Per Diem Pay is So Great- Should I Quit NP School?

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by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

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Hi Nurse Beth,

I've been an RN for almost 8 years. Earlier this year, I started an MSN program to become an NP. I live in a part of the country where nurse salaries haven't been super high.... until recently. I have been working full time Monday-Friday for about 5 years. Last week I went to my health system's HR department to ask if I can change to a part time position to accommodate my clinical rotation. They offered me a part time (2 shifts per week) position that pays almost exactly twice as much per hour as my current position.

If I were to pick up one extra shift per week, the yearly pay would be considerably more than the starting pay for a new grad NP. I will keep all the benefits I already have, and I'll qualify for student loan repayment assistance. There is so much competition for nurses among our local hospitals, and all the hospitals are offering similar deals for experienced nurses willing to come back to the floors. Basically, I am going from a desk job back to the bedside, and the increased pay has been put into place to entice nurses like me. I don't mind going back to the bedside at all-- I'm 40 and in great health. I'm excited to refresh my skills and take all my knowledge into a new environment.

I'm looking forward to enjoying more time with my husband and doing more of the things I enjoy. So here's my question-- I went back to school to increase my income. Now that my income is drastically increased, is it OK to put the brakes on my schooling? I'm disappointed that I have paid about $8,000 out of my pocket for classes so far, but I don't see much point in continuing on when I now have a great schedule and great pay. I'm aware this is a very nice problem to have, but it's also stressing me out! What do you think?

Dear Stressing Out,

It seems like you have everything you want, for now. It is really nice to see nurses having some leverage in today's market for a change. Will it last? Let's hope so, but the pendulum does swing, and per diem is not the most protected position.

Having said that, it is certainly OK to change your mind when circumstances change. But it's also important to look ahead and think about where you want to be a few years down the road. 

Bedside nursing is very physical and has an expiration date for even the healthiest of us at some point. When that time comes for you, you'll need a plan. You don't say what your Mon-Fri job was, and you may someday want to return to that as your long-term plan.

Or you may want to practice as an NP. Check with your school and find out if you can pick up where you left off if you drop out now. Typically there's a time limit on how long classes are good for before you have to repeat them.

Enjoy your great schedule, your increased pay and time with your husband :). Find out all you can about dropping your program and best wishes in making your decision.

Nurse Beth

Not to put a damper on a good opportunity but acute care seems to be a race to the bottom lately (not strictly due to covid). It is unclear if or when those in charge might rethink the hole they have dug with regard to their relationships with nurses. At this particular moment in time/history, I wouldn't advise anyone to plan acute care work without having plan B queued up and ready to go. I would not stop your educational plan unless you don't desire to be a nurse practitioner.

Any money currently available is available against the preferences of hospital corporations and they will put a stop to it as soon as humanly possible. I wouldn't count on anything from from acute care; not one single thing.

LucyBunn

Specializes in CRNA Retired. Has 51 years experience.

I can appreciate the good money made with per diem wages, and good nurses are needed at the bedside! Yet there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider the best of both worlds? Nursing is continually evolving, and your long range plans possibly working well into your 60’s is important! An alternative to getting stuck as perhaps Per Diem wages shift is to continue with your NP Program online & part- time? There are many to choose from to qualify you for future roles. Your good health in your 40’s very often can lead to physical compromise in your 50’s & 60’s. Best of luck in whatever your choices may be, now and into your future. SL Bunn RN BS CRNAP MS (Retired)

AJcardiacRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology, dialysis, progressive care, telemetry. Has 8 years experience.

This is actually my question.... thanks for your great replies. Believe me, I have my concerns, but the money and free time is here now, and I've always been a flexible worker and not worried too much about anything as long as I am not working too much overtime. My current job is OK, I just don't get paid the appropriate rate for a highly qualified certified nurse and the work-life balance is not great. One thing I've found is that I definitely prefer 12 hour shifts and more days off. I was going to go for a job like this anyway to finish school, I was just gobsmacked when they told me the pay rate. I went home and laid on the floor and thought, what is even the point of becoming an NP right now?

I signed up for a part time position that requires 12-14 shifts every 6 weeks, anything extra is optional and I can float to pick up extra shifts if I want to.  I did ask a lot of questions-- the contract is not per diem, it's a 5-year commitment (in the same company where I already work) that I can change if I get my MSN and give 90 days notice before changing positions. If the health system backs out of the incentive pay for any reason, the contract is broken and I can choose to stay or go. I can also change departments, join the float team, or even work in a different hospital if my new unit is not a good fit. (I'm not too worried about this, as long as my supervisor is reasonable I've never had a problem at any job.) My work is already paying for a good chunk of my tuition, so I'm committed to working with the same health system for 2 years after I graduate anyway.

This new opportunity actually opens a couple of options for me. I definitely want to continue my education. I love being a nurse and I've loved every different area of nursing I've tried. I decided to take one quarter off from school to get oriented to the new job, enjoy the free time, and think about my life. I have been working 5 days a week and doing NP school online. Now I can consider transferring to an in-person NP Program, which is one idea, or change to an educator or informatics course of study, which I would also enjoy. So I do have a plan B, plan C, and probably D-H if I start making a list.

Thanks again for these thoughtful replies. This is certainly a good problem to have, but I like to look at all the possibilities, good and bad before I make a decision.

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

Have you actually started working as a floor nurse yet?  Unless you are lucky to work for an exceptional system, the working conditions are short staffed and stressful.  Even if everything is great,  I would still keep a plan B, whether NP or something else.  I worked bedside almost 30 years and it left me having a nervous breakdown and destroyed my health.   I had to quit and start early retirement as I was so burned out.