PRN is a medical abbreviation for “pro re nata,” which is Latin for “as needed.” It is often used in the medical field to indicate that a medication or treatment should be administered only when needed rather than on a regular schedule.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the meaning of PRN and how it is used by nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals.
What Does PRN Stand For?
In order to understand what PRN stands for, it’s important to break down the meaning of “pro re nata.”
- Pro – Latin for “on behalf of” or “for”
- Re – Latin for “thing” or “matter”
- Nata – Latin for “born” or “descending from”
Therefore, the PRN abbreviation was adopted in the healthcare setting to mean “as needed” or “as the circumstance arises.”
What Does PRN Stand for in Medical Terms?
PRN is a medical abbreviation that stands for “as necessary.” It’s often used in two separate ways by those who work in the medical field:
- PRN Job
- PRN Order
A PRN job is a position that is not part of a regular work schedule. Instead, it is a position that is filled on an as-needed basis.
For example, a hospital may have a PRN pool of nurses who can be called in to work shifts when the regular staff is unable to cover them.
A PRN order is a medical order that indicates a medication or treatment should be given only when necessary rather than on a regular schedule.
For example, a doctor may write a PRN order for pain medication to be given to a patient as needed for pain relief.
PRN orders are often given for medications that have the potential for abuse, such as opioids. This is because patients who take these medications on an as-needed basis are less likely to develop a tolerance or dependence on them.
Types of PRN Jobs
PRN jobs in the medical field can be acquired by several different healthcare professionals, including:
- Respiratory therapists
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Speech pathologists
- Radiology technicians
Each of these professionals may acquire PRN jobs in different ways. For example, some hospitals or clinics may have a PRN pool that all of these professionals can apply to, while others may hire PRN employees directly.
Pros and Cons of Working PRN
Working a PRN job can be a great way to earn extra money or get experience in a new setting. However, there are some downsides.
- Flexibility – PRN positions offer a lot of flexibility since they are not part of a regular work schedule. This allows you to pick only the shifts that you want to work.
- Experience – PRN jobs can also be a great way to gain experience in a new setting or with a new population of patients.
- Less drama – Because PRN employees are not part of the regular staff, they may be less likely to get caught up in workplace drama.
- Higher hourly pay – PRN positions usually come with a higher hourly pay rate than full-time positions.
- Limited shifts – Some hospitals or clinics may only offer a limited number of PRN shifts each week, so you may not be able to pick up as many hours as you want.
- Limited consistency – PRN positions offer less consistency than full-time positions. This can make it difficult to plan your schedule or budget your finances.
- No benefits – Because PRN positions are not full-time, they usually do not come with benefits like health insurance or paid time off.
- Less job security – PRN jobs also tend to be less secure than regular positions since they can be filled by anyone who meets the qualifications.
A PRN position is not for everyone, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before accepting a PRN position.
Different Meanings for PRN
The PRN abbreviation can have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used in the hospital setting. Some examples include:
- “pro re nata”
- “Pro re nata”
- “as needed”
- “as necessary”
- “as the circumstance arises”
- “when needed”
- “when necessary”
- “when required”
In general, PRN is used to describe something that is not done on a regular basis or schedule.
This could refer to working on an as-needed basis, taking medication as needed, or anything else that is not done on a set schedule.
Per Diem vs. Pro Re Nata
The terms “Per diem” and “Pro re nata” are often used interchangeably in the medical field. However, there is a slight difference between the two terms.
Per diem is a Latin term that means “by the day.” It refers to a position that is not part of a regular work schedule. In this case, the employee is essentially scheduled to work one day at a time.
Pro re nata is a Latin term that means “as needed” and is where the PRN abbreviation comes from. A PRN position is used to fill shifts on an as-needed basis.
While slightly different, the two terms are similar enough that they are often used interchangeably in the medical field.
What is a PRN Order?
A PRN order is a type of medical order that tells healthcare professionals when and how to provide care to a patient. PRN orders are typically used for medications, treatments, or procedures that are not needed on a regular basis.
For example, a patient with bronchiectasis may have a PRN order for suctioning mucus from their airways. This means that the respiratory therapist would only suction the patient when mucus is interfering with the patient’s breathing.
What Does PRN Mean for a Job?
PRN positions are used to fill shifts on an as-needed basis. This means that the hospital or clinic does not have a regular schedule for the PRN employee. The PRN employee is only scheduled to work when there is a need for their services.
For example, if a full-time employee asks for time off or vacation, the PRN employee can be scheduled to fill their shifts.
What Does PRN Mean for Administering Medication?
PRN orders for medications typically mean that the patient can take the medication as needed. This could be when the patient is in pain, experiencing anxiety, or having trouble sleeping.
Several types of medical professionals can administer PRN medications, including nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists.
What Does a PRN Nurse Do?
PRN nurses typically only work when they are needed. This means that they may not have a regular schedule or set number of hours each week.
This is a common and necessary position in the medical field because it allows hospitals and clinics to have a pool of nurses that can be called upon when needed.
For example, if a full-time nurse calls in sick or requests time off, the PRN nurse can be scheduled to fill their shifts.
How Many Hours Does a PRN Nurse Work?
PRN nurses typically only work when needed, so there is no set number of hours they work each week.
This can be a benefit for nurses who want a more flexible schedule. However, it also comes with the downside of not having a guaranteed income.
What is the PRN Nursing Salary?
PRN nurses typically earn an hourly wage that is higher than those with a full-time position. However, there are several factors that can affect the salary of a PRN nurse, such as:
- Type of facility
- Amount of experience
- Education level
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for full-time registered nurses is approximately $39.78.
Therefore, PRN nurses may earn slightly more than this per hour on average.
How to Become a PRN Nurse?
There are several steps that need to be completed in order to become a PRN nurse. First, you will need to earn your nursing degree from an accredited nursing program.
Then, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to obtain your nursing license and credentials. This makes you eligible to apply for PRN nursing positions at hospitals or clinics in your area.
Does PRN Get Paid More?
Yes, PRN medical professionals typically earn an hourly wage that is higher than those with full-time positions.
However, there are several factors that can affect the salary of a PRN employee, such as the type of facility, location, amount of experience, and education level.
Is PRN the Same as On-Call?
No, PRN and on-call are not the same. On-call refers to a position where an employee is on standby to work if needed. This means that they can be called in to work with little or no notice.
PRN, on the other hand, refers to a position that works “as needed,” but the shifts are scheduled in advance. Therefore, the employee has more notice of when they are needed to work.
Are Travel Nurses PRN Nurses?
Travel nurses typically work for a company that contracts them out to different hospitals or clinics in need of their services. Therefore, the work schedule, whether PRN or full-time, will depend on the needs of the facility.
For example, it may be considered a full-time position if they need the nurse to work a full schedule. However, if the facility only needs the nurse for a few shifts each week, this may be described as a PRN position.
The nurse’s benefits, such as health insurance and retirement, are typically provided by the company they work for and not the facility they are contracted to.
What is the Difference Between an RN and a PRN?
An RN is a registered nurse who has completed an accredited nursing program and passed the NCLEX-RN exam. A PRN nurse is a registered nurse who works “as needed.”
Therefore, PRN nurses are typically RNs who want to have a more flexible schedule or who only want to work part-time.
Is a PRN Job Worth It?
Working a PRN job can be beneficial for those who want a flexible schedule with a higher hourly rate. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a PRN position does not offer the same job security or benefits as a full-time position.
It’s also important to note that PRN employees typically only work when needed, so there is no set number of hours they work each week.
This can be beneficial for those who want more flexibility. However, it also comes with the downside of not having a guaranteed income.
PRN stands for “pro re nata,” which is a Latin phrase used in the medical field that means “as needed.” A PRN order is used for medications or treatment that should be administered only when needed rather than on a regular schedule.
The PRN abbreviation can also be used to describe a type of employment where medical professionals work only on an as-needed basis.
This means that they typically don’t have a set schedule and may only work a few hours each week.
Hopefully, this article has helped to clear up any confusion about what PRN stands for. Thanks for reading!
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- Oh, Se Hwa, et al. “Pro Re Nata Prescription and Perception Difference between Doctors and Nurses.” National Library of Medicine, Korean J Fam Med, July 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129247.
- “Occupational Employment and Wages.” US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 31 Mar. 2022, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm.