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What to Look For in Per Diem Nursing Jobs

Career News September 22, 2013

If a nurse is looking for a more unconventional and flexible work schedule, she might want to consider per diem nursing jobs. Per diem is a Latin phrase; it means “per day” or “by the day.” In other words, a per diem nurse works when circumstances require. A per diem nurse might be hired to fill a certain amount of shifts per pay cycle, or she might simply be called into work when needed. When full-time nurses call out sick or there is an influx of patients, per diem nurses often fill the shifts. There are benefits and drawbacks to this kind of work schedule. Here are some things to look for when considering a per diem nursing job.

A Flexible Schedule

There are several different types of per diem nurses. Some of these nurses work just for one hospital, while others will float around between several hospitals. It all depends on how much the nurse wants to work. A per diem job is ideal if a person is trying to raise a family. The free time is also beneficial if a person wants to travel extensively. It allows them the opportunity to dictate their own hours and schedule.

Most per diem jobs require that a nurse sign a contract. These contracts state the nurse must fulfill a certain amount of shifts per pay cycle or by the month. In other words, a per diem nurse might end up working 15 hours a week, or she might work 30 hours. It all depends on the contract. This is the most important thing to be aware of when it comes to per diem nursing. A contract gives a per diem nurse a sense of job stability, and without a contract there is no guarantee on how many shifts she will work.


The flexible schedule is the greatest benefit of being a per diem nurse. However, there are many substantial drawbacks as well. Most per diem nurses are not eligible for health care benefits. Per diem nurses do not receive vacation time, sick time, holidays or educational leaves of absence, either. Furthermore, most per diem nurses are not eligible for shift differentials. For many nurses, receiving a good benefits package is more important than a flexible schedule, but the situation is different for everyone. Before signing a per diem contract with a health care facility, it is a good idea to inquire about what, if any, benefits are included.

Shift Dynamics

Shift dynamics are something that a per diem nurse needs to consider. Nursing is a profession that relies on teamwork, communication and cooperation, so if a person is only working at a facility a couple times a week, chances are she will not have as good a working relationship with the team as a regular full-time nurse. This may or may not lead to issues on the shift, and the dynamics become even more complicated if a per diem nurse is floating between several hospitals or health care facilities. It should be no surprise that full-time nurses often do not think of per diem nurses as their equals.

Every nurse has a different situation that will determine what type of job and schedule is best. While a per diem nursing job might look perfect for a student, or someone who wants to travel or spend more time with their family, that might not be the case at all. Not everyone likes routine. An unconventional shift schedule spread out at several different hospitals might be just the type of excitement someone is looking for.

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