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Academics | 4/17/2024

What Is a PRN Nurse? Role, Benefits, and the Path to Becoming a PRN Nurse

MCPHS male nursing student working on a manikin.

Are you thinking about becoming a PRN nurse? Here are some helpful tips and educational resources for successfully entering this role.

There are about 1,982,000 registered PRN nurses currently employed in the United States, according to Zippia. That’s no small number. But what exactly is a PRN nurse? And why are so many people gravitating toward this type of nursing career?

This article has the answers to those questions and more. Let's get started.

What Is the Role of a PRN Nurse?

A PRN nurse is a traditional nurse who monitors patients’ vitals and symptoms, administers oral medication or IV drips, performs diagnostic tests, organizes medical records, and more. The main difference between a PRN nurse and a registered nurse (RN) is the schedule.

While a PRN nurse is like an RN, they don’t have set schedules and work as freelance or temporary workers. The acronym PRN is short for the Latin phrase “pro re nata,” which means “as the need arises.” So, rather than work a specific schedule at only one location or medical facility, these professionals work when extra care is required.

The path to becoming a PRN nurse is similar to that of an RN. You must attend school to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited college or university. This generally takes two to four years to complete, depending on the style of education and course load you choose. After receiving a degree through an accredited nursing program, you must acquire your state-specific license. This means you must complete the National Certification Licensure Exam and work as an RN for at least one year before transitioning into a PRN nurse position. 

PRN Education Options

At Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), we offer multiple program options based on your desired time commitment and nursing specialty, including:

Undergraduate

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - Postbaccalaureate: A 16-month program for students who already have their bachelor’s degree and want to gain extended experience and skills in the nursing profession. The curriculum focuses on vital topics like nursing theory, clinical skills, pharmacology, and other intensive areas.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) - Accelerated: This fast-paced 32-month program covers a wide range of materials, from biology and pharmacology to community health and anatomy. What normally takes four years can be accomplished in three, enabling students to jump into their careers quicker than a traditional pathway. 

Graduate

  • Family Nurse Practitioner Bridge Program - (RN to MSN): During this three-year, part-time program, learners can complete the elements of the bridge program and move into the MSN-FNP section of the study, enabling individuals to build on their associate’s degree rather than getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing. 
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): In this part-time program's 24 months, students have the opportunity to advance their bachelor’s degree with a specialty in family nursing. Courses and labs will train individuals on the proper techniques to provide patient care to people of all ages. 
  • Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses Practitioner (PMHNP): The 24-month, online nursing program helps students build a firm, foundational knowledge of dementia, depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions. 
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): This 24-month, online doctoral program focuses on organization and systems leadership. Those who wish to enter this program must hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which will give them the foundational knowledge necessary to excel in this course of study.

Benefits of Being a PRN Nurse

Here are the top advantages of becoming a PRN nurse that you can look forward to:

Lower Burnout Rates

Nursing is a demanding profession. Although it can pay off because of the groundbreaking and beneficial work nursing staff offers to patients, it sometimes leads to exhaustion or burnout. By working on an as-needed basis, you can reduce your potential stress or burnout. 

Flexibility

Take time to go on vacations, avoid working on the weekend, and build your schedule exactly as you’d like by having the flexibility to only pick shifts when you want to work. Per diem work is generally most attractive to healthcare workers who are juggling multiple roles, like parenting, caregiving, or pursuing higher education while working. But a PRN nursing job can also serve as a more customizable, pliable alternative to other nursing careers.  

Great Work-Life Balance

While nursing jobs, in general, offer the possibility of balancing your social life and your work expectations, a PRN nurse has even more personalization in their schedule to allow for balance. And, if you notice the scale tipping more toward work than your family or free time, you can take a step back and ensure you’re happy and healthy before resuming your work. As a PRN healthcare professional, you have more control over when and where you work, providing you the freedom to prioritize what’s most important to you. 

Higher Earning Potential

Most healthcare professionals earn fair and competitive salaries, but PRN nurses may receive higher hourly rates or bonuses for taking on work during busy times like weekends or holidays. Depending on where you work, some facilities also enable nurses to pick up additional shifts or assignments, which means more chances to earn profit. 

PRN Nurse FAQs

Is a PRN position worth it? 

Yes, becoming a PRN nurse enables you to get comparable pay while still maintaining a wonderful work-life balance and flexible schedule. If career flexibility is important to you, then a PRN nursing job may be a suitable option after graduation. 

Do PRN nurses pick their shifts?

Yes, PRN employees can pick up shifts when medical facility personnel aren't working. This enables nurses to say "Yes" or "No" to certain availability in their schedule, providing a personalized solution. Generally, this process works as follows:

  • Nurses give their schedule to the organization.
  • The organization assigns them to cover when there aren’t enough staff members.
  • If the medical company has extra shifts available, PRN nurses can pick those up.

This process enables professionals to work full-time without the need to work a set number of hours every week. 

What counts as part-time work for nursing?

While a full-time RN works 40 hours per week or more, a part-time PRN will work less than 40 hours per week. There are instances where a PRN nurse may work 40 hours or more, but it depends on the availability offered by a facility.

How much does a PRN registered nurse make hourly in the U.S.? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses make an average of $42.80 per hour in the U.S., but PRN staff members may make more depending on the facility and type of working schedule. 

Start Your Collegiate Nursing Education at MCPHS

A rewarding career in healthcare starts at MCPHS, a university that’s been around for over 200 years and is steeped in tradition and excellence.

Ready to start your journey to becoming a PRN nurse? Get started by registering for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from MCPHS.