What Does PRN Stand For? (Medical Abbreviation)

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What does PRN stand for in healthcare? This is a common question in nursing, medicine and healthcare as a whole. Another popular question is: What does PRN mean in medical terms?

There are hundreds of different medical terms and abbreviations that nurses and physicians use to aid in communication. Communication is one of the number one areas that needs improvement in the hospital setting. It can be easy to confuse different medical abbreviations like PRN. But, hopefully we can help clear up all of the confusion.

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What Does PRN Stand For?

In a hospital setting, PRN is an abbreviation used for the Latin phrase, “pro re nata” or as needed. In medicine or nursing, PRN can be used to describe the administration schedule of a medication or how often an employee works. There can also be other uses for the term PRN.

The phrase or abbreviation PRN is typically used in the medical setting either describing an employee, a medication, or procedure.

What Does PRN Stand For in Medical Terms?

In medical terms, PRN means “as needed” just as stated before. It is listed as an approved abbreviation by the Joint Commission (source).

For those who don’t know, the Joint Commission controls the approved medical abbreviation list. This “Do Not Use” list consists of abbreviations for medications or terms that could be considering confusing or misleading.

PRN is an approved abbreviation for as needed.

What Does PRN Mean On a Medication?

What does PRN stand for on a prescription? On a prescription medication, PRN means as needed. Most PRN medications providing some sort of temporary relief. For example, some pain medications or blood pressure medications are written as a PRN order.

So, an order might read:

-400mg acetaminophen PO PRN Q4, pain 1-3 (on a 1-10 scale)
-15mg morphine PO PRN Q4, pain 4-6 (on a 1-10 scale)

With this order, it depends on a patient’s pain level on a 1-10 pain scale. The patient needs determine the dosing and medication. So, if they rate their pain a 2, then they get acetaminophen. But, if they rate their pain a 5, they’ll get morphine. Now, this can depend on several other factors, but that is the general idea.

If you take home a Q4 PRN medication that means that you should take the medication every 4 hours as needed. This means that you don’t need to take the medication every 4 hours, it’s just if feel you need it.

PRN orders are similar to standing orders because they both are their “if needed”. However, standing orders are typically more broad. Whereas PRN orders or medications will be used for pain management or specific use cases. Standing orders are there if you need them, but typically you don’t want to need them.

What Does PRN Mean For a Job?

What is a PRN nurse or employee? In employment, PRN stands for as needed or per day. Many hospital employees, such as doctors or nurses, will work PRN for a more flexible schedule. There is also some employees that work per diem, which means that they are similar to PRN employees, but different (source 1, source 2).

Per Diem VS Pro Re Nata

Some employees will be per diem and others will be pro re nata. Typically per diem employees will not be on staff. They are paid for the shifts they work and on a day-to-day basis. Per diem employees don’t have monthly hour requirements and can work whenever they want.

Pro re nata (PRN) employees are on-staff nurses or physicians. They get paid on the hospital’s normal pay schedule and will have work requirements. PRN employees will be required to work a minimum shift load per month and might be mandated.

However, both PRN and per diem employees make their schedules according to what works for them. Typically, these employees have extremely flexible schedules.

What Does a PRN Nurse Do?

PRN nurses typically have the same responsibilities as a full-time nurse. Nurses have many shift responsibilities, including patient care, medication administration and preforming procedures.

While PRN nurses will have the same responsibilities, they might be given a smaller patient load or be put in charge. Because many PRNs won’t work a lot, this ensures that they can “get back into the swing of things” more easily.

How Many Hours Does a PRN Nurse Work?

The beauty of being a PRN staff member is that you work as much as you want! Besides any floor minimum hour requirements, nurses who are PRN make their own schedules.

This is especially useful if you have kids or any other prior commitments such as another job. There are several nurses who work different assignments while keeping a PRN staff position open so that they can get in some extra hours.

PRN Nursing Salary

How much does a PRN nurse make? What are PRN nurse wages? Depending on what state you live in, nurses can make anywhere from $25-$50 per hour. Or about $48,500-$104,500 per year (source).

Do PRN nurses make more money? While most PRN staff will earn whatever the competitive wage is in their area, some might earn even higher. In some cases, some PRN nurses will receive $3-$5 per hour higher than the average competitive wage. There is several reasons that could explain this, but the most common answer is to offset benefit costs.

Why do PRN nurses make more money? PRN RNs, at most hospitals, do not receive any of the full-time or part-time benefits (health insurance, retirement, etc.). However, they can be paid more so that they can offset the cost of these benefits.

Now per diem nursing salaries can be different depending on your state and hospital. Many states start around $35-$40 per hour for a per diem nurse (source).

How to Become a PRN Nurse

STEP 1: Go to nursing school! This should be pretty self explanatory, but you need a nursing degree. In addition, you also need to have a valid nursing license in the state you will be practicing in.

STEP 2: Get some experience. Most PRN nursing position are not for new nurses. Typically they want you to have some experience. Having more experience helps accelerate the orientation process.

STEP 3: Find a good PRN or per diem position. Research the hospitals in your area and make sure to apply for several jobs. It is important to consider pay rate, benefits (if any), and any other considerations (such as commute, or on-call requirements).

If you’re interested in some more useful information about PRN nursing and other nursing-related topics. Check out this book by an ICU nurse.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this talk about PRN, pro re nata and per diem all makes sense. In healthcare, things typically get confusing. There is so many different ways to say one thing or get your point across, the point sometimes gets lost in conversation.

You might feel overwhelmed at first, but remember things get easier as you learn more.

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