How a Per Diem Shift Can Help Solve Staffing Challenges

two nurses who picked up per diem shifts working with a patient
Written by
Calvin Henninger
September 26, 2023

Table of Contents

In the ever-changing world of healthcare, the ability to effectively manage staffing levels at your facility has never been more important. Finding good nurses on short notice is often challenging; at the same time, facilities frequently struggle to retain healthcare professionals. 

In fact, many healthcare facilities have been leaning further into per diem nursing, using it as a resource to meet the ever-changing needs of a complex healthcare system. The term "per diem shift" or "PRN shift" is a crucial aspect of the modern nursing model. 

This article helps to explain the concept of per diem or PRN nursing while providing insight into how facilities can use this model to manage their staffing levels through thick and thin.

What Is PRN Nursing?

Perhaps the purpose and meaning of PRN nursing are unclear: In the healthcare sector, PRN nursing refers to a flexible work arrangement in which nurses are contracted on an as-needed basis, typically to fill in for absent staff or to help alleviate a facility’s staffing stress during particularly busy times. These shifts can vary in duration—from a few hours to a full 12-hour shift—and can occur on any day of the week, including weekends and holidays.

The primary purpose of per diem nursing is to help healthcare facilities maintain adequate staffing levels and continue to deliver excellent patient care, no matter how many patients are coming through the door. 

In many cases, per diem nurses provide a versatile staffing solution, allowing healthcare institutions to efficiently manage fluctuating patient volumes, unexpected absences, or seasonal demand spikes.

Do All Facilities Use Per Diem Nurses?

Not all medical facilities include per diem nurses as part of their staffing model. Typically, the number of per diem nurses (if any) depends on the specific needs and circumstances of each healthcare institution. 

Some medical facilities, especially those with a consistent and predictable patient load, may primarily rely on a core team of full-time nursing staff. These facilities might have the resources and predictability to maintain a fixed nursing schedule. 

On the other hand, smaller healthcare centers, outpatient clinics, or facilities in need of additional staff during peak times or special events are more inclined to utilize per diem nurses. However, in the post-pandemic years, even larger facilities with established staffing networks now rely on PRN nurses to help cover massive staffing issues.

A facility’s or network’s decision to use per diem nurses is influenced by factors such as the facility's size, patient population, budget constraints, and overall staffing strategies. Each healthcare facility evaluates its unique staffing requirements to determine the most appropriate mix of full-time and per diem nursing staff to meet the demands of patient care effectively.

What Is a PRN Job?

A PRN job in nursing involves working on a per diem or as-needed basis. Facilities typically turn to PRN nurses when they are short-staffed or in need of replacements for missing staff members. 

Today, PRN nurses are an essential part of the healthcare workforce, contributing to the seamless functioning of medical facilities by facilitating adequate staffing levels.

The Role of Per Diem Shifts in Healthcare

Per diem nursing plays a vital role in maintaining the optimal functioning of healthcare institutions. Having an established avenue for securing PRN nurses—particularly on short notice—helps healthcare facilities navigate unexpected staffing challenges, such as staff shortages, patient surges, and special events or projects. 

By leveraging per diem shifts, healthcare facilities can be adequately staffed and equipped to deliver high-quality care to their patients under varying circumstances. While healthcare institutions maintain a core staff of full-time nurses, the utilization of per diem nurses offers distinct advantages that supplement and complement their regular workforce.

The Benefits of Using Per Diem Nurses

One of the primary reasons healthcare facilities opt for per diem nurses is the dynamic and unpredictable nature of patient care demand. 

The healthcare sector is susceptible to fluctuations in patient volumes due to various factors, such as seasonal illnesses, community health events, or unforeseen emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, demonstrated how fragile the American healthcare system is, as hospitals were quickly overrun with patients during the height of the pandemic.

Per diem nurses provide a buffer to handle these abrupt spikes in patient admissions. By having a pool of nurses available on an as-needed basis, healthcare facilities can swiftly adjust their number of clinicians to match the patient influx, ensuring an uninterrupted and excellent standard of care.

Moreover, per diem nursing offers a cost-effective solution to managing staffing needs. Employing full-time nursing staff requires providing regular salaries, benefits, and other entitlements, irrespective of the patient load. 

On the contrary, per diem nurses are typically compensated at higher rates than full-time employees but are paid only for the time they work. In addition, PRN nurses are not included in employee healthcare plans. As a result, many facilities save money in the long run by using per diem nurses. 

This financial flexibility becomes particularly advantageous for facilities during periods of budget constraints or when there's a need to optimize resource allocation without compromising patient care.

Adaptability and Experience

Additionally, per diem nurses bring a wealth of experience and expertise to healthcare settings. 

Having navigated various healthcare settings and encountered a multitude of medical scenarios, these nurses are adept at swiftly acclimating to new environments and seamlessly integrating into teams. 

Their exposure to distinct hospital structures, patient populations, and care methodologies equips them with a broad knowledge base and a versatile skill set. This breadth of experience allows per diem nurses to offer innovative perspectives, quick problem-solving abilities, and a heightened level of confidence in handling diverse patient needs. 

Further, the PRN nursing model allows a nurse and facility to work together on a one-off basis. This allows facilities to scope out a nurse’s abilities and experience in a variety of situations before potentially offering nurses full-time positions.

Ultimately, the well-rounded expertise of many PRN nurses contributes significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery within different settings.

Building Sustainable Staffing Models for Your Facility

In conclusion, the concept of per diem shifts—often referred to as P.R.N. in medical terms—is a crucial aspect of nursing and healthcare. Per diem nursing offers a flexible work arrangement that benefits both healthcare facilities and nurses, ensuring optimal staffing levels and excellent patient care. 

If you're interested in harnessing the online nursing marketplace to create a more sustainable model for your facility’s staffing needs, check out Nursa’s intuitive PRN nursing platform. Get started with Nursa to begin filling per diem shifts with PRN nurses today.

Calvin Henninger
Blog published on:
September 26, 2023

Calvin is a contributing copywriter at Nursa who specializes in nursing content centered around healthcare technology for both facilities and clinicians, medical terminology, and current events.

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