Is Per Diem Work Right for You?

by Jennifer Bradford on April 2, 2009

Per diem work provides a variety of pros and cons. Could your schedule use a change?

Have you ever considered working per diem? Many medical professionals work per diem to pick up some extra money in addition to their full time positions, but others choose to only work per diem shifts without having a full time job.

The Benefits of Per Diem Work

Per diem work pays a lot better than full-time or part-time work because the pay is used as an incentive to fill staff-to-patient ratios that aren’t being met, and the shifts may need to be filled at the last minute. You can work in a variety of settings – you can work in a psychiatric setting like I worked in one day, and the next day be in the ICU.  You can discover which services and facilities you like the best, and take only the work you want. You choose your own schedule by accepting the shifts you like – no mandatory overtime.

Photo via Public Domain.

The Downside of Per Diem Work

Although you have a lot of flexibility when you work per diem, you don’t have a lot of stability. It may be harder to find per diem work in some specialties more than others.  (Nurses will probably have an easier time finding per diem work in their area than speech language pathologists or occupational therapists simply due to the fact that medical facilities employ more of them.)  Most per diem health professionals receive no benefits like health insurance or vacation time because they are not affiliated with any particular hospital or institution.  We all know how expensive health insurance can be, and even more so when you don’t have an employer helping to pay the cost. Without sick time or vacation time, you don’t get paid unless you work, so you need to keep your finances in order in case of emergencies.


There is a way to get the best of both worlds. You can enjoy all the flexibility of per diem work without sacrificing the benefits of a full-time job if you work with a staffing agency.


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Henrietta 04.14.09 at 5:09 pm

I have worked per diem as an RN for the last 2 years and I have found the hours more flexible. I’m a single mom so I need to be able to work around my children’s schedule. I tried part-time work, but I had to work a set schedule. With per diem, I kind of create my own schedule and pick up shifts when I’m free. I have only taken per diem jobs through a local staffing firm, so I’m not sure what it’s like to work directly for a hospital….not sure if a hospital would be as open about the shift work and schedule as the staffing company.


Mapia 11.30.09 at 12:29 am

How many hours are you allowed to work per diem?


Jennifer Bradford 11.30.09 at 11:42 am

Thanks for your comments Henrietta and Mapia.

We do not have a minimum or maximum number of hours you must work. You can work as little as one shift, one day or one week at a time. The benefit of per diem is that you can set your own hours and pick up extra shifts when you want them.

Let us know if you have any other questions!


Cat 04.23.10 at 2:04 pm

When a CNA works directly for a residential facility as per diem, doesn’t this just mean part time?


Jennifer Bradford 04.27.10 at 2:09 pm

Hi Cat – No, per diem work is different than part-time. As a per diem CNA with Soliant, you can work as little as one shift, one day or one week at a time. You can take one shift at one residential facility and then move on to another one. Per diem allows you to create a schedule on your terms – you are under no obligation to work a set schedule.


tina 03.03.11 at 11:46 pm

If I worked per diem when an employer needs me to come in, do I have the option of saying I can’t come in that day. I have a disability that requires me to have a lot of sick days and I’m trying to find a way to work and still have the sick days I need. Someone mentioned working per diem but I’m not sure if its for me or not.


tina 03.03.11 at 11:47 pm

If I worked per diem when an employer needs me to come in, do I have the option of saying I can’t come in that day. I have a disability that requires me to have a lot of sick days and I’m trying to find a way to work and still have the sick days I need. Someone mentioned working per diem but I’m not sure if its for me or not.



Carmel 02.03.12 at 7:12 am

Can someone tell me.

I have been working per diem, full-time, for a hospital for almost six months now. Someone told me that if you work forty hours a week for more than two months the company has to offer a full time position. Is this true?


Fred 11.28.12 at 2:58 pm

I got offered a Job as a system analyst / IT for supporting multiple modalities.
Its going to be Per Diem, but directly with the Hospital (no staffing agency)
I was wondering if any body came across that as the Per diem jobs I am seeing are mainly in nursing.
They said no hours are guaranteed.
I am just afraid of taking that position and ending up with minimal hours!

Thanks in advance


Betty 07.02.13 at 7:48 pm

Do NOT work per diem if you can help it and are looking for a steady position. You are temporary and they will expect top drawer work from you, but view you as disposable.

At least this is my experience. I was shocked at how little respect the clinic I worked for had for me after I worked 40 hours a week, nonstop for months when they had a full time position available.

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Kimberly 05.20.15 at 3:11 pm

I work as a per diem Hospice nurse. At the previous company I worked for, I could refuse jobs if they were too far to travel, or if I felt unsafe, or I just couldn’t make it. Now, at my new hospice company, my boss does not allow me to say no to an assignment, AND she wants to know my schedule on a weekly basis of what I am doing each day, so she can call me in even on days I am not scheduled to be on call. This means that I am literally on call 24/7. Is this legal?
Thank you, Kimberly RN, BSN


Edwin Aponte 11.17.15 at 2:22 pm

I would like to know how does per diem work for me I’m a truck driver I travel different states 25 plus days a month how can I use this


Bret McLucas 07.29.16 at 2:16 pm

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Caren Samuels 11.22.16 at 6:59 pm

I need to work 20 hours per week with a staffing company. I have a BSN, PHN and would like to pick up some hours in the High Dessert area of Victorville, Hesperia, or Apple Valley, CA


Sylvia foster 12.06.16 at 5:50 pm

I got a job in Pennsylvania I work per diem and can’t believe because I’m per diem I get paid less than if I worked part time or full time. No benefits I’ve never ever seen this ever


Weston Merrill 04.20.17 at 3:06 pm

Traditionally what we’ve found is that the nurses that work for us REALLY enjoy the schedule flexibility. That seems to be the resounding overall benefit. We’ve seen that while our RN’s get a bump in pay, they really value the social life aspect.

Really hot with millennials.

They really enjoy getting to choose when they work and when they get to hang out with their friends.

We started our business about a year ago, and have developed an app that lets nurses get hired for per diem shifts in seconds. All the hospital has to do is send out a push notification on their phones, and then they can choose to accept or decline that shift. So far everyone loves it!

Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this – anyone that has commented before and people who will comment after me!

Thanks everyone,

Wes – Co-founder of

John 05.29.17 at 3:43 pm

Ok I work at a hospital in the kitchen. I was hired per diem with the “assurance” of a full time position. That was a year ago. I’ve covered every shift worked every holiday and been scheduled 40 a week for the most part. I don’t fill out a time availability sheet the schedule just comes out. I’m basically a full time employee,just no benefits. If I wanted to take time off like say for the forth of July and that time is blacked out can I just say I’m not available that day.


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