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What Is Per Diem Nursing?

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A per diem nurse works on a day-to-day basis when she is needed to cover for regularly-scheduled nurses on their days off. A per diem nurse may also be called in to supplement regular staff when there is a sudden influx of patients.


Many nursing and medical terms are based on the Latin language. The term per diem is a Latin term meaning “per day” or “by each day.” The term PRN, Latin for “when circumstances require” is also used to described per diem nursing.


A per diem nurse may be scheduled for several shifts in a pay period, or may not be called into work until the day she’s needed. There’s typically no guarantee of how many shifts she’ll fill in a pay period, and her shifts may be canceled on short notice.


While some per diem nurses work for one hospital, others float between different hospitals within a health system. A per diem nurse may work in a specialty area, such as critical-care nursing, or serve a more general role on various nursing units.


Per diem nurses are generally experienced clinicians who are flexible team players.


A per diem nurse may be in great demand for holiday, night and weekend shifts, but when patient volume drops, her shifts will be the first ones canceled.