What Does PRN Mean | Nursing, Medical & Hospital Terms

PRN (pro re nata) is a Latin phrase/medical abbreviation commonly used in the medical field.

Translated PRN means “as needed” or “when necessary.”

When someone uses the abbreviation PRN within the medical profession, they are saying to use it as required.

Furthermore, this phrase can refer to a healthcare employee’s position or medication dosage.

This article covers both meanings in detail to explain the differences between healthcare employment and administering medication.

However, I’ll start by covering what PRN means in nursing healthcare for employment.

Afterward, I’ll discuss its meaning in administering medication.

PRN Refers To:

  • Administration of medication (required usage vs scheduled medicine)
  • Employment positions (used in healthcare/nursing and social work)

What Does PRN Mean in Healthcare Employment?

In the nursing profession, PRN refers to a healthcare position.

Those who work as PRN nurses only operate when the facility needs a position filled.

This job prevents department shortages by allowing PRN nurses to maintain staff stability when someone calls out or vacancies.

PRN nurses are also used when there is an influx of patients and insufficient staff to satisfy the hospital’s patient needs.

This job is ideal for nurses who can’t find full-time employment and newer nurses who want to gain career experience.

Those working PRN jobs may obtain full-time work when a position opens up if they qualify.

With that said, PRN healthcare jobs don’t always offer guaranteed full-time hours.

Also, depending on the company and work schedule, opportunities for healthcare benefits, vacation time, and/or sick leave varies.

As a result, nurses and healthcare workers must determine whether a PRN job is right for them.

The Pros and Cons of PRN Healthcare Work

There are numerous pros and cons to working a PRN job as a healthcare provider.

However, these benefits and drawbacks vary based on the individual’s needs.

For example, working as a PRN nurse provides employment at a single healthcare company/unit.

This allows them to develop relationships/connections and have guaranteed shifts when scheduled, compared to per diem nursing.

Some PRN nurses receive full-time hours, but they aren’t guaranteed.

This is especially true in locations that don’t require a lot of supplementary work.

However, they receive a set number of shifts every week/month.

As a result, they can rely on a steadier income than per diem nurses.

PRN nurses work in various settings within their facility.

This allows them to gain experience and training, preparing them for a full-time opening.

Also, because a single company employs PRN nurses, they have a better chance of becoming full-time employees.

However, PRN nurses don’t have the same mobility as per diem nurses.

For instance, they can’t work for multiple healthcare facilities or be employed by several agencies.

They also don’t have the versatility to travel to new locations or work in more diverse specialties.

The healthcare facility’s policies limit their work flexibility and location.

Finally, some PRN nurses receive healthcare benefits, vacation time, and even sick leave.

However, these benefits vary depending on the facility and the nurse’s regular schedule.

Therefore, if you want to work as a PRN nurse, determine the pros and cons before taking a particular position.

Otherwise, consider other options that provide the benefits you need to sustain your lifestyle.

This includes per diem work and full-time employment at facilities hiring nursing staff.

Things to Consider When Accepting a PRN Nursing Positions:

  • Required to meet certain requirements before applying for a position
  • No guarantee of full-time hours or a desirable work scheduled
  • Duration of work hours may vary (example: may work for a day, week, or several months with daily hours of work varying)
  • May/may not receive health benefits or pay when not working (varies based on work agreement)
  • PRN jobs require nurses to be highly adaptive and adjust to varying settings based on the situation (work can feel unpredictable)

What Does PRN Mean for Administering Medication?

PRN also refers to how medicine is utilized by an individual when talking about administering medication.

In short, it means only to use the medication as needed.

This is important because medicine is administered in one of two ways.

This includes administering medication when needed (i.e., when experiencing pain) or in a scheduled manner/over a period of time.

To illustrate, scheduled medicine must be taken at designated hours to remain effective.

For example, every 4, 6, 8, 12, or 24 hours, or as prescribed.

These medications manage healthcare conditions and need to be utilized frequently.

Conversely, PRN (as needed) medication must be taken only when required. F

or example, when an individual is dealing with moderate pain.

In this case, the individual must only take medication when pain is present or symptoms of the pain become apparent.

A good example is using aspirin only when you have a headache.

If the patient experiences pain once per week or every few weeks, then they would take the medication during those times “as needed,” not during a particular schedule such as every 4, 6, 8, 12, or 24 hours when it is not necessary.

It is also important to understand the difference between which medicine should be taken as needed and which medicine is required every set number of hours (on a set schedule).

Just because an individual does not believe the medicine is always effective, it doesn’t mean he/she should skip their dosage and wait for symptoms to arise before taking their medication.

Things to Consider When Using PRN Medication:

  • When is taking medication appropriate?
  • How much medication should be taken?
  • How may the medication interact with other medications if taken collectively?

If you are unsure when to use PRN medication, consult a physician or pharmacist.

These healthcare professionals have valuable experience administering/prescribing medications to clients and patients.

Taking them too frequently or administering the wrong dosage can have adverse healthcare consequences.

Finally, healthcare experts commonly use native Latin medical abbreviations/terms in the medical profession.

It may be difficult for newer students to understand and memorize particular terms and abbreviations.

However, it allows students with different backgrounds and languages to receive the same experience, training, and understanding of medical terminology in a universal language.

It also preserves the roots of those meanings.