Career Flexibility in Nursing

Some people choose a career in nursing because it provides an opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives. Others prefer it for the chance to grow in a multifaceted occupation. Others still see it as a way to have job security. No matter the reason, all nurses enjoy a perk that most professional careers can’t offer: job flexibility.

Nurses enjoy a perk that most professional careers can’t offer: job flexibility.

Nursing is one of the few professions that offer multiple opportunities for flexibility in scheduling, work settings, and specialization. Registered nurses (RNs) can easily find meaningful employment across the United States and around the world. With the growing number of millennials entering nursing careers and even more nurses retiring after decades of service, the need for flexibility is even more critical.

“Work-life balance would be appreciated by nurses of any age,” Marcia Faller wrote in “Attracting Millennials to the Nursing Unit.”  “The preferences of each generation and each individual in the workplace should be recognized. All people like it when their personal lifestyle needs are respected.”

RNs who are seeking a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) understand the importance of flexibility, whether it is in their career or nursing education. The leading nursing programs, including Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing programs, allow for flexibility in learning while providing a chance to work toward the benefits of having a BSN in nursing.

Types of Flexible Career Options in Nursing

With the growing emphasis on work-life balance, nursing has been lauded as one of the few career choices that offer flexible options throughout a lifetime, including in these areas:

Workplace settings

Nurses work in a variety of settings including hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing care facilities, outpatient practices, home health services, schools, and the military.

Of the estimated 3 million nurses throughout the United States, a majority – 61 percent – work in hospitals, including general medical/surgical facilities and specialty facilities such as rehabilitation, mental health, and substance abuse centers and private hospitals. The remaining nurses work in ambulatory healthcare services (physicians’ offices, home healthcare, and outpatient care centers). Nurses who work in home health often travel to patients’ homes, while public health nurses may work in community centers, schools, and other public facilities.

Nurses also work in public and private schools, colleges, universities, and technical or vocational schools. They serve as educators and researchers as well as in telehealth positions. Nurses also can be employed by insurance companies, legal offices, managed care organizations, and local, state and federal government organizations.


Hundreds of specialty areas in nursing provide opportunities to work outside hospital settings, including in research, management, and patient-facing positions. Nurses may specialize in emergency medicine, family care, mental health, and women’s health, to name a few.

One of the many benefits of having a BSN is the ability to meet the basic qualifications of many nurse specialty positions. Some positions that require a BSN include burn care, case management, geriatrics, and hospice. Many nurses find that earning an RN- BSN online is the best path forward.


Hospitals, urgent care centers, some pediatric offices, and other facilities must be staffed 24 hours a day. For the most accurate scheduling, healthcare facilities base work shifts and days off according to the expected demands.

Some facilities have been exploring alternatives to allow for seasonal scheduling. In 2018, Mercy Children’s Hospital in St. Louis launched a program that allows qualified pediatric nurses to work full time from September through May and take the summers off while keeping their full-time benefits. The seasonal staff receives biweekly insurance stipends and can choose to pick up additional shifts during the summer.

Other Flexible Options in Nursing

Nursing also allows for other flexible work practices that can provide multiple benefits, depending on needs. Not all medical facilities offer flex options, but the available opportunities may include the following:

Per diem

Nurses who work per diem are employed on a temporary basis to fill empty positions in medical facilities. The job allows nurses to pick their own schedules with no minimum shift requirements. It typically pays a higher hourly rate than a staff position but usually does not come with benefits. Per diem jobs are much sought after by nurses who don’t want to be tied down by regular work schedules.


PRN (Latin for pro re nata, or as needed) nurses work on an as-needed basis depending on staffing needs. Unlike per diem nurses, PRN nurses must work a set number of shifts to earn a salary. Some PRN nurses work on an on-call basis.

In some cases, nurses who work PRN are considered floating nurses because they are trained to work in multiple units and adapt to fluctuating patient needs.

The flexibility of PRN nursing allows for work in a variety of settings and units to explore different work conditions.

Job sharing

In job sharing, two nurses share one full-time job and benefits, allowing each the flexibility that part-time employment brings. Job sharing is considered advantageous for employees because it allows for work-life balance and for employers because it keeps qualified nurses on staff.

The many flexible options in nursing also include education. An RN-BSN online allows nurses to earn the many benefits of having a BSN in nursing. At Duquesne University, students learn the in-demand nursing practice skills that medical facilities require from RNs today.

About Duquesne University’s Online MSN Program

Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing degree program prepares RNs for careers in leadership and to set new standards of care. The online MSN and Post-Master’s Certificate degree programs allow nurses to continue their careers and personal lives while earning an advanced education.


Advance Healthcare Network, “Attracting Millennials to the Nursing Unit”
Discover Nursing, “Why be a Nurse?”
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Registered Nurses Work Environment”
Discover Nursing, “Explore Specialties”
CBS Money Watch, “Flex work program lets nurses take summers off”