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What Does PRN Mean In Nursing?

PRN is an acronym of the Latin phrase ‘Pro Re Neta’ which refers to ‘As the need arises’ and while it can be a term commonly used in a few professions, in terms of nursing it refers to a PRN nurse who works on an as-needed basis rather than working to a set schedule.

What Does PRN Mean In Nursing

Part of the reason many people will consider pursuing a career in nursing is because of how versatile the job is. There isn’t just one role that you will automatically be assigned to, instead as a trained nurse you will have the option to choose who you work with, how you work, and when you work making the profession very flexible.

PRN is a term that you might have seen appear when looking into these roles, but what does it actually mean in terms of nursing? Here is a full description of what a PRN means and why you should potentially consider it.

What is a PRN?

PRN is an acronym of the Latin phrase ‘Pro Re Neta’ which refers to ‘As the need arises’ and while it can be a term commonly used in a few professions, in terms of nursing it refers to a PRN nurse who works on an as-needed basis rather than working to a set schedule.

PRN nurses will often be used to fill in staff shortages or when the hospital is unusually busy which means the actual hours a PRN nurse will work are unspecified with it being more based around when the ward or agency needs them most.

These types of nurses will therefore work on-call and only on a temporary basis usually as a replacement, or as extra assistance for an available nurse.

What’s The Difference Between RN And PRN Nurses?

While their duties can be similar, the major difference between an RN and PRN nurse is how much time each spends in the hospital, and how active they are in the job from day to day. RN nurses are employed full-time and will usually be permanent employees of a hospital who will be a part of the main staff.

PRN nurses on the other hand are temporary and short-term employees who will only work when they are needed to fill in if a nurse is missing. Since they are working on different schedules and on a different basis, PRN nurses will not have the same routine nor the benefit of having a full-time position that RN nurses have.

With that being said, while the schedule is a lot different, PRN nurses will still carry out many of the responsibilities that RN nurses do. Some of these duties include:

  • Operate medical equipement
  • Care for an ill patient
  • Record detailed history and any signs of illness of a patient
  • Perform diagnostic tests
  • Advise patients on how to manage an illness
  • Assist and encourage other nurses
  • Administer medication and updates for patients

How Much Do PRN Nurses Work?

Because PRN nurses can be called up to work whenever the hospital needs some extra assistance, it’s hard to get an idea of how long hours will be for a PRN nurse for any week and it can often vary from zero to forty hours, depending on how much staff are missing and how much extra assistance the hospital requires.

When an opportunity to work does open up, a PRN nurse will be able to choose their working hours and the assignments they want to take on, making the role extremely flexible. Because of how random this can be however, it does mean that while one week there could be no spaces to fill, the next could be much busier where you will be asked to work for the entire week, or sometimes even longer.

This usually happens when a nurse goes on maternity leave or for holidays and weekends when RN nurses aren’t able to work which means the PRN nurse will be required to fill in for them temporarily.

How to Become a PRN Nurse

How To Become A PRN Nurse

Becoming a PRN nurse is much the same as training to become an RN, however there are a few differences once you actually become a registered nurse. You will still need to acquire a degree and must have some sort of experience acting as a registered nurse however to become a PRN nurse.

When you feel you are ready to start looking for a workplace, you will need to decide whether you want to try becoming a PRN or an RN nurse. If you do decide to become a PRN, there are two options available to you. The first is to apply to work in the temporary nurse pool at a hospital which will put you on the list of nurses who can be called on a moment’s notice to fill in roles.

The second option is to register with a medical staffing agency that will help connect you with any available roles they find. These available roles can often be general nursing positions however they can also be more specialized roles in some cases.

How Much Are PRN Nurses Paid?

Because they work on a more unpredictable schedule, PRN nurses get paid more than full-time nurses on an hourly basis with the average pay being $37.50 for PRN nurses. This ensures that even though you will be working for fewer hours than an RN nurse and while your paycheck will be less money overall, a PRN nurse will still get paid a decent amount for the fewer hours that they do work.

Some agencies will also offer PRN nurses insurance and retirement plans along with some paying the nurse up front as soon as they complete their shift. This is also the same with hospitals which will sometimes offer support packages for PRN nurses who are dedicated to working for a select number of shifts each week.


If you’re worried that the demanding shifts of becoming a nurse could be too much to handle, especially when you have other personal commitments and responsibilities to attend to in your everyday life, becoming a PRN nurse is always an excellent option to continue pursuing your passion while granting you a lot more freedom and space to decide when you want to work.

PRN nurses are important to keeping a hospital sustainable when extra support is needed, making it a crucial role that should always be considered.