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What Does a Per Diem Position in a Hospital Mean?

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The term "per diem" meaning per day, refers to the money paid for business travel expenses or to a position without set hours or a predetermined schedule. In a hospital, per diem employees are called and offered work on an as-needed basis.

Per Diem Workers

In the hospital, per diem positions are often offered for jobs that require 24/7 staffing for patient safety. This includes nurses, nurses' aides, laboratory technicians, surgical assistants, X-ray technicians and respiratory therapists. Some hospitals might offer per diem positions to cover vacancies and vacations in areas such as social work, occupational therapy or physical therapy.

Pros and Cons

The good thing about per diem positions is that you may earn a higher hourly salary than if you were a regular staff member. You also have the flexibility to turn down assignments. In some cases, you can sign up in advance to cover other employees' vacation or sick time, so that you know when you'll be working. On the other hand, you may not get the hours you want to work or may not be offered as many hours as you need. You may be required to work a certain number of hours per month to maintain your per diem status. In addition, most per diem positions do not include benefits, such as vacation time, retirement plans or health insurance.


A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

Photo Credits

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/GettyImages