By Devan Ciccarelli
Getting screamed at by a patient, washing off vomit from your favorite scrubs, and working two double shifts back-to-back—all in a day’s work if you’re nurse.
While most nurses admit that they didn’t enter the healthcare profession for the money, it helps to feel as if you’re being paid fairly and compensated for all you put up with.
It’s way more than caregiver fatigue when you start feeling overworked and underpaid.
And when you get to this point, you’re not able to give your patients that awesome level of service you expect from yourself.
You may show up late for your shifts, start browsing the job boards, and dream about becoming a traveling nurse who only works tropical islands.
Here’s the good news: the ball is totally in your court as a nurse.
Even though there are close to 3 million nurses working across the U.S., the nation is still suffering from a mega nursing shortage.
What does that mean for you?
It means you have options.
You don’t have to work somewhere you’re not fond of, or with management you fundamentally disagree with; you can take your talent where it will be appreciated.
And trust us, when it takes an average of 48 days to fill an open healthcare position, qualified, talented candidates are desperately needed ASAP.
Today we’re going to talk about what you can expect to earn as a nurse—and if you’re being compensated fairly where you are—due to the nurse shortage in the U.S.
After today’s post, you’ll have all the intel you need to make a decision about the future of your career.
How the State of the Nurse Shortage Affects Your Career
Patients suffer when there aren’t enough skilled nurses to provide medical attention.
Studies have shown that it’s more cost-effective for medical facilities to hire and staff more nurses than pay for the consequences and liability of not having enough.
But why aren’t there enough nurses these days?
Experienced Nurses Were Too Scared to Retire During the Great Recession
When the financial crisis of 2008 struck the country, the economy took a nosedive and the job market basically became a black hole.
Nurses who should have been considering retirement suddenly feared leaving their positions and losing their income when the financial outlook of the country was so grim.
This kept many new nurses from entering the job force as there were fewer vacant positions than expected.
But now it seems as if older nurses are starting to scale back their work hours and some are even beginning to retire, The Wall Street Journal reports.
This is stellar news for you.
As these soon-to-retire nurses plan for their exits, new positions will open up or be created for qualified candidates like you.
Peter McMenamin, senior policy fellow and health economist at the American Nurses Association (ANA), tells USA Today that there will be at least 500,000 nurses retiring by 2022 who will need to be replaced.
That’s 500,000 positions opening up for you to pick and choose from.
If you’re already a nurse, you’re way ahead of the game as there are fewer nurses in school now than ever before.
Less People are Heeding the Call to Nursing
Nursing isn’t a glamorous profession; that’s why you probably don’t follow any nurses on Instagram or SnapChat.
“Nurses don’t make enough to put up with what we put up with on a daily basis,” says Elliott Douglass, BSN, RN, CWOCN, a Nashville-based nurse.
“The younger generations seem to be about quick cash, which you will definitely not make in nursing.”
But Nurses are Needed Now More than Ever
According to projections made by the ANA, there will be more than 100,000 nursing jobs available every year through 2022.
And the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BIS) projected:
- 19% growth in the number of U.S. nurses between 2012 and 2022
- Employment of Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) to grow an astounding 16% by 2024
This kind of job growth is more than any other profession is currently experiencing.
There are two big reasons why that is:
The Baby Boomers are Aging
There are 75 million Baby Boomers (people between the ages of 51–69 currently) in this country.
By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be over the age of 65.
And The Congressional Budget Office says 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2050.
As Baby Boomers start aging and retiring, there’s going to be an increase in demand for healthcare professionals to start taking care of them, creating loads of positions for nurses and geriatric care specialists.
The Affordable Care Act
Obamacare made it easy for Americans to sign up for health insurance. This caused an influx of new patients all requiring medical attention—and it doesn’t look like that will stop anytime soon.
Offices and medical facilities across the nation have been hiring additional staff to provide medical services to these newly insured patients.
Plus, states that expanded Medicare are experiencing massive waves of new patients faster than they can hire staff to accommodate them.
So now that you know your services are definitely in demand, do you know how much you’re worth to your current and potential employers?
How Much Should You Earn as a Nurse?
According to the BIS, the median annual salary for RNs during May 2016 came in at $68,450.
LPNs typically make $15–$30 per hour and Nurses Aides usually $10–$20 an hour, depending on their experience and their employer.
Even though these numbers are averages, your salary as a nurse will vary depending on a number of factors such as:
Your Official Job Title
According to Nurse.org, here are the 15 highest-paid nursing careers and how much employees average or could expect to earn every year:
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist $133,000
- General Nurse Practitioner $97,990
- Gerontological Nurse Practitioner $95,070
- Pain Management Nurse $90,288
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner $90,376
- Certified Nurse Midwife $102,390
- Family Nurse Practitioner $84,240
- Informatics Nurse $83,000
- Clinical Nurse Specialist $80,000
- Nursing Administrator $79,064
- Nursing Educator $73,633
- Neonatal Nurse $62,000
- Critical Care Nurse $76,563
- Health Policy (ACA) Nurse N/A
- Medical-Surgical Nurse $77,492
Keep in mind that these are not set in stone and just median salaries to give you an idea of what these job titles command.
The Type of Medical Facility You Work At
Data from the BIS also tells us that where nurses work has an effect on how much they earn as well.
The top industries for high-earning RNs during 2016 were:
- Government: $73,980
- Hospitals; state, local, and private $70,590
- Home healthcare services $64,140
- Offices of physicians $61,730
- Nursing and residential care facilities $60,950
The State You Live and Work In
Due to factors like the costs of living, business taxes, etc., nurses living in certain states automatically earn more than those living in others.
Are you ready to pack your bags for one of these locales?
Highest Salaries on the West Coast
The salaries are higher and you’ll have more medical facilities to apply to so you increase your chances of finding a place you love out west.
Downside: The cost of living is higher in these states so make sure you can afford the life you want before accepting that high-salary offer out of excitement.
Check out the average salaries for nurses in these states:
- Hawaii: $116,000
- California: $114,000
- Oregon: $110,000
Great Money on the East Coast
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Connecticut are all known for having high-paying jobs for nurses similar or on par with those on the west coast.
These states also have high costs of living like their Pacific brothers—and you should expect an average commute time of at least 30 minutes.
Salaries You Can Actually Live On Come from these States
If you’re looking for a higher salary, but you don’t want to increase your other living expenses, these five states all pay their nurses well:
- New Mexico
The South and the Plains: Not Your Best Options (Unless You’re Talking Florida)
Nurses are paid the lowest in the Plains and Southern states because the cost of living is so much cheaper than cities on the coast.
Plus, the populations are smaller so there’s less need to staff a large pool of nurses and less opportunities for competitive salary negotiations.
Check out the average salaries of nurses in these states:
- Oklahoma: $81,000
- Kansas: $83,200
- Illinois: $85,280
- North Dakota: $88,316
- South Carolina: $88,462
However, retirement destination Florida is always on the hunt for nurses specializing in geriatric care and you can expect much larger salaries there than other states in the south.
Your Gender (seriously)
Nursing used to be a male-dominated profession until the American Nurses Association started excluding men and flipped the tables.
Even though female nurses still outnumber male nurses, men are still paid more than their female counterparts.
A UC San Francisco-led study pointed out that male RNs make “more than $5,000 per year than their female counterparts across most settings, specialty areas and positions.”
Lead author of the study, Ulrike Muench, PhD, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences in the UCSF School of Nursing, says that female RNs will have earned about $155,000 less than male RNs over a 30-year career span.
Data from the U.S. Census of 2000 showed female nurses earning an average of $39,670 while men averaged $88,217!
Here’s the silver lining:
The gap became smaller between 2000 and 2011, when male nurses averaged $60,700 and female nurses earned $51,100 for the year, which is a little better but still not cool.
Muench believes that increasing transparency for this unfair wage gap between genders will make it easier for women to negotiate higher salaries and help them close this gap proactively.
Your License, Training, Certificates, and Special Skills
Nurses these days are expected to specialize not only in the practices of their field, but also in the latest technological advances in healthcare.
How well-versed are you in mobile health apps, 3–D imaging tools, updated MRSA/patient safety methods, PHR online records, e-prescribing software, and EMR conversion?
Specializing and staying current with your certifications will give you more command of the job market as your skills will be in greater demand than those of a general nurse without these extra bonus skills.
If you’re certified to practice in a medical subfield, such as obstetrics, gerontology, or psychiatry, you’ll have a leg up on highly-specialized roles and lucrative positions thanks to your prowess.
Currently, only 1% of nurses are certified in geriatrics even though half of all patients admitted to hospitals are over the age of 65. With the Baby Boomers increasing demand for nurses, the job outlook is steady for nurses specializing in this wing of medicine.
You’ll also enjoy higher job security when you have more specialized training others cannot compete with.
Maybe after reading more about these salary discrepancies, you’re ready to see if you could be earning more.
Will Your Resume Be Found by the Right Healthcare Recruiter?
Did you know that the average healthcare company spends $23 billion each year on recruitment services to find nurses like you?
With an average of 960,000 active healthcare job postings in the United States alone, it’s now harder than ever to find your dream job—though SO many opportunities exist!
As Tony Montville, a staffing manager in Cleveland, comments, “Every RN is the golden goose. The nirvana of recruiting success is being able to get a good, solid RN.”
You can also find out how to become a Relode Agent or find an agent you already know in your network to connect to even more job openings.
Instead of meeting with a recruiter who doesn’t know what you’re like or what you’re looking for, get referrals from your friends who know you best for positions they think you’d be a great fit for.
And if you become a Relode agent yourself, you’ll receive cash whenever one of your referrals is hired. It’s not a bad way to make a little extra money on the side between your shifts or until you land that perfect high-paying gig.