“Per Diem” means “by the day.” In other words, nurses working in a per diem role are essentially working on call.

Working on call means different things based on the facility or organization. For example, the nurse may be called same-day for sick calls. Shifts may vary from a partial shift to an eight to twelve-hour day (depending on the organization). Per diem nurses can also be pre-scheduled to fill in for regular staff who will be off on vacation, etc.

Per diem nurses can also be hired for seasonal staffing coverage; for example, during cold and flu season when patient care demand spikes, or summer when many nurses go on vacation. Holiday coverage is also sometimes considered “seasonal,” as many nurses request that time off.

Benefits of Becoming a Per-Diem Nurse

The benefit of working on call is that nurses can choose when they want to work. They can decline offered shifts if they are not available and accept work on days when they are. They can pick up holidays where the pay will be higher. They can be available for their children's daily needs. Also, they are not tied to any specific schedule. Per-diem nurses also are typically paid more than regular staff as they do not have set hours and sometimes have no benefits such as health insurance.

Disadvantages of Becoming a Per-Diem Nurse

One of the disadvantages of working per diem is that sometimes nurses may not be needed. They may go a week or two without an offered shift. This can result in financial strain if the nurse has no other source of income. Also, per diem nurses are typically not benefited. They may not have health insurance, paid vacation, sick time, etc. Again, this may cause financial strain if the nurse has no other income or health coverage.

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How Do You Become a Per Diem Nurse?

Transitioning into a per-diem nursing role is an attractive option for many nurses seeking flexibility and autonomy in their careers. Here’s a simplified guide on how to become a per-diem nurse:

1. Obtain Licensure and Certification: Complete a nursing education program approved by the state board of nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN (or NCLEX-PN) exam. Additional certifications, like ACLS or PALS, may be required for certain specialties.

2. Gain Clinical Experience: Gain experience in various healthcare settings to enhance your skills and marketability. This can include hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, or home healthcare agencies.

3. Network and Research Job Opportunities: Network with other healthcare professionals and research job openings through online job boards, staffing agencies, or direct contact with healthcare facilities.

4. Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter: Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your skills, experience, and availability. Emphasize flexibility, adaptability, and clinical expertise.

5. Ace the Interview: Prepare for interviews by practicing responses that highlight your ability to work independently, handle unpredictable schedules, and provide patient-centered care.

6. Negotiate Terms and Conditions: Review and negotiate job offers, paying attention to pay rates, scheduling expectations, and any benefits offered.

7. Maintain Continuing Education: Stay current with advances in healthcare by pursuing continuing education opportunities and renewing required certifications or licenses.