What’s The Difference Between Per Diem and Travel Nursing?

If you’re a traditional staff nurse who’s ready to mix up the normal day-to-day work agenda, you have a few options. Per diem and travel nursing are two different ways to branch out as a nurse and they also come with rewarding benefits. However, these options are not one and the same. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between per diem and travel style nursing to help you decide which route makes most sense for you: 

What is Per Diem Nursing?

Per diem translates literally to “for each day.” According to Nurse.org, this option allows nurses to work by the day or as a facility presents the need for working professionals without long-term commitment. One of the main pros of this option is the pay. When working per diem, you generally earn higher wages than a nurse who works a traditional full-time staff job. Flexibility is also a major attraction to per diem nursing, your work schedule is based on the days you have available. If you so choose, you will never have to work a weekend or holiday again as a per diem nurse.  

There is one major drawback that comes with per diem: job stability. Nurses are not necessarily guaranteed hours – their sole purpose is to ease workloads for hospitals or facilities when the help is needed. This means that assignments can be canceled at the very last minute, and you may be canceled because they found a travel nurse to fill the role longer.  

travel nurse helping older patient

What is Travel Nursing?

Travel nursing is similar to per diem in the sense that nurses work at each location for a short amount of time. The main difference is that these assignments do not only last days at a time. A typical travel nursing assignment can last anywhere between 8 and 26 weeks, according to Travelnursing.org, but the average is usually 13 weeks. The flexibility alongside the stability is what generally makes more nurses drawn to travel nursing over per diem. It also offers an opportunity to get settled in different places all over the world, giving you enough time to enjoy and explore the area before you have to pick up and head to your next assignment. There’s also the option of potentially extending your assignment contract, but this is generally on a case-by-case basis. 

The big drawback that comes along with travel nursing is having less say in your schedule than per diem nurses. Your contract may require you to work every other weekend or even holidays depending on the needs of the facility.  

When choosing your next path in nursing, consider which route aligns with your job expectations. Per diem and travel nursing both come with similar monetary incentives, but they’re fairly different in terms of schedule format and how long you spend in a certain location. Defining your goals and what you expect to get out of your assignment will help you better decide which option will satisfy your wants and needs as a nurse. 

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