Part-Time, Per Diem, or PRN: Which Work Arrangement Suits You Best?

Judy, Stacy, and Ann are all Registered Nurses. Judy, a new mom, works at a hospital on weekends when her husband is home to watch the kids. She averages about 16 hours per week. Stacy just graduated from nursing school. She works for a community clinic on an “as needed” basis, filling in when other nurses are sick or need a day off. Her hours vary per week, but she usually works at least one eight-hour shift every week. Ann is working towards her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, focusing on gerontology. During the summer, she works as a substitute nurse for several skilled nursing communities when needed. She often travels out of town to work. There are weeks when she doesn’t work at all and some when she works overtime. 

All three RNs are filling the urgent need for nurses in the healthcare sector by working very flexible and varied schedules. These jobs are becoming more commonplace for many healthcare jobs, not just nurses. But the nuances of these jobs may be confusing. Judy, Stacy, and Ann all work a particular kind of nursing job. The hours, pay, benefits, and employers change depending on the job type. If you want to work a job like theirs, it’s essential to understand the differences. This blog will help you do that.

Medical worker in mask.
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Part-Time Work – Judy’s Story

Many sectors rely on part-time workers, especially those that are seasonal. Part-time employees make up a large part of the U.S. workforce. Here are some recent statistics:

In healthcare, part-time employees work a set number of hours per week, less than the typical full-time workload. Their schedule is consistent and may include specific shifts and days. They may work in the same office or rotate departments, but they typically have prior knowledge of their schedule and location. 

Depending on the employer, part-time healthcare workers may be eligible for some benefits, including paid time off, retirement plans, health insurance, childcare, and tuition assistance. Benefits are based on the number of hours a part-time employee works. It’s also important to note that state regulations may impact part-time healthcare work. Some states have specific rules regarding staffing ratios and the classification of part-time versus full-time employees.

Part-time positions can serve as a pathway to full-time employment for healthcare professionals who wish to increase their hours or responsibilities over time. Many healthcare organizations prefer to promote from within.

Part-time work provides a more structured schedule, access to benefits, and greater stability. For Judy, the steady weekend hours make it easy for her to plan her schedule, spend time with her new baby, and earn some extra money for her family. She hopes that when her baby is older, her employer will increase her hours to full-time so that she can receive childcare benefits. 

PRN (Pro Re Nata) Work – Stacy’s Story

Pro Re Nata (PRN) is the Latin term for “as needed” or “as the situation demands.” Basically, PRN jobs are an on-call or as-needed work arrangement, similar to a substitute teacher.

Here is some recent national PRN data for all industries: 

In healthcare and nursing, PRN employees do not work a fixed schedule. They work for their employer when they are needed to fill in for staff shortages, cover sick leave, or respond to busy periods. PRN staff work for one specific healthcare facility. They have tremendous flexibility in their schedule because they choose which shifts they are available to work. As a result, their work hours fluctuate weekly, and there is no guaranteed minimum number of hours per week. It’s also important to note that PRN work may be temporary, not permanent. 

For nurses, medical institutions typically require PRNs to have an RN license, at least one year of direct nursing experience, and references from previous workplaces. Most PRN nurses will earn wages comparable to full-time or part-time nurses. Depending on work hours, some may also be eligible for benefits like medical insurance and retirement plans. 

PRN work is an excellent way to gain work experience and build a solid network, which is precisely what Stacy is doing at her PRN job. She is looking for a full-time job, but in the meantime, her job at the community clinic is a great first step into nursing.

Per Diem Work – Ann’s Story

The terms “per diem” and “PRN”  are sometimes used interchangeably but can have slightly different meanings in the healthcare sector. “Per diem” is a Latin term that means “per day.” For many employers, per diem is associated with a contracted daily rate. For traveling nurses, per diem could mean a daily allowance or rate provided to cover expenses such as meals and lodging. In other healthcare settings, per diem means a fixed daily payment or shift rate. Nurses or other healthcare professionals working per diem may receive a set rate for each day, regardless of the hours worked. 

The significant difference between per diem and PRN jobs is that per diem employees often work shifts for multiple employers. Like PRNs, per diem employees are temporary employees, work only when needed, and there is no guarantee of a certain amount of hours per week. Per diem employees can choose which shifts, assignments, and locations they want to be available for. Per diem employees, nurses especially, tend to earn the same or more per hour compared to full-time or part-time colleagues and may be eligible for benefits.

Employees working per diem shifts should love to meet new people and a changeable work environment. No day is ever the same for per diem employees. However, per diem employees must be qualified to do the job because the demands and skills necessary for the job remain consistent. They also need to be confident enough in their abilities to jump right into a new work situation every day. 

Ann uses her per diem shifts at different nursing homes to build a solid resume of experience in various gerontology systems, treatments, policies, processes, and team environments. She also loves the work/life balance per diem work offers her because she can determine when, where, and how much she wants to work during the summer.  

Getting Started in PT, PRN, or Per Diem Healthcare 

Now is a great time to explore working a flexible schedule in healthcare. The demand for qualified workers for these positions is very high. We see new job openings every week. Here are some steps to getting started:

  1. Assess Your Tolerance for the Unknown: Remember that there are no guarantees with PRN and per diem work. Your schedule and location will be entirely up to you and your employer. Ensure you enjoy the flexibility and changeability of that kind of work life. If you don’t think you will focus on finding a permanent part-time position. 
  2. Assess Your Skills and Qualifications: Determine your healthcare skills, qualifications, and areas of expertise. PRN and per diem work often require high competence and adaptability. Certifications and education are just as crucial for these positions as they would be in full-time jobs. 
  3. Consider Multiple Specialties and Environments: Be open to exploring work in various healthcare specialties, facilities, and locations. Having a broader skill set and being open to a variety of settings can increase your opportunities.
  4. Update Your Resume and Credentials: Ensure your resume is up-to-date, highlighting your relevant healthcare experience, certifications, licenses, and specialized training.
  5. Obtain and Update Necessary Licenses and Certifications: Verify that your professional licenses and certifications are current and meet the requirements for the roles you are interested in.
  6. Research Healthcare Facilities: Identify healthcare facilities, clinics, hospitals, and agencies in your area that offer flexible positions. Choose the employers that best fit your interests, experiences, and schedule. 
  7. Networking: Utilize your professional network to learn about local job opportunities. Attend healthcare conferences, join online forums or groups, and connect with colleagues who may have insights or job leads.
  8. Contact us! We receive new job opportunities every day. Our team has over 25 years of experience as a healthcare placement agency. Our excellent track record is based on our personalized approach to employers and employees. 

In summary, healthcare workers are in such high demand that employers are willing to offer creative schedules and work environments to meet their needs. Nurses like Judy, Stacy, and Ann take advantage of that demand with their unique work situations, and so can you. Part-time, PRN, and per diem healthcare jobs offer flexibility, lucrative wages, and varied work experience, all of which can lead to a better work/life balance and the path to an extraordinary career. 

To start your new healthcare career, call us at 602-468-6300 or submit your resume by filling out the form below.

To start your new healthcare career, call us at 602-468-6300 or submit your resume by filling out the form below.

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