by Megen Duffy
It just occurred to me that the new health exchange insurance policies could change the nursing career marketplace and give nurses a lot of new employment options: we can play job Tetris. Why? Read on.
Before the individual policies were available, nurses without spouses or another source of health insurance were bound to full-time work with benefits unless they opted to live dangerously. Individual policies were just totally unaffordable (I used to pay about $1,000 per month for an individual policy when I was self-employed). Now they are affordable, and they are particularly so if you consider the salary differential between full-time and PRN hourly wages. It is usually significant.
This one factor allows some mix-and-match in job searches. Perhaps your dream job has a part-time position available, so you take that and pick up PRN shifts somewhere else. Perhaps you have interests in two areas, so you find PRN positions in both. Perhaps it even works out financially for you to work full-time hours as a PRN nurse where you already are, if you work at one of the hospitals where PRN nurses can always pick and choose hours (this plan will not work if PRN hours are what they were intended to be and not guaranteed).
Disclaimer: this does not include other benefits such as retirement contributions and term life insurance that are generally offered, nor does it generally offer paid time off. Speaking as someone who was self-employed for a decade, I can readily state that employer matching for retirement and paid time off are benefits worth accepting a lower hourly rate than I would get for PRN status. However, I know that for many people health insurance is the sticking point, and for those people a whole new world may have just opened up.
Of course, your mileage may vary with the exchange policies versus a group insurance policy with an employer. I have found so far that with mine, the benefits are either similar to or better than the group policy I used to have, and I even bought a lower-tier policy because I thought it would be much more temporary than it has ended up being. They really do cover preventive screens and such at 100%. They really do pay what they say they will for copays and prescriptions, and this was not the case for my group policy. There was always an exception. As I say, this is my mileage only.
Just think, though, of the possibilities. This is important given the tight job market for nurses right now. What if you were not tied to benefits? Do you have a hobby or a sideline you could monetize and be a nurse two shifts per week? Do you have a previous career you could still put to use part time and pick up shifts now and then as a nurse?
Thinking of job opportunities this way opens up a new range of options if you are willing to, I hate to say it, think outside the box. Just keep in mind the question, “What if I didn’t have to look just in the full-time section?”