Many therapists find opportunities to work PRN, or "as needed." The abbreviation PRN is derived from the Latin pro re nata
and translates as "as circumstances arise." It can refer to many things and is commonly abbreviated in job postings
. PRN work is not guaranteed part-time hours but a sort of substitute work, and it can be a great experience for many clinicians who either want the flexibility of working only when they are able, who want to supplement another job with a few extra hours a week, or who might work in another setting, such as pediatrics, and wish to maintain their skill set in long-term care and geriatrics. Home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities and hospitals frequently require the help of PRN therapists to assist when caseloads grow or when full- or part-time clinicians take a vacation. Many SLPs work for several different companies in their area and enjoy working as little or as much as they want.
The benefits of working PRN:
- You have a flexible schedule, which can be important to parents, people returning to school, and others desiring to work only a few hours a week.
- You have access to a wider range of work settings and professional experiences.
- You get to experience a wider range of patients and gain experience.
- You are not committed to working any time you do not find it convenient. (However, if you do constantly decline opportunities to work, you may be placed further down on the PRN list.)
- Obviously, you can earn extra income at times when you might need it. Again, this is without a commitment to work a certain hours per week every week, and you can reduce your hours when you no longer have a specific reason for working more often.
- PRN work can allow for professional networking and the opportunity to meet fellow therapists. This can be especially rewarding if you are usually the lone SLP in an SNF.
- One of my favorite parts of PRN work is access to materials and ideas from other therapists! Other facilities may have therapy books that I have not purchased yet, and I get to try them out before I lay down any money.
- You often have reduced requirements for completing weekly documentation, as the full-time therapists may take care of the majority of this.
- If you do not have a need for medical and retirement benefits from your job, the higher hourly rate can be appealing.
There are also some drawbacks, or pitfalls, to avoid:
- If you are a new graduate or are less experienced in geriatrics or long-term care, you may feel overwhelmed with the differences in protocols, scheduling and professional dynamics that are evident among different facilities and settings.
- You are expected to be very efficient as a PRN therapist. You are generally making a higher wage per hour than a full-time therapist who works 40 hours per week with full benefits, and your rehab manager will expect you to be aware of your schedule and complete your work in a timely manner.
- There are no health insurance, retirement or vacation benefits.
- You need to negotiate your reimbursement carefully to make it worth your while, and it might be good idea to seek the help of a mentor if you have no experience working PRN in your area.
- You are not guaranteed any hours per week. During some weeks you may have enough offers that you have to turn down work. However, there might be stretches where you are not called for several weeks. PRN work depends on the caseloads and staffing of the individual facilities.
- It is easy to bite off more than you can chew! Do not get burned out by working a full-time job and then adding enough PRN hours so that you never get a day off! Be honest with yourself and with your employers so that you are always performing at your best.
- Avoid making vocal comparisons about different settings. You will definitely have preferences for certain buildings or companies but remain positive about any setting you agree to work in. If it is truly a negative experience for you, then opt not to return.
- You may be required to purchase another uniform for your PRN job. Many companies ask that rehab staff wear scrubs of a certain color or style or a specific type and color of pants and tops. Some facilities require lab jackets. PRN staff are almost always required to abide by the same dress code as full- or part-time employees.
- Many companies will ask that you work for more than one building or location when you sign on. In rural areas take mileage into consideration. For instance, is it worth it to drive for 45 minutes to see one patient? Will you be paid to drive to outlying locations? Some companies are willing to reimburse for travel time if you are willing to cover buildings over a certain distance away.
Overall, PRN work is a viable way of gaining experience, having a flexible schedule when you need it, or earning some additional income when you have the need or the time for that as well. If you maintain your professional standards and stay organized, it can be a very rewarding way to practice.