Image by, courtesy of The U.S. Army

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.


About the Author

Sandy Keefe, M.S.N., R.N., has been a freelance writer for over five years. Her articles have appeared in numerous health-related magazines, including "Advance for Nurses" and "Advance for Long-Term Care Management." She has written short stories in anthologies such as "A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs."

Photo Credits

  • Image by, courtesy of The U.S. Army