Per Diem Nursing Jobs or Travel Nursing? Which is Best for You


Per Diem Nursing Jobs or Travel Nursing

By Kelly Lanigan, RN 

Per diem nursing and travel nursing provide appealing alternatives for nurses looking to branch out from traditional full-time employment. Per diem nurses enjoy a variety of work options that promote growth, flexibility, and proactive ownership of their professional pathway. Nurses who are considering per diem or travel nurse opportunities should first reflect upon their current circumstances and determine which option best suits their personal and professional needs.

EXPLORE nursing career options in your specialty

What is a Per Diem Nursing Job?

Per diem translates to “per day” or “for each day.” Per diem nurses establish partnerships with healthcare organizations to help supplement core staffing needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.” 

As the healthcare industry struggles with an ongoing nursing shortage, per diem nurse jobs will remain in high demand across all areas of practice.

Per diem nurses do not have set hours or a predetermined work schedule. Payment for per diem work is based on day-to-day services provided. A September 2017 article on notes that per diem nurses may be offered higher pay incentives if they are willing to sacrifice some control over scheduling flexibility. Per diem nurses can be utilized in any patient care setting which allows for a variety of flexible job opportunities.

What are the Pros of Per Diem Nursing Jobs?

Per diem nurses enjoy great flexibility and autonomy in their work schedule, as they typically choose when and where they work. Because organizations rely on this role to fulfill critical staffing needs, compensation for per diem nurses is often higher than traditional employment. Per diem nursing also facilitates continuous learning and growth opportunities as workers are needed in a variety of settings and are exposed to diverse patient populations.

What are the Cons of Per Diem Nursing Jobs?

Per diem nursing may be unstable, as hours are not guaranteed and available work may be limited in certain locations. Challenges may arise as per diem nurses are often expected to quickly shift and adapt to the various policies, procedures, and expectations of different facilities. Unlike traditional full-time employees, per diem nurses do not receive health and retirement benefits and must personally cover these expenses.  

What is a Travel Nursing Job?

Travel nursing allows nurse professionals the opportunity to work in locations that need experienced personnel to supplement nursing shortages. Travel nursing assignments in the United States typically range from 4 to 13 weeks, while international assignments may require a commitment of 1 to 2 years.

Travel nurses typically work for travel nurse agencies that offer housing or reimbursement stipends for living expenses incurred during the assignment period. A 2016 Healthcare Staffing Report released by Staffing Industry Analysts reported a 23% growth in travel nurse revenue which highlights the ongoing strength and opportunity within this industry.

READ on to find out the Benefits for Travel Nurses

What are the Pros of Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses have the opportunity to seek short-term employment assignments while visiting diverse communities around the world. With each new assignment, travel nursing serves to expand cultural competence and enhance professional autonomy, as workers must continuously adapt to new facilities in new geographic locations. Additionally, travel nurse compensation is often much higher than traditional long-term employment. 

American Mobile, a leading travel nurse staffing agency, reports that travel nurses can earn up to 15 percent more per paycheck, depending on the specific circumstances of each assignment.

What are the Cons of Travel Nursing?

Travel nurses face decreased job stability if assignments end early due to the shifting needs of the organization. Because travel nurses change assignments and locations frequently, it may be difficult to facilitate professional partnerships with colleagues or establish a sense of belonging. Travel nurses may also struggle to build seniority or obtain career advancement opportunities given the short-term nature of the professional partnership and limited options for cross training.

In conclusion, nurses who are considering per diem nursing versus travel nursing must have clearly defined expectations. While both opportunities offer monetary incentives, individuals must objectively weigh the risks and challenges of these unique work formats to determine what they are willing to sacrifice. As nurses identify their true priorities, it will become easy to recognize the pathway that best aligns with their targeted goals 

Suggested for you

Sign up and stay in the know with

We just need a little bit more from you...