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How to Become a PRN Nurse?


Current and aspiring nurses interested in working in various locations and environments may be drawn to the field of PRN nursing (from the Latin pro re nata — “as the need arises”). While most registered nurses work full time in a single environment, such as a hospital or healthcare clinic, PRN nurses are temporary employees who work only as needed. Some professionals in this area work for various departments in the same hospital, filling in during staff shortages or when patient intake starts to rise, while others work for staffing agencies and accept short-term positions at different healthcare institutions.


Students interested in pursuing a career as a PRN nurse must begin by developing the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed. A degree program such as the online RN to BSN from Maryville University can prepare graduates to pursue jobs in the field.


PRN Nurse Job Description

The daily responsibilities of a PRN nurse can vary based on the environment they’re working in. For example, the duties of a PRN working in a group medical practice may differ from those of a PRN at a hospital. Some common day-to-day responsibilities may include the following:


  • Reviewing patients’ charts
  • Discussing patients’ care with physicians and other nursing staff
  • Providing care
  • Maintaining medical records
  • Assessing patients’ conditions
  • Administering medications
  • Providing information to patients and their families about at-home care procedures


PRN nurses work at hospitals, ambulatory healthcare locations, private practice medical offices, nursing and residential care facilities, and governmental institutions, as well as within state, local, and private school systems. Although RNs who work in facilities that provide 24-hour care, such as hospitals and nursing homes, may need to work night, weekend, and holiday shifts, professionals who work in settings such as schools and medical offices are likely to work standard business hours.

Steps to Become a PRN Nurse

Students interested in becoming PRN nurses need to meet certain education requirements, pass a national licensing examination, and gain relevant work experience.

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

The first step toward becoming a PRN nurse is to complete a nursing education program such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), or nursing diploma. This qualifies students to become registered nurses (RNs).


While bachelor’s degrees are not required to become an RN, many advanced nursing roles such as hospital positions prefer that candidates have a BSN. Existing RNs who have completed an associate degree or nursing diploma program can opt for an online RN to BSN degree program, and most full-time students can complete an online RN to BSN degree within 18 to 24 months. The online RN to BSN program at Maryville University spans individual assessment, family assessment, and nursing informatics, with courses designed to equip current RNs with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to advance their careers.

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Students need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain their RN license. The purpose of this exam is to determine whether candidates are prepared to begin to practice as entry-level nurses. The NCLEX-RN consists of 75 to 265 questions. Testing is available throughout the year at locations across the U.S.

Step 3: Gain on-the-Job Experience

After passing the NCLEX-RN, aspiring PRN nurses also need to gain on-the-job experience, as many positions require candidates to have at least one year of employment history in the field. Aspiring PRN nurses can often find opportunities through medical staffing agencies.

PRN Nurse Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2020, the median annual salary for registered nurses, including PRN nurses, was $75,330, with those in the top 10th percentile reporting annual earnings of more than $116,230.


Salary ranges can vary based on factors such as geographical region, experience, advanced education such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and the organization an individual works for. For example, during that same reporting period, RNs employed at government institutions reported a median annual wage of $84,490, according to the BLS, whereas RNs employed at nursing and residential care facilities reported a median annual wage of $68,450.

Employment Outlook for PRN Nurses

The BLS projects the employment of registered nurses, including PRN nurses, to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030, which is about as fast as the average projected growth for occupations (8%). It further predicts that approximately 194,500 positions for RNs will become available each year during that period as nurses retire or transfer to other career paths.


The aging baby boomer population will also be driving the demand for nurses, as older individuals often have more healthcare needs than younger individuals. Additionally, the BLS predicts employment growth in facilities where patients do not stay overnight, such as urgent care facilities, and other outpatient care centers, such as chemotherapy clinics, to be much faster compared with other healthcare environments.

Fundamental Skills for PRN Nurses

Students interested in pursuing this career path will be well served by developing a variety of skills.


  • Critical thinking: All registered nurses should understand how to assess changes in patients’ health. Individuals with refined critical thinking skills can judge when corrective action needs to be taken.
  • Compassion: Individuals seeking medical care are often nervous, scared, and not feeling well. Aspiring PRN nurses should be empathetic and caring.
  • Interpersonal skills: PRN nursing work environments change constantly. PRN nurses need to be able to work with a variety of healthcare providers, healthcare staff, patients, and patients’ families.
  • Organizational skills: Professionals who choose this career path often work with many patients with varying healthcare needs and must adapt to different institutions’ procedures and standards. Consequently, PRN nurses with strong organizational skills are likely to be most successful.

Advance Your Education and Become a PRN Nurse

Current and aspiring registered nurses interested in accepting short-term work assignments at healthcare clinics, hospitals, and care facilities throughout the U.S. are likely to find that becoming a PRN nurse aligns well with their career goals. Completing an education, such as an online RN to BSN degree from Maryville University, can prepare graduates with the in-demand skills they’ll need to be successful.


Are you ready to take the first brave step toward becoming a PRN nurse? Discover how Maryville University’s online RN to BSN program can prepare you for the job you want.


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