Many nursing professionals work on a contract basis instead of working for a single employer full-time. Nursing contracts vary in length—4 week nursing contracts are common, but some contracts may last for as many as 26 weeks.
Nurses working on a contract basis have all the same responsibilities as a full-time nurse, but they’re only employed for a brief amount of time. However, contract nurses are guaranteed full-time hours by the facility they work for.
Contract vs. Per Diem
Contract nursing isn’t the same as working per diem. Contracts are designed to give nurses full-time hours while only working for one healthcare facility for a set period of time. If you’ve accepted a contract, you’re likely to be required to work a certain number of hours. Many contracts cover vacations taken by regular employees. Or, a contract may be in place to ensure appropriate staffing levels around the holidays.
Per diem nursing is different. When you work per diem, there is no set amount of hours you’ll be required to work. Instead, per diem nurses accept shifts when, where, and how often they want to – there is no set schedule. While this option gives nurses a great deal of freedom, per diem nurses may be the first called off if staffing levels rise or patient census drops.
Average Length of Nursing Contracts
Nursing contracts vary a great deal in length. 4 week nursing contracts are the shortest contract work available. Other contracts may last 8, 13, or even 26 weeks. The contract’s length of time depends on the needs of the healthcare facility.
Pros of Working as a Contract Nurse
Many nurses choose contract work because of the numerous benefits it offers, such as:
- Availability of work: Contract nurses are always in demand. Almost all healthcare facilities need nurses to fill in for others at some point. And with the nursing shortage, you’ll be in high demand.
- Flexibility: Contract nurses can pick and choose their own schedules. You might work a 4 week nursing contract and then decide to take a month off. Or, you may sign up for another contract immediately following the first. The choice is yours.
- Location: Healthcare facilities around the country hire contract nurses to cover staffing shortages. You’ll be able to work nearly anywhere in the United States.
- More insight: As a contract nurse, you’ll get to see how the healthcare organization really operates without having to commit to a permanent assignment. This gives you great insight into management’s role and how satisfied other nurses there are.
Cons of Working as a Contract Nurse
As with any job, there are some things to consider before becoming a contract nurse. Some people view the following factors less favorably, but they may not be as important to you.
- Contract end dates: Regardless of the length of contract you take, the contract will end at some point. There’s no work guaranteed after your contract expires. Most contract nurses have no trouble quickly signing another contract, but you should keep in mind that you may not immediately find work after your contract ends.
- Loneliness: Working a contract can be lonely. After all, you’re not part of the regular nursing staff. Or, your contract might be far away from your friends and family. Contract nurses must be able to function independently, both professionally and during their time off.
- No PTO: Contract nurses are typically hired to help cover staffing shortages. Therefore, calling out, taking vacation days, or not working weekends or holidays during your assignment are usually frowned upon.
Contract nursing can be a great option if you’re looking for more flexibility, the ability to work nearly anywhere, and insights into different healthcare organizations. Explore different contract nurse options here to see if it could be a good fit for you.