What Are the Different Types of RN Positions?

RN using tablet to pick up positions
Written by
Laila Ighani
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
April 16, 2024

With approximately 193,100 openings for registered nurses annually, you can expect to find various RN positions near you. The question then becomes:

"What RN position do I want?"

Read on to learn about full-time, part-time, travel, and PRN nursing positions for RNs in diverse settings and nursing specialties.

What Are the Typical Requirements for RN Positions?

The basic requirement for any registered nurse role is that the applicant holds a valid and active RN license in the state where they wish to practice.

To obtain RN licenses, candidates typically complete one of the following educational programs:   

  • Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) 
  • Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) 
  • Diploma Nursing Program

After completing an accredited registered nursing program, candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and fulfill state-specific requirements to obtain RN licensure.

Furthermore, registered nurses must follow their state's requirements to renew their licenses, such as completing continuing education units (CEUs).

Besides these basic requirements—obtaining and maintaining an RN license—most registered nursing positions require a Basic Life Support (BLS) certification from the American Heart Association. Granted, many organizations allow new nurses to obtain BLS certificates after being hired.

According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey, 25 percent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities require nurses to have bachelor's degrees in nursing, and 69.8 percent strongly prefer BSN program graduates.

Depending on the position, other requirements may include a minimum number of years working as an RN or a minimum number of years working in specific nursing specialties or settings. Additionally, some positions may require or prefer applicants with certifications in specialty areas.

Remember that advanced practice nursing positions require Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees, as is the case for nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists

What Does an RN Work Schedule Look Like?

Depending on the setting, RNs can expect usually of the following work schedules:

  • Three 12-hour shifts per week
  • Four 10-hour shifts per week
  • Five eight-hour shifts per week

Twelve-hour shifts are standard in most acute care hospital settings, typically from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. It’s also not uncommon for shifts to start and end at the 6 o’clock hour.

Eight-hour shifts are more common in private practices and outpatient settings, including schools and physicians' offices. Generally speaking, eight-hour shifts take place during regular office hours. However, some healthcare settings that offer around-the-clock care also offer these work schedules. In these cases, day shift nurses may work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., evening shift nurses from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and night shift nurses from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

Ten-hour shifts are the least common but offer a particular advantage. These shifts typically overlap, meaning extra coverage is available during peak hours. For example, nurses could work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. This way, fewer nurses work between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. when most patients sleep, and more nurses work during busier hours. 

If you are already an experienced registered nurse, you may think that typical RN schedules are not so clear-cut and consistent—and you're right. 

The study "Hospital Staff Nurses' Shift Length Associated With Safety and Quality of Care" found the following scheduling practice statistics from a sample of 22,275 direct care RNs from 577 nonfederal acute care hospitals in four states:

Shift Length of Last Shift Worked (in hours) Percent of Non-ICU RNs Percent of ICU RNs
8–9 30% 14%
10–11 5% 2%
12–13 60% 80%
Over 13 4% 5%

The findings of this study indicate that most hospital RNs work 12- to 13-hour shifts, especially intensive care unit (ICU) registered nurses. However, the average shift length varies by state. Here are some findings regarding shift lengths in states that participated in this study:

  • The average shift length in Pennsylvania was 10.7 hours, the shortest average length found in the study.
  • Only 1.74 percent of California nurses had worked shifts over 13 hours, the lowest percentage in the study. 
  • The average shift length in Florida was 12.1 hours, the longest in the study. Florida also had the highest percentage of nurses working over 13 hours (9.35 percent).

In conclusion, where you work—state, type of healthcare facility, specific unit—will impact your work schedule. Therefore, RNs must consider their work schedule preferences and needs to help them decide what type of nursing careers they will pursue.

Full-Time Registered Nursing Positions

Most RNs work in full-time nursing positions. According to the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey, 89 percent of registered nurses who maintain licensure work in nursing. Of these RNs, 70 percent work full-time, 11 percent work part-time, and about 8 percent work per diem. 

The following percentages represent the number of registered nurses employed full- or part-time in different settings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Part-Time Registered Nursing Positions

For many registered nurses, working full-time is simply not an option. Some may want to continue their studies; others may have small children at home or other dependents who require their time and attention. If you identify with the above description, you may be interested in a part-time nursing position.   

Part-time positions are often available in all the settings that offer full-time jobs. In fact, if you work full-time and wish to switch to a part-time position, it may be as simple as asking your nurse manager to reduce your hours. Since RNs are in great demand in most healthcare facilities, your current employer will likely agree to keep you as a part-time employee. If you work in acute care, part-time typically means working two 12-hour shifts instead of three.  

Although part-time positions include employee benefits, switching from full-time to part-time may affect the benefits you receive, so discuss this issue with your employer before committing to a change.

Employee benefits for both full-time and part-time positions may include the following: 

  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage
  • Access to retirement plans
  • Access to group life insurance, disability insurance, and other supplemental benefits
  • Paid time off (PTO) 
  • Sick leave  
  • Paid holidays 
  • Commuter subsidies
  • Tuition reimbursement 

Travel RN Jobs

Travel nurses typically work for staffing agencies instead of working directly for healthcare facilities. They may work locally, nationally, or even internationally. Travel nursing contracts are usually three months long but can be longer depending on the facilities' needs.

As with full-time and part-time positions, travel nursing positions can be in virtually any facility or unit as long as the travel nurses have the required experience, skills, and certifications to work in those positions. However, these contracts are most common in acute care settings.

Travel nurses typically have the same responsibilities as permanent employees. Therefore, they often carry out the following duties:

  • Assessing patients and documenting their symptoms or conditions
  • Keeping detailed patient records
  • Administering medications and treatments
  • Monitoring patients' vital signs
  • Communicating and collaborating with other healthcare team members
  • Explaining care plans to patients and their families and teaching patients how to better care for themselves
  • Communicating with family members about a patient's status

Travel nursing compensation packages vary but typically include the following:

  • Competitive salary
  • Weekly stipend for expenses
  • Lodging accommodations
  • Health insurance
  • Signing bonus

There are a few things you should know before you run off to find a travel nursing job. Travel nursing is generally not an entry-level position. Most staffing agencies require nurses to have at least one or two years of clinical experience, and some positions may require specific certifications. Also, remember that you must have a valid RN license for the state where you wish to practice. 

If you obtained your nursing license in a state that is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) and applied for a multistate license, you can easily accept travel nursing contracts in other NLC member states. However, if the travel nursing position is in a state that is not an NLC member, you must apply for state-specific licensure before starting the job. Some states streamline this process for travel nurses by offering fast tracks to temporary licenses. 

PRN Registered Nursing Jobs

PRN nursing positions are another alternative to traditional staff employment. PRN stands for "pro re nata," which means as needed and is often used interchangeably with "per diem," which means per day. 

As these terms indicate, PRN positions typically last one work day—or one shift—to cover facilities' short-term needs. Hospitals and other facilities may contract PRN nurses during surges in demand for healthcare services, during periods when staff members are on vacation or maternity leave, or to cover shifts until facilities can hire new employees. 

PRN positions offer the possibility to work part-time or full-time since nurses can typically decide how much they want to work.

PRN nurses may work on-call for specific healthcare organizations or nurse staffing agencies. However, nurses can also work independently, picking up PRN shifts at various facilities. For example, with Nursa, an open nurse marketplace, facilities post the shifts they need to fill, and nurses request the positions that interest them. In this way, a PRN nurse could work at a different facility every day or could establish a relationship with a specific facility and pick up numerous shifts at the same place.

These short-term positions are arguably the best for getting a feel for different work settings, ultimately helping nurses find ideal positions to work in full-time if that is what they want.

On the other hand, if a registered nurse enjoys change, they could work PRN long-term locally or in different states. Like travel nurses, PRN nurses can work in any state as long as they have a valid RN license and meet the state's requirements.   

Another similarity between travel nursing and PRN shifts is the competitive pay. In the case of PRN positions, since facilities contract PRN nurses for single shifts and pay them per hour, they can make significantly higher hourly pay than staff nurses. Although PRN nurses don't receive employee benefits, many happily trade those benefits for the higher hourly pay and greater flexibility that these positions offer.

Ready to Find RN Positions in Your Area?

Now that you know what is available, you are probably eager to find the ideal RN position near you. Are you leaning toward a full-time position? Make sure you have your nursing resume up-to-date to apply to the positions that interest you. Are you eager to find RN positions near you today? Browse Nursa to find PRN nursing shifts in various settings and specialties.


Blog published on:
April 16, 2024

Laila is a contributing copywriter and editor at Nursa who specializes in writing compelling long-form content about nursing finances, per diem job locations, areas of specialization, guides, and resources that help nurses navigate their career paths.

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