What Does the PRN Medical Abbreviation Stand For?

picture of a male CNA working with patients in long term care
Written by
Lori Fuqua
March 15, 2023

The PRN abbreviation is used frequently in many industries, including the medical field. In this article, we’ll review what the acronym stands for and what it means in the healthcare industry, identify other industries that use PRN staffing models, the benefits they derive by using PRN workers, and the demand for PRN nursing, explore what PRN can mean for you as a clinician, and provide more answers to your burning questions.

Table of Contents

What Does PRN Stand for?

The acronym PRN stems from the Latin term “pro re nata.” Pro re nata can mean “as needed” or “when the need arises.” Shortening a phrase into an acronym is common practice in various industries, and often, the acronym becomes more familiar than the meaning behind it. 

Is PRN and Per Diem the Same Thing?

Another Latin term, “per diem” means “by the day” or “for each day” and is often used interchangeably with PRN. When you apply either term to a nurse, both refer to a clinician who works for a shift (or a specific number of shifts) to meet a need—not in a long-term staff position.

PRN Usage in Other Industries

PRN workers aren’t exclusive to healthcare. The flexibility gained by using PRN staff can benefit any industry that experiences fluctuations in production or workload. Some examples of other industries that use PRN staff include daycare centers, security guard firms, schools (substitute teachers), catering, and dental practices.

What Does PRN Mean in Healthcare?

nurse who works local PRN jobs standing by her car
PRN nurses love the freedom of picking up jobs in various locations.

The PRN medical abbreviation is commonly seen in medical prescriptions. Physicians often prescribe certain medications as needed instead of on a set schedule. Alternatively, PRN clinicians, such as PRN registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and certified medication aides (CMAs), refer to nurses or nursing assistants who pick up short-term shifts to meet staffing needs.

What Does Per Diem Mean in Healthcare?

PRN RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and CMAs are also referred to as per diem clinicians, and the shifts they pick up are referred to as PRN or per diem shifts. Regardless of which Latin term you use in these circumstances, the meaning is the same: These clinicians can cover short-term gaps in coverage—as needed or per day.

Flexibility of PRN Staffing: Shift by Shift

The nurse staffing shortage continues to be a looming challenge that no facility is immune to, whether it be a retirement home, an assisted living community, an inpatient hospital, an outpatient medical center, or an urgent care facility. 

The hiring process for a staff nurse takes an average of 95 days, which is a long time to run short-staffed. Consequently, quickly sourcing qualified clinicians to meet immediate staffing needs has become a priority. One of the most efficient tools for hospital and healthcare facility managers to ensure quality patient care and safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios is contracting PRN clinicians. 

Apart from the pressing issue of the widespread nurse shortage and subsequent vacancies, healthcare facilities typically have seasonal fluctuations in patient intake, making adequate coverage and ratios tricky. By sourcing PRN RNs, LPNs, and CNAs in real-time, facilities can react quickly to cover vacancies, shift call-offs, and patient fluctuations by deftly adjusting their clinician numbers specific to each shift to achieve safe nurse-to-patient ratios while simultaneously minimizing the likelihood of being overstaffed.

Demand for PRN RNs, LPNs, and CNAs

As the utilization of PRN nurses and nursing assistants increases, the benefits of this staffing strategy to hospitals, facilities, and the PRN clinicians themselves strengthen and further drive the demand. Facilities experience the flexibility and cost savings of more efficient staffing and reduced overhead since they do not pay PRN clinicians employee benefits, and nurses and nursing assistants maximize the flexibility advantage to balance work alongside their other life responsibilities—school, family, another job, etc. PRN jobs are a staffing solution in which both parties make gains.

What Does PRN or Per Diem Mean for You?

Let’s explore the meaning of PRN in healthcare and its potential implications for you as an RN, LPN, CNA, or CMA.

More Flexibility

Pick up PRN shifts for a flexible schedule and income stream. There are no long-term employment commitments or quotas for a certain number of PRN shifts. You only agree to work a specific shift. Numerous PRN shifts are available now (an indication of the turnover and unbalanced supply and demand in the industry), and you can find PRN shifts that fit your schedule on your terms.

More Income

PRN shifts typically offer a higher hourly pay rate than the average staff position for the same shift. For some, that alone is motivation to work PRN shifts. Some clinicians work only PRN shifts, while others work PRN shifts alongside other employment. Either way, you’re putting more money in the bank, and even if that isn’t your primary goal, it’s certainly a perk.

More Variety in Your Work

You don’t have to worry about the work growing monotonous as a per diem nursing professional. PRN shifts are available through Nursa in various settings in cities and towns across the United States. As long as you’re qualified, you can pick up shifts in the ER, a skilled nursing facility, a surgery center, a research hospital, or a community hospital. You set the geographic parameters on your search filters and find work as near or far away from home as you’re willing to go—and your license or certification allows. 

More Development

Picking up PRN shifts in various settings means more opportunities for you to develop and hone your skills. Put your learning and training into practice in different work environments, and watch as your experiences raise your knowledge, skills, and confidence. 

More Connections

Establishing yourself as a capable clinician who can arrive in a new place and complete a job successfully all in one day (or night, depending on your shift) is excellent for your resume. Hospital and other facility administrators remember hard workers, as do their staff. Furthermore, different settings mean opportunities to collaborate not only with other nurses and nursing assistants but also with other allied healthcare professionals. You never know how the connections you make today will impact future opportunities.

More Learning

You may have considered pursuing a nursing program to obtain a higher degree but can’t make classes fit around your work schedule. For example, if you are a CNA, you may want to complete an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) to become an RN. If you’re a licensed practical nurse, you may have your heart set on an LPN-to-RN bridge program. Regardless of where you are in your nursing journey, PRN jobs can help you reach your career goals.

Bolster your learning by picking up PRN shifts that won’t interfere with your education and will support your textbook learning by providing you with work experience applicable to your studies. You can pick up shifts in different settings to help you learn new skills. 

More Autonomy

All the advantages mentioned above of per diem work ultimately trace back to one fundamental principle: You are the decision maker. You decide your priorities. You decide which advantages and opportunities to lean into. You decide how often, when, and where. Having this kind of control over your career can be liberating. Are you ready to go for it?

FAQs about PRN Nurse Staffing

Let’s get you ready to dive into the per diem nursing world by answering some frequently asked questions.

Q. How Can I Find Per Diem Shifts?

  1. You can find RN, LPN/LVN, CNA, and CMA per diem shifts by using Nursa, an open healthcare marketplace designed to connect nurses and nursing assistants to the hospitals and other healthcare facilities that need them most.

Q. How Can I Sign Up with Nursa?

  1. When you register with Nursa, you’ll follow a series of prompts to create a professional profile. Hospitals and other facilities will review your profile when you apply to pick up one of their shifts, so treat this as a resume. You’ll also need to verify your nursing license or nursing assistant certification. Finally, to get paid for the shifts you work, you set up your Nursa Wallet. 

Q. Can I Pick Up PRN Shifts in Other Cities?

  1. Yes. Nursa’s search function for shifts has adjustable filters. You can expand your settings to see available PRN shifts in cities and towns outside your own. As long as the shift you want to work is in a state where you have a valid license or nursing assistant certificate to practice, you can go as far from home as you want.

Q. When Will I Get Paid?

When you’ve completed a PRN shift, you’ll fill out a shift report in the app. Once the facility has verified your shift report, your payment will be processed. Nursa pays for completed shifts twice a week. We also offer an Instant Pay option on qualifying shifts for Nursa Direct account holders. Read more on how Nursa Direct works here

picture of a CNA working with elderly patients
PRN clinicians can pick up PRN jobs in a variety of settings, including restorative and skilled nursing.

Become a Per Diem Clinician with Nursa

Make PRN a part of your resume and become a per diem clinician with Nursa today. Download the free smartphone application and join the growing community of clinicians who work where and when they want. Follow the prompts to create a professional profile, verify your license or certification, and set up your payment method (Nursa pays twice weekly or instantly for eligible shifts). Browse hundreds of PRN shifts available at hospitals and other healthcare facilities near you and pick the one that suits your needs.

Blog published on:
March 15, 2023

Lori is a contributing copywriter at Nursa who creates compelling content focusing on location highlights, nurse licensing, compliance, community, and social care.

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