BY Sam Becker04 August 2022, 12:56
In Plymouth, Minnesota, Allina WestHealth Hospital is closing the emergency room and urgent care as nurses strike to demand a new contract that provides fair pay and benefits to nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as seen in October 2021. (Photo by: Michael Siluk—UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
A career in nursing can be lucrative, although it hasn’t always been so. While the COVID-19 pandemic has really impacted the healthcare system as a whole, nurses have seen many of their colleagues transition to other jobs or areas of work, which has provided them with a key advantage. : a higher salary.
A labor shortage, coupled with health care employers tightening their collective hiring incentives, has given nurses an edge in the labor market. Registered nurses (RNs) in the United States earned a median annual salary of $77,600 in May 2021, the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the highest paid RNs earn more than $120,000 every year.
But some nurses get a lot more out of it. In fact, nurses in various advanced practices — such as nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners — earn an average of almost $124,000 a year, according to government figures. And the 2021 Nursing Salary and Trends Survey, released by the American Nurses Association, found that 39% of more than 4,500 nurses surveyed earned between $80,000 and $139,000 a year.
Even in what is proving to be a lucrative field in today’s job market, the highest-earning nurses tend to have advanced degrees, specialize in in-demand practices, and seek work in fields that desperately need more. of nurses. Nurses who have bounced from hospital to hospital or city to city have been among the highest paid over the past two years.
“We have seen a big increase in the remuneration of nurses. Our traveling nursing students told us that they made a lot of money. They were able to pay their tuition while working and attending school,” says Susan Stone, president of Frontier Nursing University, which has a physical campus in Versailles, Kentucky, but offers nursing school programs. digital nurses to students across the country.
With all of this in mind, there are ways nurses, or future nurses, can find high-paying positions, if they play their cards right. Here are some steps to consider if you hope to land a well-paying nursing position.
1. Get a higher degree (like an MSN)
As mentioned, there is a significant pay gap between registered nurses and advanced practice nurses. As such, getting credentialed by earning an advanced nursing degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), can give you an edge in salary negotiations. Given the current nursing shortage, it may also be worth considering how an advanced degree might give you an edge over other less credentialed nurses, particularly as hospitals may need to find ways to reduce costs in the future given these wage increases. .
“The rising cost of nurses will mark an inflection point where hospitals and doctors will increasingly adopt digital technologies to help monitor – under the watchful eye of nurses and doctors – patients who are increasingly at risk of ‘be treated outside of the hospital,’ says Jason Shafrin, senior executive. director of FTI Consulting at the Center for Healthcare Economics and Policy, and founder and editor of Healthcare Economist. “Routine nursing care that follows highly standardized prescribed procedures could increasingly be delivered by machines.”
A more advanced skill set, which cannot be easily automated, may prove more useful in the job market in years to come.
2. Choose an in-demand practice
Not all nurses are the same, nor are nursing concentrations. The scarcity of nurses working in advanced practices should translate into increased bargaining power.
And not only can pay be higher for nurses with specialist skills – there are plenty of them – but the incentives to sign with the right employer can be as well. Some nurses are offering signing bonuses of up to $40,000, though such incentives are “not sustainable,” says Tiffany McDowell, director of people advisory services at Ernst & Young. Rather, longer-term bargaining power will come from simple supply and demand.
“Last year the nursing population had low turnover, less than 10%, but this year it was over 40%. It was unprecedented, McDowell said. Qualified nurses have an advantage in today’s economic climate, and if they want to raise their salaries, now is the time to do it. “The first thing they leave is compensation,” she adds.
3. Play the field
Nurses who truly hope to maximize their earning potential need to be open and available to different opportunities, especially if it means leaving their current employer, and potentially their current city or state. Registered nurses in South Dakota earn an average salary of around $60,000, for example, while those in the same positions in California can earn more than double that amount, according to BLS data.
Seeking a better deal is probably the only way to ensure nurses can increase their income, rather than waiting for an employer – who may already be cash-strapped – to give them a raise.
Add a signing bonus and it’s possible that some nurses could significantly increase their salary by changing jobs. McDowell warns, however, that the current job market won’t last forever. As hospitals become increasingly constrained by their budgets, they will turn to technology or other ways to save money. “Hospitals are mostly nonprofit,” she says. “It’s a low-margin business. They’re not Google or Facebook,” in terms of the salaries they can offer nurses.
Another avenue that nurses might find worth exploring is starting their own practice.
Frontier Nursing University is very involved with nurses in rural areas who start their own practice (which could take the form of independent clinics offering primary care to patients), either out of necessity or because they want to make the decisions, according to Pierre . “They want to run their own clinics and be able to make their own decisions,” she says, adding that for nurses who are entrepreneurial, average earnings are around $100,000.
No matter the background, it’s important for future nurses to consider your passion for the field, because as a career, nursing can become so much more than a full-time job, regardless of your income, says Stone. .
“You’re going to have to work at least 40 hours a week,” she says of most nursing positions. “But in the end, you will be able to make a real difference in your community.”
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