Definition of Per Diem Employment for Nurses


Nurses fill many vital roles in all types of health care situations. In order to keep a sufficient staff of nurses on hand at all times, health care facilities turn to per diem employment arrangements, which they use in addition to their full-time nursing staff to meet their obligations to patients and employees.


Per diem means "per day" and refers to employment or payment based on day-to-day work rather than full-time, ongoing employment. Per diem employment for nurses consists of being on-call and accepting shifts at a variety of locations such as hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices. Per diem nurses fill in for sick or absent nurses, supplying an additional pool of need-based labor for health care facilities. They often work irregular shifts and have the option to refuse or accept assignments as their schedules and income requirements allow.

Pros and Cons

For nurses, per diem employment has both benefits and significant drawbacks. The key advantage is its flexibility. Per diem nurses can manage their schedules to accept shifts when they are free and leave time for traveling or caring for a child or parent. Per diem nurses can also experience a number of hospitals and offices in an area before deciding where to apply for permanent work. One of the disadvantages of per diem employment for nurses is the lack of stability it requires. A per diem nurse's income is likely to fluctuate from week to week, and certain appealing shifts may not be available once permanent nurses fill them.


Per diem nurses typically work either for a staffing agency or a hospital. Hospitals use lists of per diem nurses to fill in as needed. Staffing agencies give nurses opportunities to take shifts at multiple locations. While hospitals keep their per diem nurses in the same environment, agencies give them more diverse experience but also less time to grow accustomed to any particular location. Some nurse staffing agencies provide benefits, including health insurance, to per diem nurses who meet minimum shift quotas.


Per diem nurses receive hourly wages that are relatively high for the field of nursing. Pay varies based on the location and shift, with weekend and overtime shifts paying more than standard daytime shifts. According to, typical hourly rates for per diem nurses range from $30 to $50 through a nurse staffing agency. Rates for per diem nurses who work for a single hospital are somewhat lower.

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