Posted on
May 16, 2023

Per Diem vs Locum Tenens

Healthcare workers seeking greater flexibility or higher pay may seek alternative employment arrangements. Per diem and locum tenens positions are popular options outside the traditional full-time schedule found at most medical facilities. Deciding which option is right for you can be challenging, so make sure you understand the pros and cons of each before making a career change.

What Does Locum Tenens Mean?

Locum tenens means "to hold the place of" in Latin. In practical terms, locum tenens providers hold relatively short-term roles often meant as a "placeholder" for permanent employees. When hospital staff has a provider go on maternity leave, locum tenens positions can often be a great way to fill the employment gap until the original employee returns or a new permanent hire is made.

What Does Per Diem Mean?

In Latin, per diem means "per day." As the name suggests, it is a very short-term role that can be day-to-day if needed. Instead of a set placement for many weeks or months, per diem work could only be a few shifts.

Locum Tenens vs. Per Diem

Locum Tenens

Locums' work is often preferred by healthcare providers for their higher pay and greater flexibility over traditional roles. These positions allow travel to other parts of the country for work, so providers who enjoy travel are often drawn to these roles. Unlike per diem workers, locum tenens providers have a contract length specifying how long their job will last.

That means you have the stability of knowing where you'll work for weeks or months. It also allows you to develop bonds with coworkers and settle into your new hospital or healthcare center. Locum tenens jobs are usually offered through agencies that provide free housing, benefits, liability insurance, and more built into the job contract. If you're interested in traveling somewhere new and making more money in a stable, set-term role, a locum tenens job could be a perfect choice.

Per Deim

Short-term roles are the defining feature of per diem roles. Like locum tenens, they offer higher pay than traditional roles and can provide travel opportunities. On the other hand, per diem positions are generally set up to offer shifts that can be individually picked up. So if you have a per diem role at a local hospital, you may be offered a double shift on Monday, a night shift on Wednesday, and a few shifts during the weekend to choose from. You only work the shifts you want to work when you want to. The downside is that you have no idea how long this role will last or if you will be offered enough weekly shifts to make the position financially viable. Per diem contracts are typically offered directly by hospitals and do not come with the travel stipend, housing budget, or benefits that an agency offers.

Pros and Cons of Locum Tenens

What makes a locum tenens job perfect for one healthcare practitioner can make it a terrible fit for another, so do your research before making the switch.


Increased Pay - Locum tenens positions pay significantly more than traditional full-time roles. Switching to this type of contract can earn you a much higher salary for the same work performed.

  • Travel Opportunities - If you love to travel, locum tenens may be the perfect type of position for you! Hospitals across the country offer these roles, so your agency can provide you with a choice of locations to travel to. Exploring a new city in your downtime is a major perk for many providers.
  • Great Benefit - A good staffing agency will include benefits in your offer package. Travel stipends, housing allowances, malpractice insurance, and health insurance are all arranged for you without any extra effort on your part.
  • Stability - Locum tenens gigs have a set start and end date. That means you can rest easy knowing exactly your employment status over the next few weeks or months. You won't have to sign up for a new shift each day.
  • Flexibility - Because you aren't a traditional full-time employee, you can use your time between contracts to travel or take a much-needed break. You can also arrange the days and times you'd like to work when signing a new locum tenens contract.
  • Community - Working at the same location and role for a set time allows workers to settle into their community. You can feel confident and familiar with your new hospital and coworkers because you'll have time to get to know them.


  • Set Contracts - For some, being locked into a long-term employment contract with locum tenens companies to work at the same location for weeks or months feels too restrictive. If you prefer the freedom of choosing when and where you want to work daily, locum tenens gigs may not be a good fit for you.
  • Travel -Just as it's a perk for some, other healthcare workers do not enjoy traveling. If you want to stay close to home and don't like living or exploring new places, you may not enjoy this type of position.

Pros and Cons of Per Diem

Per diem roles have unique benefits and drawbacks to consider before committing to a career change.


  • Flexibility - Per diem roles offer the highest level of flexibility, as they do not involve committing to a long-term employment contract. Providers can pick up free shifts as they like, so if you value being able to change plans at the last minute, this is a great option.
  • Increased Pay - Like locum tenens roles, per diem positions are much higher paying than traditional full-time healthcare jobs.
  • Staying Local - You can travel for per diem positions, but you don't have to. Many providers work per diem at local hospitals so that they can stay in their own homes.


  • Stability - The highly flexible shift-based schedule means per diem employees often have no idea when or where they'll be working the following week.
  • Benefits - A hospital often offers Per diem positions, unlike roles with locum tenens companies. This usually means the nurse or physician is not eligible for benefits.
  • No Community - Often, per diem roles involve working at several different hospitals during different shifts. This means settling into a position or getting to know your coworkers can be difficult.

Which Role Is Right for You?

Deciding which role is right for you is a personal decision. Per diem and locum tenens positions both carry an impact that will affect each provider differently. Take into consideration your personal career goals and preferences when evaluating these roles.

Get Healthcare Staffing Help with Caliber

Whether you're a hospital needing non-permanent employees or a healthcare professional looking for the next career step - Caliber can help. We match dedicated, experienced providers locum tenens with a wide range of hospitals and healthcare systems. Reach out today to learn how we can help meet your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Is locum tenens the same as prn?

No, PRN positions have the same general structure as a per diem role but are limited to one specific hospital. They are flexible positions that allow employees to pick their shifts.

Do locum tenens make more money?

Locum tenens positions usually have higher pay than regular, long-term roles. Locum tenens providers can make significantly more money if they are willing to travel with a locum tenens company.

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