Per Diem vs. Part-Time vs. Travel: What’s the Difference?


Beginning a job search on Health Jobs Nationwide takes you to a main page where you can filter search results. Among your many options is Employment Type. Our jobs board lists hundreds of thousands of open positions across many types including per diem, part-time, and travel work. Have you ever wondered how the three job types different?

 By far the number one employment type is full-time. There are more than 120,000 full-time positions posted on our site right now. But there are also thousands of per diem, part-time, and travel jobs. If you are not looking for full-time work, one of these categories might interest you. Note that these are all medical jobs.

 1. Per Diem Work

 Although a lot of per diem healthcare jobs are in nursing and teaching, it is technically possible for any medical job to be offered on a per diem basis. Per diem employees do not have a regular schedule. They do not have consistent hours they work from week to week. Rather, they fill in for full- or part-time employees who need to take time off.

 As a per diem nurse, for example, you might work three consecutive shifts to fill in for another nurse who is out. Then you might take three or four days off. Another opportunity will come up for you to take a couple of weekend shifts to fill a temporary gap.

 There are definite benefits to working per diem, including flexibility and premium pay. Some people prefer per diem because it offers an opportunity to learn new skills, broaden one’s knowledge, and work in different environments.

 2. Part-Time Work

 Most of us are familiar with part-time work. It is included in this post as a way of drawing a clearer distinction between per diem and travel work. A part-time worker generally works no more than 32 hours per week. The employee may or may not have access to an employer’s complete benefit package. However, part-time healthcare jobs generally offer benefits of some type.

 Part-time workers may have set schedules. For example, you may have a nurse who works three weekend shifts – a single 12-hour shift or two tens. Their schedule is consistent but, because they only work 32 hours, they are considered part-time.

 3. Travel Work

 Medical jobs in the travel category are almost always clinical jobs. You are talking nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Travel workers are usually full-time workers who take work on an assignment basis. Assignments can be as short as a few weeks or as long as 6 to 9 months.

 The key to the travel work category is that employees frequently change locations. Whether that means working at five different hospitals in the same general vicinity or traveling from one state to the next, travel workers don’t make a career at any one facility. Some do not even work exclusively in the U.S.

 Travel workers do have some flexibility in the sense that they have the freedom to choose when and where they want to work. For legal purposes, travel nurses and doctors are self-employed contractors. They contract with facilities or staffing companies to provide services at a given location for a set amount of time. When one assignment expires, it is on to the next one.

 One of the most interesting aspects of working in healthcare is that there are so many different types of medical jobs and working arrangements. Healthcare is anything but static, that’s for sure. Just take a look at our jobs board. We offer so many possibilities that you are bound to find something that’s right for you.

by Tim Rush (CEO HSI, LLC)

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