Per Diem vs Travel Nursing-Which is Better

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Per Diem and Travel Nursing: Making the Right Choice for Your Career

The nursing profession offers numerous rewards, but the daily grind can sometimes be challenging. As a registered nurse with various certifications, you may be seeking alternatives to the standard hospital environment.

Fortunately, both travel nursing and per diem nursing present unique opportunities. This guide dives deep into their distinctions, allowing you to determine which aligns best with your personal and professional aspirations.

Travel Nurse vs. Per Diem Nurse: Understanding the Distinctions While both travel and per diem nursing roles deviate from conventional RN roles, they differ in several aspects.

Travel Nurse:

  • Contractual Roles: Travel nurses generally operate under contracts, allowing them to serve in diverse regions and facilities. Some may even opt to remain within their home state.
  • Duration: Contracts for travel nurses can span 4 to 26 weeks, with potential extensions.
  • Expenses: Many travel-related expenses, including travel, meals, health insurance, and housing, are covered.
  • Primary Advantage: The opportunity to explore new locales over extended periods.

Per Diem Nurse:

  • Local and On-call: Often known as “local nurses”, they serve facilities in their vicinity on an as-needed basis.
  • Employment Scenarios: They might be summoned for sudden illness callouts, during staff vacations, seasonal staff demands, or during holidays.
  • Primary Advantage: The unparalleled freedom to accept or decline work, offering flexibility. However, frequent rejections might reduce earnings.

Comparing Travel and Per Diem Nursing: Advantages and Drawbacks

Travel Nursing: Pros:

  • New Experiences: Ideal for those who cherish discovering new places, connecting with diverse people, and are passionate about nursing.
  • Guaranteed Hours: Contracts ensure a fixed tenure, including specific days off and other provisions.
  • Job Security: Once contracted, your position is secure, offering financial stability.
  • Networking: Traveling to various locations enriches your professional network.
  • Tax Perks: Potential for tax-free housing and meal stipends. Additional deductions might be available for travel-related expenses. For precise information, consult a tax expert or refer to IRS Publication 463.


  • Limited Schedule Flexibility: High demand might lead to less adaptable schedules, potentially including weekends or holidays.
  • Distance from Loved Ones: While thrilling, constantly relocating can strain personal relationships.

Per Diem Nursing: Pros:

  • Schedule Flexibility: Accept or decline offers based on your convenience.
  • Stay Local: Serve your community without needing to travel extensively.


  • Income Variability: Earnings can fluctuate depending on shifts.
  • Irregular Schedules: Lack of fixed hours can disrupt personal plans.
  • Lack of Job Security: No guarantees on continued employment.
  • Limited Benefits: Typically, health or retirement benefits aren’t provided.

Navigating Job Opportunities in Travel and Per Diem Nursing Securing a position in either field isn’t as daunting as it might seem.

For Travel Nurses, agencies like Trusted Nurse Staffing can be invaluable. Using tools like the Pronto App, you can effortlessly explore openings without extensive recruiter interactions.

Per Diem Nurses, on the other hand, often rely on personal connections or past affiliations. They might serve at a known local facility, collaborate with healthcare providers in their network, or actively search for opportunities. Some even collaborate with agencies specializing in per diem roles.

Both travel and per diem nursing offer distinct experiences. Your choice should reflect your career aspirations, personal circumstances, and lifestyle preferences.

Comprehensive overview

This is a comprehensive overview of the differences between per diem nursing and travel nursing. Both career pathways offer unique benefits and challenges, and the choice between the two often depends on individual preferences and circumstances. Here’s a summary and some additional considerations:

Per Diem Nursing

  • Pros: Flexibility in schedule, ability to choose assignments, potential for higher hourly rates, option to decline offers.
  • Cons: No guaranteed income, no medical benefits, less job security, potential for fewer job offers if declining too many.
  • In-Demand Opportunities: Medical-Surgical Nurse, Emergency Room Nurse, Operating Room Nurse, ICU Nurse, Telehealth Nurse.

Travel Nursing

  • Pros: Steady assignments and income, exposure to different facilities and cities, opportunity to meet new people, added perks (like housing, meals, etc.).
  • Cons: Less flexibility in terms of schedule, away from home and loved ones, potential challenges in adjusting to new environments.
  • In-Demand Opportunities: ER Nurse, Medical-Surgical Nurse, Telehealth and Visual Nurse, Operating Room Nurse, Acute Care Nurse, ICU Nurse.

Additional Considerations:

  1. Experience and Qualification: It’s crucial to note that both roles require the nurse to be registered and have a minimum of 1-2 years of experience. This ensures they can handle different situations and environments.
  2. Lifestyle and Personal Preferences: The ideal choice depends on your lifestyle and what you value more. If you’re someone who values adventure and doesn’t mind being away from home, travel nursing might be ideal. On the other hand, if you prefer stability and spending time with family, per diem might be more suitable.
  3. Job Search Platforms: SwipeFox is mentioned as a resource for healthcare professionals to find job opportunities. Researching such platforms and reading reviews can help you make an informed decision about using them.
  4. Future Career Goals: Consider how each role aligns with your long-term career goals. For instance, travel nursing might provide you with a broader experience base that could be advantageous if you’re considering leadership roles in the future.

In conclusion, nursing is a noble profession, and whether you choose a traditional role, per diem, or travel nursing, you’re making a difference in people’s lives. Making an informed decision based on your personal and professional goals will ensure you find the path that’s best suited for you.

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