 

Schedule flexibility is the primary benefit of working as a per diem nurse. The number of hours per diem and PRN nurses work can vary greatly by employer and professional field, but by design, the hours are not guaranteed. A busy schedule one week does not mean the trend will continue. For this reason, many per diem nurses choose to work for multiple healthcare facilities, picking up shifts when and where they can. While per diem nurses do not receive standard employee benefits, many employers choose to pay a premium for nurses who will cover shifts on short notice. In many cases, this additional premium, coupled with the ability to select the shifts they want to work, makes per diem nursing a career choice that is personally and financially rewarding.

Pros & Cons of Part-Time and Per Diem Nursing

If you’re trying to decide whether part-time or per diem nursing positions would be right for you, it can be helpful to look at a good old-fashioned list of pros and cons. While the following lists aren't exhaustive, they offer a good summary of each position's benefits and challenges.

Part-Time Nursing Pros

  • A schedule of guaranteed hours makes planning easier. 
  • Fewer work hours mean more freedom for outside pursuits, including family, education, and volunteering. 
  • As a regularly scheduled employee, you can build camaraderie with the team members and patients you work with each week. 

Part-Time Nursing Cons

  • If facility needs are not being met, you may be expected to work more hours than you would prefer. 
  • Employee benefits (i.e., health insurance) may not be guaranteed.
  • A set schedule limits outside opportunities for professional or personal pursuits.

Per Diem Nursing Pros

  • You enjoy total control of your schedule by choosing when and where you want to work.
  • The flexible nature of the role offers opportunities to pursue outside interests or work in a variety of healthcare facilities or medical specialties
  • Many per diem nursing jobs offset the scheduling uncertainty by paying higher hourly wages than equivalent full- and part-time positions.

Per Diem Nursing Cons

  • Hours are not guaranteed, and full- and part-time nurses get scheduling priority. 
  • Employee benefits are rarely offered to per diem nurses.
  • The inconsistent nature of the job makes it difficult to build a team dynamic.

Gale Make Per Diem Nursing More Rewarding

Gale Healthcare Solutions offers the perfect solution for per diem nurses who want total control of their work schedules. Using the latest mobile technology, the Gale App lets approved per diem nurses manage their availability, choose their shifts, and receive daily pay with just the touch of a button. If you’re a nurse who’s ready to work when you want and collect your earnings as soon as your shift is over, you can apply to join the Gale family today! 

Gale cares for facility managers too.

The days of stressing over unfilled shifts are over. Gale enhances your ability to manage staff, fill open shifts, and ensure your facility provides quality care on a consistent basis.

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