Nurse Contract Types: Per Diem, Travel, and Permanent

There are a few main types of contracts that nurses can choose from when looking for jobs. Understanding the key features of per diem, travel, and permanent nursing contracts can help nurses decide which opportunities are the best fit.

This article will explain the definition and typical details of each nurse contract type, so you can make informed choices if you’re applying for or considering different nursing opportunities.

Job Contracts for Nurses Explained

Nursing contracts determine critical factors like pay rates, flexibility, whether you receive benefits, and more. Facilities and agencies have standard contracts for per diem, travel, and permanent nurses.

As a nurse exploring openings, being informed on these common contract types that hiring hospitals and agencies provide can help you zero in on the right roles.

The three main contracts we’ll dig into are:

  1. Per diem Nursing– Flexible nursing shifts, often paid at higher hourly rates
  2. Travel Nursing– Contracts ranging from 8 to 26 weeks or more across the country, typically with housing stipends and travel benefits
  3. Permanent Nursing– Ongoing regular employment, stable nursing role with for one healthcare provider

Per Diem Nurse

A per diem nurse has a contract to work shifts on an as-needed basis without guaranteed hours. As a per diem employee, you’ll typically have a lot of control over your schedule. Many nurses choose per diem contracts specifically for increased flexibility in when and where they work.

These roles usually pay higher hourly rates compared to staff nurse roles to make up for not receiving benefits.

Typical per diem contracts require a nurse to commit to work a certain number of shifts per month or year without guaranteeing set hours per week.

Some key perks besides flexibility include:

  • Lucrative hourly compensation rates, usually exceeding standard staff nurse roles
  • Broad options to pick up shifts at multiple hospitals
  • Ability to book a set amount of shifts per month/year
Per diem nurses are normally not eligible for benefits like paid time off or health insurance through contracting hospitals or agencies. However, the freedom in scheduling and high hourly pay rates are significant advantages for per diem nurses working with flexibility as a priority.

Travel Nurse

Through travel nursing agencies, travel nursing contracts typically place nurses temporarily out-of-state for 8 to 26 weeks.

Hospitals across America need to quickly scale up staff, so these short-term gigs are plentiful if you want to travel while earning solid pay.

Contract terms provide travel nurses higher rates because this is contract-based employment rather than permanent on a hospital’s nursing staff.

Typical travel nursing contracts include:

  • Much higher weekly pay rates exceed local prevailing wages
  • Employer-provided benefits packages, including medical insurance
  • Flexibility regarding shifts/units worked within the contracted facility
  • Stipends provided for housing and travel expenses
  • Set 13-week or 26-week contract lengths working away from home
In essence, you commit to a month-long adventure supporting hospitals nationwide needing reinforcements while collecting bigger paydays.

Permanent Nurse

A permanent staff nursing role has key distinctions from per diem and travel nursing contracts. You’ll work for a specific healthcare facility or hospital system as a regular full-time payroll staff.

These positions come with more scheduled responsibilities per week but typically offer better benefits from employers. Depending on your personal preference, pay potential long-term may pale against travel rates, but workplace security has a major upside.

As a permanent staff nurse, you can expect contract details like:

  • Committing to reliable nursing assignments with guaranteed hours per week
  • Potential for wage increases over many years of service
  • Eligibility for full benefits like paid leave, insurance, retirement savings plans
  • Developing relationships long-term with colleagues and patient populations
  • Ongoing employment bounded to one chosen workplace

For nurses seeking stability and work-life balance, pursuing a permanent staff role often makes the most sense. You give up some scheduling flexibility and the ability to bounce between locations. But you gain consistent hours, competitive compensation, and employment benefits that contract work lacks.

Ultimately, it depends on your career stage which balances best. Newer RNs often want the hospital system security and training for skills development over working per diem or pursuing travel nursing jobs initially.

Comparing Key Contract Differences

To recap the biggest differences covered so far:
  • Per diem nursing offers unchecked flexibility plus elevated hourly nurse pay rates
  • Travel nursing means several months of earning heightened weekly wages across the United States
  • Permanent nursing jobs provide stability and eligibility for strong employer-based benefits

There are positives with each contract type, but the ideal contract pathway aligns with your individual needs.

Newly registered nurses often start in permanent hospital staff roles for foundational experience. Then later in their careers, pursue travel nursing or per diem nursing to quickly scale earning potential during periods they elect to work more.

There are pros and cons to each option. Contemplating your career aspirations and lifestyle can clarify which contracts merit focusing your job search efforts toward.

Parting Thoughts

There’s no universally “best” contract—it connects back to align with your aims. Whether you pursue per diem, travel, or permanent nursing, opportunities often come down to your career stage, skills, and income goals.

Now that you understand the key characteristics of these three main contract types hospitals and staffing agencies offer, you can better target openings that appeal to you most.

As you evaluate options, working with a reputable nurse agency can expand possibilities for nursing job contracts.

Total Nurses Network provides abundant job opportunities and employment in travel, per diem, and contract nursing. We adhere to stringent hiring standards while connecting nurses with rewarding openings across these popular contract types.

Apply now to learn more about the current roles we have that match your skills, interests, and contract preferences.