What PRN (Pro Re Nata) Means in Health Careers

Nurse talking to patient in hospital bed
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PRN is an abbreviation for the Latin term, "pro re nata" which loosely translates to "as needed." PRN is a term commonly used by health care employers and professionals to describe short-term, contract, part-time, or fill-in work by a nurse or allied health professional.

In the hospital, working "pool" or per diem is often the same as working PRN. Because hospitals can't just close their doors when people call in sick, most have a backup group of nurses, technicians, or other ancillary personnel who can be asked to come in when regular staffers take vacations, get sick or don't show up for work. PRN jobs usually require a commitment of a certain number of hours per month—generally, you won't have trouble getting the hours you need, but you'll have to be flexible—as well as a certain number of weekend or holiday hours.

You can be a PRN employee in any medical-related field. Many PRNs are therapists, nurses, or nursing aides. But many other medical areas also use PRN employees to fill in as needed as laboratory workers, therapists, sleep technicians, or other medical specialists.

What We Like

  • Can choose to accept offer of when to work

  • Do not need to request days off

  • Usually will make more per hour worked

  • Can build reputation with potential employers

What We Don't Like

  • Lack of consistent income, benefits

  • Often will perform shift work

  • May not be eligible for unemployment or disability

  • May frequently change units


As far as literal benefits such as paid time off or sick time, you probably can't expect either when you work PRN. There are exceptions; some agencies will give you vacation time after you work a certain number of hours per year for them. However, one benefit of working PRN is that you also don't have to beg and plead for days off; you just don't answer the phone when you recognize the hospital's phone number on your caller ID.

Another benefit of PRN is that you usually earn more per hour than you would working a staff position, and if the hospital is desperate to fill a slot, you might earn time-and-a-half or even double time for coming in.


Some disadvantages to working PRN are: the lack of a consistent salary, the possibility of having to work shifts no one else wants such as night shift, and the lack of benefits. If you are fired from a PRN job or need to be off work for an extended time, you also aren't usually eligible for unemployment or disability pay.

It's also difficult at times not to be part of the regular staff, although if you work on one unit frequently and get to know everyone, you might feel very comfortable working PRN. If you're constantly thrown into new units, it can be uncomfortable and you're likely to get the assignments no one else wants.

Career Benefits

Being in the right place at the right time can help you get a hospital job. If you work on a unit in a PRN job, you're already a familiar face. Your work ethic—hopefully, a good one—is already known. When it's time to hire someone for a part-time or full-time position, your name may come up as a candidate. Because you're already a hospital employee, you might also have access to job postings first.

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