Pros and Cons of Short-Term or Part-time Nursing Employment

May 24, 2022

There are many ways to redefine the typical 40-hour work week. There are also many reasons why a licensed nurse might want to work short assignments or cut their weekly hours down.

In this post we want to discuss the potential benefits and/or lack of benefits to working short-term or part-time. Other terms used are “per diem” meaning paid by the day, “locum tenens” when a nurse (or physician) is needed to fill a position temporarily until that employee returns to the job, “part-time” meaning a permanent position working less than 30 hours per week, and lastly “short-term” (similar to locum tenens) which is simply a temporary assignment in a medical setting. Note that temporary or short-term isn’t necessarily less than 40 hours. It is just a shorter duration of days, weeks or months.

Since the various forms of part-time and/or short-term are similar, we will discuss pros and cons that apply to all aspects of each type of alternative.

An obvious benefit is that short-term employment allows an employee to experience a particular aspect of medicine without committing to it for years to come. Companies invest in fulltime permanent employees and expect them to stay long enough that the investment pays off in the long term. If you are uncertain about working in a certain hospital department, for example, you may want to accept a short-term offer to try it out.

In this same line of thinking, accepting a short term or temporary assignment may cause some distress if you end up liking the people and the job. Keep in mind that temporary jobs can turn into full-time or long-term if you so desire. It is very important to make your wishes known at the end of your term so that you will be considered when jobs come up.

There are a variety of considerations relating to job perks and benefits. It is no secret that some companies never hire full-time specifically to avoid carrying expensive health insurance policies for employees. This may sound harsh, but medical and dental insurance can bankrupt a small company.

Working less hours in a week is obviously great for students and parents with kids at home.  Because you are more rested you are more likely to be productive. Statistically you are less likely to have absent days. On the down side, you may have to forego medical and/or dental insurance. Your company may be less committed to you knowing you will be gone soon. Part-time employees are often unavailable for important meetings. And—I hate to mention it—part-time or temporary employees rarely get bonuses.

When interviewing for a part-time or temporary position, prepare your “talking points” before you go. That way you won’t forget to ask about insurance, vacation time, paid or unpaid medical days.  Also, ask about any rules or regulations that you should know before accepting the position. You never know. Some companies have some strange rules. In this day and age, you might be required to wear a mask. Or find that conversations about religion or politics are strictly forbidden. You may not be allowed to discuss your salary with another employee. And, there might be rules about clothing   You are always better off knowing what is expected beforehand than to accept a job and then have to deal with any unreasonable rules.

Try to get as much information as you can about the exact duties. There is nothing worse than finding out that you will be expected to clean the bathrooms at the end of the day, every day!!

Sometimes, locum-tenens positions pay more. It seems counter-intuitive, but it is true. The reason is that you are being asked to (in a sense) do the hospital or clinic a favor by filling in for a nurse who needs to take maternity or other leave.

The bottom line is that temporary or part-time work is a beautiful thing. You will find out that you can do more than you think. You will discover the joy of meeting new people in new environments.  It may open doors for you in the future. You will also be building up a list of people who would love to recommend you for other jobs. You may even leave your part-time position with a good letter of recommendation.

Lastly, these types of jobs allow for greater adventure. You may need to live away from home in another city for a while.  And don’t forget, every time you take a temporary position, you look forward to some days or weeks off; and, you may even want to take a few overseas vacations every year.