Per diem nurse smiling at a patient
Job Seeker Resources June 29, 2022

By Melissa Hagstrom, contributor

Working Your First Per Diem Skilled Nursing Job

Tremendous variety, flexibility, great pay and the opportunity to enjoy a rewarding career by impacting clinical care and patients’ lives—these are just a few of the reasons why nurses may choose to work per diem skilled nursing jobs.

Per diem nurses are often used to provide short-term coverage for staffing gaps at skilled nursing facilities, and to help out during busy periods. While same-day shifts are common, per diem skilled nursing jobs could range from a day or two up to several days. Facilities can also request a per diem nurse for a block of shifts.

So what does it take to become a per diem nurse? According to Natasha S, senior recruiting manager II for local and per diem staffing solutions at Nursefinders, you will need to meet a few basic requirements to get started:

  • A current nurse license for the state where you will be working, or a compact license through the Nurse Licensure Compact if it is a compact state
  • At least 1 year of work experience over the last 3 years for RNs, or 9 months of experience for LPNs
  • A current Basic Life Support (BLS) certification

If you meet those basic requirements, you can begin working with a recruiter like Natasha to find per diem skilled nursing jobs that meet your career needs and goals. Once you are booked on your first assignment, it’s time to get started!

What to Expect From Per Diem Skilled Nursing Jobs

“Once you arrive at the facility you will report to the staffing office or nursing station to obtain your assignment for the day,” Natasha explained. “You will then check in with the nurse you are relieving to get a report of what happened on the previous shift. You will then pick up where that nurse left off, making your rounds to all of your patients. You will chart your findings, administer medication, prepare IVs, draw blood, give injections and take vitals. At the end of your shift you will give a report to the nurse coming in to relieve you.”

Patient caseloads will inevitably vary depending on the size of the skilled nursing facility, patient census and more. Natasha explained that the nurse-to-patient ratio will usually vary by state and is based on the minimum licensed nurse staffing requirement of direct care per resident per day. But, on average, per diem skilled nurses are looking at a 1:30 nurse/patient ratio.

Ensuring a Successful Per Diem Assignment

Preparation is key, and when you work with an experienced per diem agency like Nursefinders, your recruiter will guide you through every step to ensure you have a successful start to every per diem skilled nursing job you take.

“To be prepared for the first assignment, the nurse should be supplied with all reporting instructions prior to going into their shift. The reporting instructions should include scrub color requirements, parking instructions, an address to the facility, the point of contact that the nurse will meet with at the facility, along with a phone number in case the nurse is lost or there is any other emergency,” Natasha said, noting that all of these vital details should be gathered by the recruiter.

The most successful per diem nurses are flexible and adaptable, and Natasha reminds each of her nurses a few key things before starting a new job.

“I always ask my nurse to go into a new facility with an open mind,” she said. “You are there to help because the facility is short staffed and there will be a limited amount of training. Go into the facility with the mentality that providing excellent patient care is your priority. Don’t get involved with the politics of the facility and don’t let the staff stress you out.”

Per diem work is also an excellent opportunity to secure a permanent nursing role if that is your wish.

“Remember that any assignment could be a great opportunity to network with healthcare administration which could lead to a permanent position or future assignments,” Natasha explained.

Getting Started as a Per Diem Nurse

Whether you are looking to supplement your current nursing work or seeking a career that allows you to select when and where you work, per diem nursing jobs could be a great fit for you. Jobs are available in a variety of settings, from skilled nursing facilities to hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Nursefinders offers per diem nurses a variety of perks including competitive pay, medical and retirement plans, on-the-job support, continuing education discounts and more.

Search per diem nurse jobs across the country, or apply today to connect with a recruiter.

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