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It’s no secret that the nursing industry is facing a serious staffing crisis. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), more than 1 million nurses will reach retirement age within the next ten to fifteen years, and more than fifty-five percent of registered nurses are reported to be age fifty or older. This crisis is compounded by the fact that the graduation rate of new nurses is not keeping pace with the additional 203,700 new RNs needed each year through 2026 to replace retiring nurses.
The nursing shortage is also fueled by burnout. Between juggling difficult schedules and long shifts, nurses are frequently torn between their passion to care for patients and the rigorous demands of the profession. We may leave our physical work behind when we clock out, but the mental piece of it follows us home. For many of us, flexibility is a precious, practically unattainable commodity. We work our eight or twelve hour shifts when scheduled—no coming in late, leaving early, or switching shifts without jumping through hoops with management. When all these factors combine, it is easy to understand why nurses are burnt-out and leaving the profession in large numbers, either as a result of (early) retirement, career changes, or a shift to part-time to attain some semblance of work-life balance.
One thing I never imagined while earning my BSN was that being a military spouse would make it difficult to maintain my nursing career. After graduation, I found work immediately in Washington state, so I was surprised by my difficulty finding work in Rhode Island when we moved here a year later. While attending my first and only interview, I was told by the hiring manager, “We don’t like to hire military people” because it’s a given that we will move again. I had no idea that I would face this kind of bias when I became a nurse; I had heard about it from other spouses, but I didn’t believe it would actually happen to me, especially since I have a MS and I will begin my PhD at the University of Delaware School of Nursing this fall. After sending out thirty-five resumes with no luck, I considered applying for non-nursing jobs. Just when I was eyeing a cashier position at the local Home Depot, connectRN, a digital platform that gives nurses the opportunity to work per diem shifts when, where, and how often they want to work, contacted me through LinkedIn. Instead of being employed full-time by a single facility, per diem nurses are placed on temporary assignments and can choose where they want to work and the shifts that are most convenient for them. Per diem nurses also receive higher average hourly wages compared to salaried nurses. At a time in my life when I felt constricted in my career, per diem nursing offered a glimmer of hope to help me reclaim ownership of my career.
In 2018, I joined connectRN. Unlike traditional staffing agencies, connectRN lets members view all available shifts near them and request the shifts that make the most sense for their individual schedules. Rather than being employed by a single facility and locked into the schedule assigned to me, I now work on my own terms and only choose the shifts that I want. I currently work three to four NOC shifts per week at an acute care rehab facility less than five minutes from my home, and I couldn’t be happier.
Per diem nursing gives me the opportunity to work in a field I love, the flexibility that makes sense for my life, the financial compensation I desire, and the sense of freedom a typical nursing career lacks. As a per diem nurse, I have gained a sense of empowerment I was missing earlier in my career. As caregivers, nurses often take care of themselves last. Per diem nursing has restored my ability to make the best decisions for me and my family and it has put me back in the driver’s seat of my career. Best of all, connectRN knows my husband is in the military and employed me anyway. In fact, I hope to continue working for connectRN whenever my husband is reassigned to a new base.