Nursing is a rewarding job, but the days can be long and exhausting. 

You are a registered nurse with a list of certifications under your belt, but you’re tired of working in a traditional hospital setting day in and day out. 

Are there other types of nursing opportunities available to you?

Both travel nursing and per diem nursing can be fulfilling nurse positions, but each comes with its lists of pros and cons.

Here, we go into detail about the benefits and disadvantages of working as a travel nurse vs. per diem nurse to help you better determine which position might be right for you.



Table of Contents

Travel Nurse vs. Per Diem Nurse: What’s the Difference?

Travel nursing and per diem nursing are both nursing positions outside the traditional registered nurse (RN) role.

But even though both types of nursing jobs allow you to work outside of one single facility, they are different from one another.

How so?

Travel Nurse

Travel nurses typically work under a contract that allows them to work in different parts of the country and at different facilities, wherever their help might be needed. It’s even possible to be a travel nurse that stays local to your home state. 

Often, travel nurse contracts can range from 4-13 weeks and many of the expenses associated with the travel are covered, such as:

  • Travel (driving mileage, gas, airfare, etc.)
  • Meals
  • Incidentals; and
  • Housing

Travel nursing comes with many benefits, but one major benefit is the ability to travel to new places for an extended time.

Per Diem Nurse

A per diem nurse works more like an on-call nurse, depending on the needs of a particular facility. 

If you’re a nurse working per diem, you might be asked to work for:

  • Same day illness callouts
  • Staff that is on vacation
  • Seasonal staffing coverage; or
  • Holiday coverage

Per diem nursing comes with a major benefit, too — the ability to decline any offer and having more flexibility to accept work when you want it. However, work might not always be available, so don’t decline too many offers if you’re looking for work.


per diem vs travel nurse


Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing: Pros and Cons

Travel Nursing Pros

If you …

  • Love to explore new places
  • Enjoy meeting new people; and
  • Love your job as a nurse

… travel nursing could be the right job for you. 

While these are perks of travel nursing, the guaranteed hours and locked-in contract are nice benefits, too.

And the Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) makes it easier than ever to work in almost any state.

Trusted Nurse Staffing is equipped with recruiters who are eager to help you find your next travel nursing position. If you want to explore the many benefits of travel nursing, contact us today to get started.




Guaranteed Hours

Travel nurse contracts lock you into the facility and position you’ve agreed to work. The contract covers things like:

  • A specific length of time to work
  • Any specific days off
  • Rules of floating
  • And more

Once you’ve accepted your position and settled your contract, you can rest easy knowing you have guaranteed hours of work ahead of you for the length of your contract.

Positions Can’t Be Cancelled

Another benefit to contracts with travel nursing is that your contract cannot be cancelled. 

This is another way to guarantee work and money, hopefully lessening any financial strains.

Travel Nursing Cons

Travel nursing isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. It can be hard work, depending on the assignment you take. And the strains that come with travel nursing can be a hard pill to swallow.

Less Flexibility in Schedule

Travel nurses are typically filling in wherever they might be needed. Because of their high demand, they usually have less flexibility in their schedule.

Sometimes this means working through many weekends and/or holidays, depending on how the scheduled contract falls.

Remember, if you’re a travel nurse, you can negotiate your contract to some extent, and it’s possible to see if your assignment will work with you for days off, if needed.

Live Away From Family and Friends

Many singles enjoy the lifestyle that comes with travel nursing, but that’s not to say many travel nurses aren’t married, have families, or leave behind close friendships.

Although living and working somewhere new can be an exciting experience, it might be difficult to constantly pack up and leave your family and friends behind. 

In some cases, families might be able to join you, but this could be dependent on your personal situation and travel nurse contract.

If being away from your family and friends for an extended time isn’t your thing, travel nursing might not be the best fit for you.


per diem vs travel nursing


Per Diem Nursing Pros

Working on call, or per diem, might be more your speed. The schedule flexibility and opportunities to work close to home are two major advantages to per diem nursing that travel nurses don’t get to experience as often.

Flexible Schedule

Per diem nurses work on an “as needed” basis, so they have more flexibility and freedom to accept or decline any position that’s offered to them.

Maybe you once worked as a full-time RN, and now you have multiple young children and find it hard to balance work and home life. You miss working but also love being the primary caregiver for your family. 

A per diem position could be a perfect fit for you.

No Travel Required

You’re interested in working when and where you’re needed, but you don’t want to leave your family and friends for an extended time. 

Per diem nursing could be just what you’re looking for.

Per diem nursing allows you to work where you’re needed, but these positions stay local to your area, so you don’t have to worry about traveling far or being away for days at a time.

Per Diem Nursing Cons

If you’re looking for …

  • A full-time career
  • A guaranteed income; and
  • Stable benefits

… per diem nursing probably isn’t for you.

Instead, with these cons, per diem nursing might be a better fit for:

  • A stay-at-home parent looking to practice their skills as time allows
  • An individual with a secondary income and health benefits; or
  • A nurse who no longer works full-time but wants to keep their license active

No Job Security

Per diem nursing positions offer no job security for the nurses filling in. 

Because per diem means you are on call wherever you might be needed, there is  a chance that your need can be cancelled at any time. 

For example:

Maybe you were asked a month in advance to work for one week to cover shifts at the local hospital while an employee is on vacation. You happily accepted the position and are eager to work. One week before the job is due to begin, you are notified that the employee had to cancel their vacation and instead can come to work. Now you’re out of work for that entire week.

This is just one example of how you could lose out on work as a per diem nurse.

If job security is important and having work cancelled at any time is a burden to you, per diem nursing might not be right for you.

No Health or Retirement Benefits

Because you…

  • Aren’t locked into a contract
  • Are working full-time; and
  • Are without job security

a per diem nursing job offers no health or retirement benefits.

You might have access to these benefits elsewhere — possibly through another job you have or your spouse’s job — but if per diem nursing is your only source of work, you should consider this disadvantage.

How Do Travel Nurses and Per Diem Nurses Find Their Positions?

You might be thinking that it seems difficult to find work when you’re a travel nurse or per diem nurse. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be true. 

There are simple ways to find work as both a travel nurse and per diem nurse if you’re looking for it.

A travel nurse may have an easier time finding work than a per diem nurse because travel nurses often work with an agency, like Trusted Nurse Staffing.

Agencies have recruiters who help you:

  • Find the type of job you’re looking for (whether that be a longer contract or part-time work)
  • Negotiate contracts; and 
  • Set up everything you might need regarding your travel nurse position

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, we help accommodate all of your requests. We understand that …

  • Work flexibility
  • Travel opportunities; and
  • Worthwhile contracts

… are important to you. Let our team of reliable and experienced professionals help.

Per diem nurses find their work differently than travel nurses. Oftentimes, per diem nurses work independently and find jobs based on connections they’ve made. They might:

  • Fill in at a hospital they’ve worked at in the past
  • Know healthcare providers throughout their area; or
  • Frequent healthcare facilities actively searching for per diem work

However, per diem nurses can also work with agencies that specialize in helping per diem nurses find job opportunities in their area.




Travel Nursing vs. Per Diem Nursing: Which Pays More?

When it comes to travel nursing vs. per diem nursing, it’s difficult to say which job type pays more. Some factors come into play in both nursing jobs that could determine the pay rates for each type of nurse.

Consider travel nurses:

  1. Travel nurses can negotiate their contracts, so they’re able to pull for higher pay if they feel it’s necessary.
  2. The type of travel nurse you are could play a part in how much you make.
  3. Travel nursing offers health and retirement benefits, which tie into overall earnings.

Typically, many travel nurses have the opportunity to earn over $3,000 per week. They also receive stipends for:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Incidentals; and
  • Travel

Now consider per diem nurses. Their pay rates vary based on different factors, like:

  • Geographic location
  • Specialty
  • Experience
  • The shift they are working; and
  • The facility they are working in

On average, a per diem nurse might make between $30 and $40 per hour. 

Depending on these factors, it could be possible for a per diem nurse to make more money per shift. However, the work is never guaranteed and there are no health or retirement benefits that factor into the overall earnings.

Travel Nurse vs. Per Diem Nurse: Which Is Right for You?

With the knowledge of the handful of pros and cons plus the potential earnings for a travel nurse vs. per diem nurse, which type of nursing position might be better for you? 

Consider asking yourself some important questions before deciding between the two nursing jobs.

Questions to Ask When Deciding Between Travel Nursing vs. Per Diem Nursing

Do you think working as a travel nurse might be right for you? Ask yourself:

  • Do you like to travel?
  • Are you okay with being away from friends and family for extended times?
  • Are you searching for job security?
  • Do you want health and retirement benefits?

If yes, then travel nursing might be right for you.

If you’re considering work as a per diem nurse, ask yourself:

  • Do I need a guaranteed income each week?
  • How often must I work to support my bills and lifestyle?
  • Do I have another source of income?
  • Do I have other options for health and retirement benefits?
  • Can I be available enough to make working per diem worthwhile?


travel nursing vs per diem


Interested in Travel Nursing? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help You Find the Perfect Position

You’re an RN that loves to travel but are also interested in job security and a well-paying job. The benefits sound nice, too. Maybe a position as a travel nurse is right for you.

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters have accessibility to many staffing agencies to help you find the work you’re looking for all around the country. We work hard to help you:

  • Customize your resume
  • Find jobs
  • Negotiate contracts; 
  • And more

Our team can also help with certifications, training, and any other requirements. We want to help you find the perfect travel nursing positions available, so contact us today to get started.