Work ​​PRN While Getting Your Nurse Practitioner's Degree

a nurse practitioner with successful career and high salary
Written by
Ana Gotter
July 20, 2022

It’s not uncommon for many students to start a nursing degree with the intent of eventually (or immediately) becoming a nurse practitioner after graduation. However, getting your nurse practitioner’s license is no easy task. It requires advanced education, additional training, and a specialized certification process to practice at this level.

Because the journey from nurse to nurse practitioner is extensive and often very expensive, many choose to work in the nursing field while pursuing their advanced degree. And while some choose to commit to part-time or full-time jobs, an increasing number choose PRN work instead. 

What Is PRN Work? 

PRN nursing work involves hiring licensed nurses as independent contractors to work specific shifts. PRN stands for “pro re nata,” a Latin term that roughly translates to “as needed.” 

In many cases, PRN shits are available to fill vacancies in a healthcare organization’s schedule due to staff shortages or an increased patient load. Sometimes, organizations may hire PRN nurses for one-off projects outside of a healthcare facility. For example, these projects may include vaccinating patients at a pop-up clinic. 

Why Nurses Choose PRN Work to Advance Their Careers

Those who want to pursue their nurse practitioners’ licenses are increasingly turning to PRN work, whether it’s right after graduation or after years of working as nurses. 

Either way, let’s look at five reasons PRN work is so popular.   

1. Get Hands-On Experience 

RN degrees include some hands-on clinical experience, but clinical rotations in school are not quite the same as working as a licensed nurse. 

As a nurse, you’ll be responsible for more tasks, working with more patients, and doing so more independently—although you’ll still be treating patients under a doctor’s care. This independence gives you a chance to begin recognizing symptoms, strong treatment options for different conditions, and differential diagnoses that you’ll later use as a nurse practitioner yourself. Working PRN gives you real, hands-on experience in fields that you’re interested in. That kind of experience is invaluable, and it helps you develop the skills that you’ll use as a practitioner at the next level. 

2. Meet Colleagues at Different Facilities 

Networking makes the world go ‘round. 

You may not have your nurse practitioner’s license just yet,  but you will soon enough. Having experience at different facilities and with different team members is a huge advantage when you are ready to start applying for jobs.

Work hard and make a good impression. Stay in touch with people, even if it’s just on Facebook or LinkedIn. They might give you a shout when a position is opening up down the road, or they may recommend you to the hiring manager. 

3. The Pay Is Great 

PRN work, on average, pays a higher hourly rate than many part-time or full-time nursing positions do for the same work.

This higher pay is due to two reasons:

  • You’re working as an independent contractor, not an employee, so the employer doesn’t need to pay for taxes or benefits. 
  • PRN work is often used to fill holes in the schedule resulting from staff shortages. 

You will need to keep track of your income and pay taxes on your own, but you can make great money working PRN shifts that fit into your schedule even when classes are at their busiest. 

4. Test Out Different Specialties 

One of the most exceptional parts of PRN work is the ability to work at different facilities in multiple roles. If you aren’t sure exactly what you’d like to specialize in, PRN work is a great way to find out. Do you prefer working at clinics, hospitals, or long-term care facilities?  Does working night shifts or day shifts work better for your lifestyle? Do you thrive in the fast-paced environment of the emergency room (ER), where things are always changing? Love watching surgeons work their magic in the operating room (OR), or would you prefer to help patients recover post-op? 

You can learn so much about the types of facilities, teams, and patients you like working with through PRN shifts. It’s much easier to do trial and error with a handful of PRN shifts than it is to sign up for a full-time position only to realize you hate it. This experience can help you assess what you may want to specialize in once you get your license and start your career as a nurse practitioner, so you can start looking for jobs in the fields you’re most interested in. 

5. Control Your Schedule & Still Have Time for School 

Getting your nurse practitioner’s degree is time-consuming and challenging. The classes, clinical hours, studying, and exams are practically full-time jobs on their own.

One of the best parts of PRN work is the ability to choose the shifts that you’re willing to take. You’re not bound by an employer trying to insist that you work a minimum of four days a week or pull an overnight shift the day before a big exam.

You can make sure that your classes are your first priority and that you’ll never be too overwhelmed with work to get through your degree program. 

Final Thoughts: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner with PRN Work 

If you already have your RN license, getting started with PRN work is easy. Sign up with a   healthcare staffing app like Nursa, and search for available shifts near you. You can see the facility that needs help, information about the shift, and the offered pay. Request the shifts you want, and you’ll likely be able to start working hands-on before you know it. 

Excited to get started with PRN shifts while you work on your nurse practitioner’s degree?  Get started with Nursa here

Ana Gotter
Blog published on:
July 20, 2022

Meet Ana, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who specializes in content about nursing finances, career pathways, and nursing education.

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