Per Diem vs. Travel Nursing—Which Option Is Best for You?

Author: Coast Medical Service

Posted: July 20, 2019

Career, Diem Nurse, Travel Nursing

Working Nurse

After you’ve put in the years of schooling and training to become a registered nurse in Southern California, you might have found yourself wondering if you’re going to be stuck working at the same medical facility that hired you after you received your license. Sure, the pay is good and your coworkers are nice – but what if you’re tired of walking down the same halls and seeing the same faces on every shift?

If you love your job as a nurse but are seeking variety in your workplace, Coast Medical Service has a solution for you, as well as a solution for the nurse staffing shortages at medical facilities in your area. Working as a per diem nurse allows you to provide lifesaving services to patients all over Southern California and also allows you a change of scenery and flexible work hours. These advantages to nurses seeking a fresh location and more variety explain why more and more are choosing per diem or travel nursing.

Per Diem – Maximum Control of Your Day-to-Day Adventure

From the Latin, meaning “by the day,” per diem nursing allows RNs to control their work schedule on a day-by-day basis. Working per diem means you literally can build a schedule that is tailored 100% to your preferences – from the hospitals you work at to your weekly schedule to which shifts you wish to clock in for.

The Good Stuff

  • More freedom of choice – Choose the available days, times, and locations that work best for you. Per diem gives you the freedom to do things like:
    • Work at multiple hospitals in the same week
    • Lock in that “two days on, two days off”-schedule you’ve always wanted
    • Sign up for just night shifts if that’s your preference
  • The most flexibility – As a per diem nurse, you can work as much or as little as your life dictates. No matter what pops up in your personal life that limits your work availability, you can take the time off you need or accept assignments that let you prioritize what’s most important in your life.
  • Respond quickly – Outbreaks and other medical emergencies don’t follow a schedule. These events can occur day or night, so an RN who uses the Coast Medical Service can respond to a request for staffing help as quickly as the hospital can post the assignment.
  • Weekly payments – Coast Medical Service has a workweek that runs from Saturday to Sunday, and payroll is issued to our members on Thursdays. This puts your hard-earned pay in your bank account fast.


While some individuals may relish the thought of having daily control of their work schedule, other people might simply prefer the stability of having a schedule and a routine. In addition, landing consistent shifts as a per diem nurse will still require you to be flexible. The available shifts may not always fall in line with your ideal hours and locations, so you’ll have to decide how to balance your own lifestyle preferences with the needs of local hospitals. Ultimately, it’s about what you feel comfortable with.

Travel Nursing – Change Your Workplace With Every Season

For those of you who enjoy a change of scenery but prefer having a little more structure to their work schedules, travel nursing may be the better option in the per diem vs. travel nursing debate.

As a travel nurse, you establish a contract with a hospital (most assignments are for 13 weeks) and work an agreed-upon schedule as part of the regular staff. Coast Medical Service has relationships with hospitals from San Bernardino to LA to San Diego, and we can help you find the ideal situation for both parties involved.

The Good Stuff

  • Seasonal changes that you control – By establishing a contract as a travel nurse, you get to change your workplace and potentially the city you’re living in every few months. So, when you’re not helping patients and establishing new professional contacts when you’re on the clock, you’re out seeing new sights, meeting new people, and trying new restaurants in your free time.
  • Stability in your new surroundings – Knowing your shifts in advance allows you to enjoy your new workplace without wondering if you’re ever going to be back there. The shifts you work and the number of days you’re under contract are agreed upon before you start the assignment, so you can fill your calendar with those blocks and then build your social life around them.
  • More time to experience your temporary home – With longer commitments between you and the hospital, travel nurse assignments give you roughly three months to decide if the area you’re in is a place where you would want to work on a more permanent basis. You may even think of these assignments like a tryout for both you and the hospital as you look for a place to settle down.
  • A chance to do both – Just like per diem, travel nurses can expect a weekly paycheck for their time in scrubs. But what if you need a little more cash for an upcoming trip or your sibling’s birthday party? As a travel nurse, you can also pick up per diem assignments if you have the time and are in need of funds.


While being a travel nurse does offer you the freedom to see new places, it also means less freedom to choose your own schedule. You may even be required to work holidays or weekends during your contract period. Those shifts would need to be negotiated and settled on before you start, so know going in that you may have to spend a holiday at the hospital while the rest of the staff gets the day off.

Choosing the Best Career Option

Travel Nursing Career

On either side of the per diem vs. travel nurse discussion, the primary thing to take into account is what you want and need in your life.

Ultimately, both career paths offer more control of your working life by giving you the freedom of choice. The debate between the two options may simply boil down to this:

  • If you want to work in a new area but still prefer stability in your work schedule – then travel nursing may be the way to go.
  • If you’re comfortable with working multiple locations in a given week and structuring your schedule to fit around other parts of your life, then per diem is probably better for you.

Coast Medical Service Can Help You Decide

Figuring out which option works best for you is something that you can discuss with the team at Coast Medical Service. We are determined to make sure that you find the best travel nursing jobs to fit your skills, needs, and wants – and our four decades of experience means that we can help you choose what’s best for you. Connect with Coast today, and let us work with you to find that perfect assignment!

Share This Article

Related Blogs