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Per Diem Nursing in Hospitals vs Long-Term Care

Healthcare Jobs

Two organizations that commonly have per diem nursing shifts are hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

As a nurse considering PRN work, it’s important to know the differences between the two so that you can decide if either (or both!) is a good fit for you. 

While there is plenty of overlap in the work involved, there are also significant differences. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each. 

Hospital Per Diem Nursing 

Hospital per diem nursing can be fast paced, and it’s common to end up in different roles with each hospital PRN shift you take. 

One day you may be monitoring patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), and the next you’ll be working as a pediatric nurse. You’re unlikely to see the same patients from one shift to the next because you’ll typically move around within the hospitals where you work. 

In many cases, these shifts and the accompanying assignments can be unpredictable; you may feel that responsibilities are popping up left and right, and sometimes with little notice. 

Long-Term Care Per Diem Nursing 

Per diem nursing in long-term care usually involves working in an assisted living, long-term care, or advanced memory facility.

Unlike hospital PRN work, you’re more likely to fulfill similar roles from shift to shift and may even work with some of the same patients over time in long-term care centers. Predictability can make it easier to know what to expect each time you work. 

In these roles, you’ll most often be focused on caring for residents and either helping them in recovery or maintaining their quality of life. 

You’re more likely to spend more time with each individual patient, and in many cases, you might work more independently compared to hospital nurses who work more closely with doctors. 

Which Per Diem Nursing Type Is Best for You?  

Below are several areas to consider as you decide whether you prefer to work as a per diem nurse in a hospital or in a long-term care facility. Ultimately, your choice will be personal and depend on your preferences, needs, and training.

Frequency of Calls 

nurse on phone

While the frequency of calls or available shifts will vary greatly depending on your area, in general, it’s true that large hospitals have greater needs for per diem nurses. Smaller facilities, including long-term care facilities, may have less regular or predictable needs. This means you can expect to see more shifts from larger hospitals.

The Pace of Work 

Any nursing job is fast paced and will have you constantly on your feet. However, hospital nursing may be more unpredictable and require you to move quickly from patient to patient. In a long-term care facility, the pace may be slightly slower depending on the specialty, especially as you’re working with more stable patients who need help day-to-day instead of potentially emergent ones at high risk for coding.

Emotional Obstacles & Training Involved 

Nursing in a hospital setting, especially in the ICU or emergency room, can be emotionally difficult. Traumatic experiences aren’t uncommon, and that can be taxing to experience as a healthcare provider.  

Long-term care can have its own emotional challenges, especially if you’re working in an advanced memory care facility. This type of work can have its own unique emotional challenges. 

Also consider your training. Not all nursing is the same. If you’re trained to work with patients with dementia but not pediatric patients, that’s something to keep in mind. 

Final Thoughts

As you choose the types of per diem shifts you want to accept, think deeply about what kinds of work you love doing.  

What sort of nursing work would you ideally like to do? If you thrive in rapidly changing roles and situations, hospital PRN nursing might be a great fit. For something more predictable, choose shifts in a long-term care facility.

When you’re ready to find per diem nursing work — whether in hospitals, long-term care facilities, or both!— we’re ready to help. Nursa is a healthcare staffing app that will show you all the PRN shifts available in your area, including transparent information about pay. You can claim shifts as you want them across different healthcare organizations. 

We’re here to support nurses and CNAs, no matter what you specialize in. Get involved with the community at Nursa to access free resources to help you in your career path — whatever it looks like! 

Written by Ana Gotter

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