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PRN vs Part-Time Work: What’s the Difference?

Many medical professionals are unsure of the difference between PRN vs part-time work for CNAs, LPN/LVNs, and RNs. This confusion can make it harder to choose which career option is best for your circumstances and needs. 

Part-time and PRN nursing jobs allow for a degree of flexibility in your work and the hours you spend working. However, they are two completely different types of employment, and each comes with pros and cons. Let’s take a look at each so you can get a better idea of what’s right for you. 

What Is PRN Work for Nurses? 

PRN nurses take shifts when a vacancy needs to be filled. If there aren’t enough nurses to fill the vital positions for a given shift, the scheduling department will reach out to PRN nurses to see if any are interested in taking the shift.

If you choose to work on a PRN basis, you’re essentially working on-call but on your timetable. You can choose whether to answer the call or not – you don’t need to come in just because a shift is available to you.

PRN work for nurses is often on a contract or freelance basis, so you’re not technically an employee. You can work directly with a facility on your own or use a staffing app that connects PRN nurses with local facilities that need coverage. 

What Counts as Part-Time Work for Nursing?  

Part-time nursing is typically stable and consistent employment. While the details vary depending on the hospital or facility, you’d generally work up to 35 hours per week. However, in some states, the maximum hours you can work and still be considered part-time is 30 hours or less. 

Since part-time nurses are official employees, they usually do get some benefits. These may be limited compared to full-time positions, but examples might include paid time off or the opportunity to set up a retirement account through your employer. 

Part-time nursing will usually allow you to get a schedule at least a week in advance. Some facilities give part-time nurses consistent schedules week-over-week, and you can request to not work on specific days of the week. 

PRN Work vs Part-Time Work for Nurses 

We’ve already touched on some functional differences between PRN and part-time nursing. A few more core differences set the two apart, which you should consider to help you determine which option is right for you. 

Consistency and Predictability 

If you prefer consistency and predictability, part-time work may be more your style. 

PRN nursing work, after all, is simply filling a vacancy. If you need a consistent schedule week after week (either for personal preference or practical reasons like finding childcare), PRN work may be stressful to accommodate. With part-time work, you’ll get a schedule at least a week in advance, and your hours may be more regular.

On the other hand, per-diem shifts offer more last-minute flexibility since you can choose which shifts to accept. While there aren’t any truly guaranteed shifts, there are likely to be a decent number of PRN shifts available because of the current nursing shortage. However, there’s also a chance you can be sent home if work is light.


Pay for part-time work varies based on your contract and specialty. The average pay for part-time nurses is around $30 per hour in the US, though this depends greatly on your location, experience, position, and specialty. 

PRN work typically offers flat fees for each shift you take, but the average is around $40-$60 per hour. Again, this varies heavily depending on several factors, but since you’re a drop-in and very much needed as a PRN nurse, the compensation can be much higher than part-time work. 

Diversity in Daily Responsibilities  

Part-time work may give you more consistency in your daily responsibilities, especially if you were hired for a particular role like an ICU nurse or working in the memory care center of an assisted living facility. 

However, with PRN work, there’s likely to be much more variety. You may be moved between specialties and have the option of picking up shifts at different facility locations. 

Some people thrive on knowing exactly where to go, who their colleagues will be, and what their specific responsibilities are for a shift. If you like the comfort of predictability, part-time work that keeps you in a similar role day to day is the way to go.

If you want a more comprehensive range of experiences, PRN work could be a great option. It’s an ideal way to explore different facilities and specialties, so if you’re trying to get an idea of what you love (or want to make a change), this is something to consider. 

Time Requirements 

One of the biggest perks of PRN work is flexibility – especially regarding the time requirements and working hours. 

While part-time work offers more predictable hours, PRN work allows you to take time off when you want while still working the shifts that fit your schedule. If you want the ultimate control over your schedule, or even if you just need hours to keep your nursing license active without being tied down, PRN work is a fantastic choice. 

You can keep your skills fresh – and learn new skills – while having plenty of time to invest in other priorities. 

If you’re more flexible, you can make great money working those less-desirable shifts, and remember you can always say no to a shift offered on Christmas Day if you’d rather spend it with your family. 

How to Get Started with PRN Work  

PRN work can benefit nurses in many different situations. For some nurses, exclusively working PRN shifts gives them more freedom to prioritize other parts of life. This may mean having more time to heal from an unexpected injury, spending time caring for family, or working another job altogether.

In some cases, nurses who already work part-time or full-time will choose to sign up for additional PRN shifts at other facilities. This allows them to earn extra income when the opportunity arises and potentially network at other facilities where they may want to work. 

If you want to start PRN work, a free app like Nursa is where to start. These shifts offer top pay, and you get paid weekly. It’s a great way to explore different facilities and specialties on your own terms and schedule. Simply review the list of shifts available, and if you see something you’re interested in – claim it! 

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Blog published on:
August 10, 2022

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