Job Seeker Resources September 30, 2022

Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing

Flexibility is perhaps the biggest draw to both per diem nursing and travel nursing. Travel nursing requires a bit more of a commitment – around three months for most contracts, and usually involving a short-term move – while per diem nursing can truly be “gig work” in your local area.

Both per diem and travel nurses are temporary team members and are not considered permanent staff. Per diem nurses and travel nurses both crave variety and are looking for something other than traditional, full-time employment.

What is the Difference Between Per Diem and Travel Nursing?

While per diem nurses and travel nurses have similarities because of their temporary status, there are some major differences. Per diem nurses typically work within commuting distance of their home, while travel nurses are usually picking up and moving their lives to a new location for the duration of their contract. Travel assignments can range from four to thirteen weeks.
Per diem nurses work on temporary assignments that can include one-off shifts, or several shifts, making it the perfect side gig. Travel nurses work based on contract assignments and often must juggle moving into new housing and learning a new city. Travel nurses tend to be explorers who have the flexibility to move and aren’t tied down to a city.

What Is Per Diem Nursing?

Per diem nursing, also called local nursing, literally means “by the day,” and many facilities use this supplemental staffing option on an as-needed basis. Per diem nurses have the ultimate flexibility, as they can decide when they do and don’t want to work.
The ongoing nurse shortage means per diem nurses are in demand and can choose to work just one or two shifts a week or construct a full-time schedule. Per diem is also a welcome option for nurses who already work full-time and want to earn extra income. Many per diem nursing jobs are same-day shifts, but they can also be arranged in advance.

If you want to learn the details about the pros and cons of per diem nursing, read our list of “Top 6 Pros and Cons of Per Diem Nursing Jobs”.

Pros of Being a Per Diem Nurse

Per diem nurses can arrange their work schedule to fit their lifestyle. Whether building a schedule based around family commitments or around a full-time job, per diem nurses get to meet their personal needs. They never have to miss a holiday or work over the weekend unless they want to. Perhaps the biggest draw to per diem nursing besides the flexibility is the higher rate of pay. Per diem nurses tend to be paid more than staff nurses because it is an incentive to fill last-minute shifts to meet nurse-to-patient ratios.
Not all per diem assignments are on short notice, though. Per diem nurses can book shifts, or even blocks of shifts, in advance. A good option for a longer-term assignment is to work at vaccination hubs or clinics during flu season. Per diem is also helpful for nurses who want to try out different medical settings, such as schools or skilled nursing facilities.

Cons of Working as a Per Diem Nurse

As with other gig work, per diem nursing cannot guarantee hours, and shifts can be canceled by the facility up to two hours prior to the start time. Similar to travel nurses and even some staff nurses, per diem nurses may have to float to other units from time to time to help fill patient to staff ratios. Per diem nurses also have to be confident enough in their skills to hit the ground running, as they will usually only receive a short orientation when they arrive at a new facility.

What Is Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses, like per diem nurses, accept an assignment for a limited amount of time. However, travel nurse assignments typically last from four to thirteen weeks, with sometimes the option to extend. Travel nurses travel across the country to help health care facilities fill their staffing needs.

Pros of Travel Nursing

Travel nurses have the opportunity to explore the country on someone else’s dime since travel nurse staffing agencies typically cover relocation and housing. While a travel nurse can choose where they want to work, they often have a guaranteed number of hours. Once a nurse fulfills their contract, they may have the option to extend, or they can choose to start a new adventure in a new city. Travel nursing is ideal for nurses who love to meet new people and crave new experiences.

Cons of Travel Nursing

Travel nurses have a longer term commitment, which means they do not have the same flexibility as per diem nurses. Travel nurses may have to work holidays or less desirable shifts. Another downside for many travelers is being away from family and friends for an extended period of time, and managing the logistics of a temporary move.

How to Find Per Diem Nursing Jobs

The best way to find per diem nursing jobs consistently is with a per diem staffing agency like NurseFinders, which has positions for both nurses and allied clinicians. NurseFinders’ nurses and allied clinicians enjoy 24/7 live customer support, 401(k) retirement plan, and continuing education discounts and opportunities. Plus, NurseFinders has a robust and rewarding referral program.

Interested in getting started in per diem nursing? Let us know! Apply now to talk to a recruiter today!

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