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 differences between working as a travel nurse vs. per diem nurse to help you better determine which would best suit your lifestyle.


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

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

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?

We describe the differences between per diem vs. travel nursing below.


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 who stays local to your home state. 

The other difference in being a travel nurse vs. a per diem nurse is how long you may be working at a facility. Travel nurse contracts can range anywhere from 4 to 13 weeks, sometimes up to 26 weeks at a time, with the option to potentially extend your contract. 

As a travel nurse, many of the expenses associated with travel are covered, including:

  • Travel (driving mileage, gas, airfare, etc.)
  • Meals
  • Health Insurance; 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

Per diem nurses are often referred to as “local nurses”, and work for facilities in their area on an “as-needed” basis. A per diem nurse works more like an on-call nurse, depending on the needs of a particular facility.

Per diem nurses may work for a specific facility or agencies that help cover short-term staffing shortages in hospitals and other facilities within a specific area.

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, shifts may not always be available, so turning down work too often can lead to less income overall.


per diem vs travel nurse


Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing: Pros and Cons


Travel Nursing Pros

Travel nursing could be the right job for you, if you:

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

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.


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 Canceled

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

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


Networking Opportunities

As you travel to more and more locations and successfully complete your contracts as a travel nurse, your list of connections will inevitably grow. 

While per diem nurses may also get to increase their network, there’s a good chance they’ll only work within the same facilities throughout their local area. 


Tax Exemptions

One significant perk of travel nursing vs. per diem nursing is the possibility of tax-free housing and meal stipends. These stipends help cover your housing and meal costs while on assignment. The best part is that they’re typically not counted as taxable income, which means you get to keep more of your hard-earned money.

As a travel nurse, you might also be eligible for deductions related to travel expenses and potential state income tax savings, depending on where you establish your tax home. 

To get a better understanding of how these tax benefits work and ensure you’re taking advantage of them, consider consulting with your tax professional. You can check out the IRS publication on travel expenses for healthcare professionals (Publication 463) for more detailed guidance. 

If you think travel nursing vs. per diem nursing is the right choice for you, Trusted Nurse Staffing is eager to help you find your next travel nursing position! Explore the many positions available with the help of our Pronto App. 


travel nurse vs per diem


Travel Nursing Cons

When we’re talking about per diem vs. travel nursing, it’s important to remember that travel nursing isn’t always rainbows and butterflies — though, in our humble opinion, it’s mostly rainbows and butterflies. 

But it can be hard working, often depending on the assignment you take. For some, the strains that come with travel nursing can be a hard pill to swallow. 

So, what should you consider when deciding between travel nursing vs per diem nursing? Some nurses may struggle with the following: 


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 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.


Living Farther Away From Family and Friends

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

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, is what some nurses prefer over travel nursing. The schedule flexibility and opportunities to work close to home are two major advantages to per diem nursing.


Flexible Schedule

Because per diem nurses work on an “as needed” basis, they have more flexibility and freedom to accept or decline any position that’s offered to them vs. if they’ve signed a contract as a travel nurse.

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 good fit for you.


No Long Distance Travel Required

Although many travel nursing contracts may be within your home state, staying close to home isn’t always an option for a travel nurse. 

You love being able to support healthcare facilities when you’re needed, but leaving your friends and family behind for extended periods just isn’t something you’re willing to do. 

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, guaranteed income, and stable benefits, per diem nursing may not be the right fit 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


Unpredictable Income

Per diem nurses are typically paid on a daily or shift-by-shift basis, which means their income can vary significantly from one week to the next. This can be challenging to manage, especially for those who rely on a stable income to cover living expenses. 

Oftentimes, per diem nurses don’t receive PTO (paid time off), meaning if an emergency happens, you get sick, or you need time off for any other reason, you run the risk of not getting paid. 


Inconsistent Work Schedules

Unlike when you work in travel nursing, per diem nurses aren’t guaranteed to work the same regularly scheduled shifts. 

Now this isn’t to say you won’t have some required schedules — IE: a facility may require all employees, even per diem, to work one weekend a month. 

But travel nurses typically know prior to signing a contract exactly when they’ll be working and for how long they’ll be working that assignment.

As a per diem nurse, you’re working when and where you’re needed within a certain area. This could look like getting called into work five out of seven days one week, and two days the next. 

If you’re looking for a relatively consistent work schedule, per diem nursing may not be the route for you. 


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 canceled 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 will be working instead. Now you’re out of work for that entire week.

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

If job security is important and having work canceled 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

per diem nursing jobs rarely offer 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 could consider this a disadvantage of per diem vs. travel nursing. 


Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing: Finding Positions

Whether you’re interested in becoming a travel nurse vs. a per diem nurse, you’re likely wondering how easy or difficult it is to get started finding work. It isn’t as difficult as you might think it is. 

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.

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. And we’ve made finding work as a travel nurse even easier. When you use the Pronto App, you can browse travel nursing opportunities with the touch of a button — no unnecessary communication with a recruiter — just scroll, and go! 

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:

  • Take a position as a per diem nurse at a local healthcare facility
  • 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 nurse vs per diem


Questions Regarding Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing


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.


How Do I Choose Between Becoming a Travel Nurse vs. Per Diem Nurse? 

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.


Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Per Diem vs. Travel 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


Ready To Take on Travel Nursing? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help You Find the Perfect Position

Are you a compassionate, adventurous nurse eager to make a meaningful impact while exploring exciting new destinations? Trusted Nurse Staffing is ready to help you take the plunge. 

With the Pronto App, it’s easy to join our community of healthcare professionals who are constantly learning, exploring, and growing — both professionally and personally.  

With Trusted Nurse Staffing, you’ll unlock all the possibilities of travel nursing vs. per diem nursing. Think: higher pay, flexibility, the chance to forge lifelong friendships, and the opportunity to deliver quality care all over the country in various settings. 

We believe in your potential to shine as a nurse and as an adventurer.

Download the Pronto App, check out our available positions, and get started on your journey as a travel nurse. Get started today. 


travel nurse vs per diem