Per Diem Nursing vs Travel Nursing: The Pros and Cons

Per Diem Nursing vs Travel Nursing: The Pros and Cons

A standard full-time position may not be the right fit for everyone. Fortunately, there are other career paths for nurses. Per diem nursing and travel nursing offer alternative employment options for nurses who aren’t looking for a traditional full-time position. But, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider before making the career change.

Understanding how per diem and travel nursing differ, as well as the pros and cons of each, will help you determine which employment option is right for you. 

What is per diem nursing?

The phrase “per diem” means “by the day” in Latin. Per diem nursing is a type of temporary employment that involves picking up shifts on an as-needed basis. This could be one shift, or several, at a facility before taking another per diem assignment. Healthcare facilities use per diem nurses to fill in staffing gaps or cover shifts when full-time staff are sick or otherwise unavailable.

What are the pros of per diem nursing?

Per diem nursing comes with many perks that make it an appealing career choice for many nurses, especially those with other responsibilities. Some of these benefits include:

  • Flexibility: Per diem nurses can choose their own hours and work as little or as much as they want. This allows them to pick up the shifts they are able to work based on their schedule and lifestyle. This could mean no nights, weekends, or holidays depending on which shifts are chosen. 
  • Choice of facilities: Per diem nurses are able to choose where they work. If they prefer working at certain facilities or on certain floors, they have the option to only pick up those shifts. They can also choose to work at several facilities, which can be a great way to gain experience in different areas of nursing and find the perfect fit for their career.
  • Higher hourly pay rate: Per diem nurses are often paid a higher hourly rate than staff nurses. This is because hospitals and other facilities are willing to pay more for nurses who are available on an as-needed basis.

What are the cons of per diem nursing?

Although per diem nursing comes with many perks, it may not be the right option for everyone.  Some potential drawbacks to per diem nursing include:

  • Less job security: Because per diem nurses work on an as-needed basis, there may be times when there are fewer assignments to choose from, or when the scheduled assignment gets canceled with little to no notice.  
  • Limited or no benefits: Many per diem nursing positions do not offer health insurance, retirement, or other benefits. 
  • Less opportunity for advancement: Because you are not part of the hospital staff, you may have less opportunity for advancement than if you were a full-time nurse.

What is travel nursing?

Travel nursing involves working short-term assignments in different healthcare facilities that are in need of temporary staff. While a 13-week contract is standard, many facilities and agencies now offer contracts of varying lengths—both shorter and longer in duration. 

What are the pros of travel nursing?

Similar to per diem nursing, travel nursing is a way for healthcare facilities to meet staffing needs, but it also may come with some advantages for the nurse, such as:

  • Financial perks and other benefits: Travel nurses are generally paid higher hourly rates than staff nurses. Assignments also typically include a moving stipend or relocation assistance, as well as housing provisions in the form of agency-provided housing or housing stipends. 
  • Ability to travel. Travel nurses have the opportunity to explore the country, while also experiencing different practice settings and how they operate.
  • Ability to choose the contract: Travel nurses can choose their contract based on what works best for them, including the location, shift, and more.

What are the cons of travel nursing?

Travel nursing isn’t for everyone. Some factors to consider before accepting a travel assignment include:

  • Loneliness: Moving away from family and friends for extended periods of time can be difficult. It can be hard to adjust and make friends before leaving for another assignment.
  • Contract cancellations: Travel nursing contracts can be canceled by the facility at any time, even in the middle of the assignment. Depending on the contract, this could lead to significant financial losses for the traveler.
  • Multiple licenses: You must be licensed in any state where you work, so depending on where you accept assignments, this could mean that you must obtain multiple licenses.
  • Unhappiness with assignment: There is always the potential for travel nurses to be unhappy with their assignment, whether that be due to co-workers, managers, or the location itself. Depending on the length of the assignment, there may still be weeks or months left before you are able to move on to the next assignment. 

Achieve work-life balance with NurseDash

NurseDash is an on-demand healthcare marketplace that allows nurses to pick up shifts that best fit their schedule and preferences. The easy-to-use app allows you to directly schedule shifts based on when and where you want to work, making it an excellent way to build a nursing career while achieving the work-life balance you desire. 


Considering a career where you can build your own schedule? Apply to NurseDash today to learn what shifts are available near you.

NurseDash is an on-demand healthcare marketplace that connects facilities with staffing needs to clinicians looking for open nursing shifts.


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