Nursing is an in-demand profession, with plenty of opportunities for healthcare-minded individuals to make their mark in the industry. Nurses who want to work in a hospital setting or with a specific healthcare provider can find competition for open positions fierce. Becoming a PRN nurse is one of the quickest ways to get a foot in the door with a preferred employer.
Pro re nata, or PRN, is a nurse who only works when needed. PRNs have all the same duties as standard nurses. They check on patients, administer medications, and perform other patient care duties as needed.
In this blog, we explore:
- The pros and cons of becoming a PRN nurse
- Where PRN nurses work
- The job responsibilities of a PRN
- Education requirements for a PRN nurse
- Salary and career outlook for PRN nurses
Pros and cons of becoming a PRN nurse
While being a PRN can help kickstart a nursing career, it does have its drawbacks. One of the biggest negatives to PRN nursing is the lack of a regular schedule. Pro re nata comes from Latin and means, “as the need arises.” Just as it sounds, PRN nurses only get called to work when there is a need for their services. A regular nurse could call off sick, or a healthcare provider could be experiencing a surge in patients and need extra hands on deck temporarily. If the lack of a regular schedule does not pose an issue, then PRN nursing is a good choice.
The biggest advantage of PRN nursing positions is the ability to gain some experience or work with a healthcare provider that does not currently have regular full or part-time nursing positions available. Nursing students working on advanced degrees may want to pursue work as a PRN so they can pick and choose when to work so it does not interfere with their schooling. Nurses who wish to keep their professional licenses active and only work as needed may find PRN work desirable.
Where PRN nurses work
PRNs typically work with nursing staffing agencies that have contracts with hospitals and other healthcare providers for temp nursing services. PRN nurses that work for medical staffing agencies may float from one hospital or healthcare facility to another. A willingness to travel is part of the job requirements when becoming a PRN. However, nurses can be rewarded handsomely for moving between facilities with better pay than they might earn as part of a substitute nursing pool employed directly by a healthcare provider.
Working directly for a hospital as part of its substitute nursing staff is also a possibility with PRN positions. Some healthcare facilities maintain their own pool of backup nurses they can call when a regular employee calls off during times of peak patient need. As previously mentioned, these positions typically pay lower than those with staffing agencies. The tradeoff is job stability.
Job responsibilities for PRN nurses
The job responsibilities for PRN nurses are not that different from regular nurses. They review patient charts and discuss ongoing patient care with physicians and other members of the healthcare team. PRNs explain medical treatment to patients and their families, when applicable. They also provide excellent bedside care such as administering medications and helping patients with daily living tasks while hospitalized for illness or injury.
Education requirements for PRN nurses
Earning the minimum of an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited nursing program is required to become a PRN nurse. It takes between 18 and 24 months to complete an ADN program. Some employers now require nursing staff to hold Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). There are several paths to a BSN degree. Licensed Registered Nurses (RNs) with associate degrees can fast-track their BSN with a RN-to-BSN accelerated program. Nursing students starting from scratch who wish to pursue a BSN can expect to spend four years in school if they attend full-time.
After completing their education, nurses that do not hold their nursing licensure already must pass the NCLEX exam. Continuing education credits must be earned to maintain licensure once it is initially issued.
Salary and career outlook for PRN nurses
Nursing professionals are in high demand, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nursing salaries vary depending on location. The average median salary for PRN nurses is $84,086. The highest-paying cities for PRN nurses include:
- Lakes, AK – $101,800
- San Francisco, Calif. – $100, 317
- Santa Clara, Calif. – $99,973
- Washington, D.C. – $99,029
- Fremont, Calif. – $96,417
- Green River, Wyo. – $96,237
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