10 Pros and Cons of Being a Per Diem Nurse

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Per diem nurses are some of the most important members of the healthcare team. A per diem nurse will provide valuable services to patients who would otherwise be without care. While it may seem like an exciting opportunity for those looking for a change or new experience, per diem nursing does have its drawbacks as well! So, that brings me to, what are the pros and cons of being a per diem nurse? This article will delve into the top 10 pros and cons of being a per diem nurse so you can decide if this career path is right for you.

What is a Per Diem Nurse?

A per diem nurse is a professional nurse who works with hospitals and other health care medical establishments on an as-needed basis. A per diem nurse is often used as a secondary or cheaper alternative to hiring full-time staff nurses in order to meet the staffing needs of an institution. You will typically find per diem nurses working in various healthcare settings. Some of these include Acute care facilities, Long term acute care hospitals, Emergency rooms, Outpatient clinics, or urgent care. Per diem nurses are also found in many other health settings, including but not limited to; rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities, public safety agencies (police), public health departments, military units, and more.



(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Per Diem Nurse.)

1. You may not be able to work all the shifts you need to pay your bills.

One of the top disadvantages of being a per diem nurse is that you may not work enough shifts every month to cover your monthly bills. If you are a per diem nurse, it is in your best interest to have another side job or source of income because it can be a feast to famine real quick. If not, you may struggle each month just trying to pay the bills and will never be able to save up any money for emergencies since most months will leave you with very little leftover at the end of each paycheck. Remember, full-time staff will get the shifts they want and need, but per diems will always be at the bottom of the list and get the shifts that are leftover.

2. You will get floated to other units first.

As a per diem nurse, you will always be the first to get floated to other units. This is never fun. You may feel like a fish out of water since you probably aren't familiar with the unit and its staff yet and even the patients. You may not feel comfortable or confident while working. Continuously floating to other units can get frustrating for you. It sure can be hard to get into the groove of things when you are constantly floating around. You would probably rather stay in one unit for your whole shift, but that doesn't always happen for a per diem nurse.

3. You do not get paid vacation time.

One of the biggest disadvantages of being a per diem nurse is that you do not get paid for your vacation time. You will still work a set number of hours, but you will only receive payment for those hours worked. So, you are essentially going on vacation and spending money while not making any.

4. You will not get that much sick time.

Per diem employees may not get sick time. Per diem nurses often face difficult choices around using unpaid time off to take care of themselves or their families. Many per diems are also required to start working the same day they return from leave and cannot afford to lose pay by calling out sick. Some states offer a sick leave benefit for per diem employees. Still, the rules and regulations vary, and the time off is usually minimum. For example, in New York, per diem employees can earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work up to 56 hours a year.

5. You will have decreased job security.

One of the biggest cons of being a per diem nurse is that you never really have any type of job security. You may find times of not knowing when you will work a shift for various reasons such as low patient census or enough full-time staff already working. This can be very frustrating and can cause such problems as not being able to pay bills on time, relying heavily on friends and family for support, and just an overall lack of stability in your life.

6. Your job will not offer you health insurance.

Having access to health insurance is a luxury that you will not partake in if you are a per diem nurse. Employers typically do not offer these benefits to per diem nurses because they are not required to. So, what happens if you get sick or injured. Not having health insurance can be risky and is also one of the cons of being a per diem nurse.

7. You still may have to work weekends.

Just because you are a per diem nurse, you may be required to still work some weekends. Some institutions have stipulations or requirements that you must meet, such as one weekend shift a month. So, if you thought that because you are a per diem nurse, you wouldn't ever have to work a weekend again, well, think again.

8. You still may have to work holidays

Just like many people think that once they are a per diem nurse, they will not have to ever work a weekend again, many people also believe the same goes for holidays. That is simply not true. As a per diem nurse, you may also be required to work a set number of holidays each year. You may not get much say in the holiday you work because you will essentially sign up to work once the full-time staff has chosen first. You will have to fill in where there is availability. If you are required to work a holiday you may make extra money for this shift. One of the pros and cons of being a per diem nurse that you will have to weigh is if missing a holiday with loved ones is worth the extra paycheck.

9. You may not be eligible for retirement benefits

Per diem nurses do not receive retirement benefits because they are not considered full-time employees of the institution they work for. So, you can essentially work for many years for an institution and will not have anything to show for it when you retire. So, if you are not tucking away money for your golden years, I would be prepared to work for a very long time.

10. Your shifts can get canceled at the last minute

One of the biggest cons of being a per diem nurse is that every shift you are scheduled to work can be canceled. This is a significant problem for nurses who rely on per diem work to make a living. Not having a guaranteed income from working can be very stressful. The cancelation of your shifts can occur an hour before you are scheduled to be at work. It truly leaves you no time to prepare and figure out where your next paycheck is coming from.


(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Per Diem Nurse.)

1. You will make more money.

One of the biggest advantages of being a per diem nurse is your salary compared to a full-time staff nurse. Your hourly rate that you earn is higher. This is due to the fact that you are not on full-time payroll. The institution is not providing you with benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans, so you will make more money in return. So, if you can obtain essential benefits by another means such as through marriage, then hey, why not take the higher pay rate.

2. You can work when you want to work.

As a per diem nurse, you are allowed to work when you want. Being a per diem nurse is exceptionally flexible because you are not obligated to work at any specific hospital or practice. You can pick where you would like to work and what shifts you would like to work, so it is easier for nurses who have other jobs, children, classes to balance their lives. It is pretty amazing when all aspects of your life can come together.

3. You do not have to get wrapped up in workplace politics.

One of the advantages of being a per diem nurse is that you will not have to be involved in those dreaded work politics. As a per diem nurse, you will not be expected to fight for days off or vacation time. You can work one day or the entire week, whatever fits your schedule. You will not have to get involved in work committees or any groups not assigned to you. You can concentrate on caring for your patients and their families instead of being involved in unnecessary politics and arguments at work.

4. You can go on vacation whenever you want.

As a per diem nurse, if you feel like going on vacation, well, you can go on that vacation whenever you want. You will not have to wait for a vacation week to become available at your institution. You will have the freedom to pack your bags and pick up and go whenever you feel like it. Hello, summer vacation!

5. You will have an outstanding work-life balance.

One of the top pros of being a per diem nurse is the work-life balance you will have. This means that you will never miss anything important in your life due to work obligations. You will be able to attend sports games and dance recitals if you have children. You will be able to partake in birthday parties on the weekends. This means that you will never have to choose between work and your family. You can do both if you are a per diem nurse.

6. You may have a decreased risk of burnout.

Burnout is a harsh reality that affects many nurses. The silver lining to this is that if you are a per diem nurse, you will be affected by burnout less. Nurses who transition from full-time to per diem find themselves less stressed and more satisfied with their work. As a per diem nurse, you will experience less burnout because you are not immersed in the institution 24/7. Not having the responsibility of being consistently at one specific place or working a demanding schedule is what keeps per diem nurses from experiencing burnout.

7. You can work multiple per diem jobs.

As a per diem nurse, you are not tied down to working at one institution. You can work numerous jobs, and you can pick and choose the types of jobs you want to work. You will have the advantage of picking and choosing their jobs, which enable you to obtain a more favorable working environment. It is a great way to add variety to your nursing life and add flexibility. You will never get bored with so much variety. Working multiple jobs is definitely one of the pros and cons of being a per diem nurse that you will have to think about. Sure, you can definitely get variety to your work life and ensure a more stable income but is it worth juggling multiple jobs?

8. You can try before you go full-time

So, if you are not sure where you want to work as a nurse, then try working as a per diem nurse first. This is a great way to feel out an institution and see if it is a good fit for you before signing a permanent work contract as full-time staff. Think of it as a try before you buy.

9. You could travel and work at the same time

One of the pros of being a per diem nurse is that you will have the ability to pick up travel contracts and essentially get paid to travel. This will allow you to see more of the country or even the world, gain valuable experience in various settings, and potentially make some great money. A position as a per diem travel nurse is not a bad gig.

10. You can pick up seasonal work for some extra cash

Per diem nurses will have the ability to pick up seasonal work for some extra money. So, for example, during flu season, they will be able to pick up some extra shifts or administer flu shots at clinics. This kind of work is flexible and can be done when it fits in with your schedule, and let's also not forget to put some extra money in your pockets.

My Final Thoughts

So, what are the pros and cons of being a per diem nurse? Per diem nurses are a vital part of the medical field and provide an invaluable service to hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. They often work in short-term positions with flexible hours that allow them to balance their need for steady income while still pursuing other interests or taking time off when they want it. The downside is that per diem nursing can be somewhat unpredictable as you never know how long your next assignment will last. It also means giving up job security - there’s always another nurse waiting in line for your spot if something goes wrong on the floor. I hope my list of the top 10 pros and cons of being a per diem nurse helps you weigh out whether becoming a per diem nurse would suit your needs!

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.