By Melissa Wirkus, contributor
October 14, 2011 - Meaning “per day” or “for each day” in Latin, per diem nursing has evolved into much more than an RN taking a daily hospital shift here and there. Today, nurses can make it their full-time career and work in a variety of unique specialties and clinical settings.
“Traditionally people think a per diem nurse picks up shifts as needed or the work comes in on a day-to-day basis, but there is a broad spectrum in terms of the work we have available for per diem nurses,” said Jeff Fox, senior area director of Nursefinders, an AMN Healthcare company specializing in nurse and health care staffing solutions, including per diem.
Work for per diem nurses could come as a same-day shift for that day or evening, a block of shifts several weeks out or even a local contract for 13 weeks. The settings for per diem work have also expanded drastically in recent years.
“It really varies on the type of work that a per diem nurse can do--it’s not limited to an acute care facility,” Fox explained. “It could be a doctor’s office or clinic, correctional facility, float clinic or long-term care facility; there are a wide range of assignment types available.”
Depending on the local market, Fox estimates that 50 to 80 percent of the work available for per diem nurses is the traditional acute care work. But there are unique assignments that come up in unexpected places.
“We even get the more unusual assignments such as a race track for horse racing where they need a nurse from time to time to do first aid if someone gets hurt,” Fox said. “It really is a huge gamut of opportunities.”
Critical care, ER, long-term acute care facilities, pediatrics, and telemetry are currently high-demand areas for per diem nurses, according to Fox.
Nurses can choose when and where they work
A successful per diem nurse is someone who enjoys flexibility and is comfortable with change, but there are many different kinds of nurses who enter the field.
“We get nurses who have full-time jobs who are looking to supplement their income and pick up additional work,” Fox said. “And then we see some nurses where this is their full time job--some who want to work 40 hours a week and some who may want to work only 20.”
In addition to those who work per diem full-time or to supplement their income, there are also many who travel locally within a 50-mile radius of their home, and other nurses who may be thinking about moving to a particular area or looking to change full-time jobs and use per diem to explore their opportunities, explained Adam Rousey, area vice president for Nursefinders.
“We can send them out to jobs and they can see a variety of locations and get a feel of what kind of facility could make a good full-time home for them,” Rousey said. “We even have nurses who are traveling on vacation and want to work in a different city and I can provide that from a per diem standpoint.”
Per diem is an excellent option for nurses who are looking for flexibility and want to control their own schedule.
“They let us know when they can work, and what they want to work,” Rousey said. “It’s my job to match them up with jobs that fit their needs and their lifestyle. They have the ability to self-schedule. It really is the most flexible option we can give to our caregivers.”
Although experience requirements vary between each facility, one year of experience in the specialty is typically the minimum requirement to begin working as a per diem nurse.
Because of the day-to-day, last-minute nature of this industry, per diem nurses are paid a premium for their ability to be ready to work immediately.
“If you compare it to working on staff with the actual facility, certainly the advantage is they are generally paid a higher rate than what they would be making if they were working as a staff person at the facility,” Fox explained. “They are being compensated for their flexibility and their ability to pick up and go at the last minute.”
Depending on the agency, most per diem nurses get the added benefit of being paid immediately after the end of a shift.
“There are immediate financial rewards for per diem nurses,” Rousey said.
Whether a nurse is just looking to earn some extra money before the holidays or is ready to take the plunge into a full-fledged per diem career, this type of work can enhance work–life balance, expose the nurse to career-advancing skills and technologies, and be financially rewarding.
“As a per diem nurse, know that you’re walking into a facility where it may not be your full-time home, but you’re a valued guest and are there to take care of patients,” Rousey said. “In this industry it can’t be all about money--it’s about people. The patients come first, and I think that probably says the most about how qualified our caregivers are.”
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