Do Nurses Get Paid Enough?

A nurse plays a significant role in the operations of a hospital. The nurse cares for the patient by:

  • Checking vitals
  • Administering ordered medication
  • Drawing blood
  • Giving shots
  • Observing and assessing patients for deteriorating health conditions
  • Educating patients, families, and caregivers

Just to name a few. The duties of a nurse go on and on.

With all that said, the question we’re asking today is, does the salary of a nurse appropriately compensate them for their long list of job duties, rigorous training, and education. Plus the daily struggles of working in a hospital?

So, do nurses get paid enough? In our opinion, yes, nurses are paid well for the job that they do. It’s important to note that salaries for nurses can vary significantly based on experience, education, geographical area, and the nurse’s ability to negotiate.

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What is the national salary of a nurse?

According to The Nurse Salary Guide, the average RN salary across the United States in 2019 is $73,550 (source). At first glance, this appears to be an appropriate number.

Breaking this number down into monthly, weekly, and even hourly wages, nurses are making an average of around $35 per hour. 

Even though this number changes based on experience, years in the job, location, and level of training, $35 per hour can be considered an appropriate wage.

The median household income, according to the United States Census Bureau report in 2017, was $60,336 (source). This number includes all working members of the household that are over the age of 15.

Examining the salary of a nurse compared to the median household income, it would be appropriate to say that nurses are well compensated as their income is 8% more than the median household wage in America.

Should nurses be paid more?

Even though we have established nurses are making a pretty good wage based on the US median household income, we should also ask the question if the nurse’s wage is appropriate for the type of daily work they’re doing. 

For example, most nurses are expected to work 12+ hour nursing shifts, are on their feet constantly and may have to sacrifice time with friends or family over the holidays to be at work. 

Some nurses even work night shift which research has shown working nights is detrimental to your health in the long run (source). 

However, many will argue that this is no different than any other job. One nurse, RN Margaret Belcher, was interviewed by the American Journal of Nursing and claimed (source), 

“I am a nurse. I do a good job. That is enough.” 

Whether or not a nurse should make more money can only be determined by specifics such as location, level of training, and years of nursing experience. 

If a nurse were to feel poorly compensated for their job, it would be best for them to reexamine the location of their job, the nursing specialty they’re in and whether or not more training or education would improve their salary.

Another point that many nurses overlook is that their ability to negotiate for a higher wage can also be instrumental in their compensation rate. 

But more on that later. 

Will the salary of a nurse increase, decrease, or remain the same?

As the job outlook continues to grow in a positive direction for nurses, could this mean that nurse salaries will only continue to increase? 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 438,100 new jobs will open in the field of nursing by the year 2026 (source). That is about a 15% job growth for the nursing profession, a rate that is considered much faster than the average (source).  With that high growth rate does it mean more money for nurses?

Unfortunately, the outlook on the nurse salary, for both RNs and LPNs, have remained flat for the past couple years and when adjusted for inflation could actually be going down for some according to the Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report 2018 (source). 

Even though the national nurse salary is not anticipated to increase, there are several factors a nurse can consider to increase their earnings.

How can a nurse increase their earnings?

1. Education: One of the first things to look at when trying to make more money as a nurse is education.

For example, a registered nurse (RN) makes an estimated $15 more than an LPN (source). The difference in pay is even more substantial if you’re comparing an RN’s to a nurse’s aid. 

This helps solidify the notion that more education can make a significant difference in the salary of a nurse.

2. Location: Another option to consider is the location. Some states will pay nurses more than others, and some cities (even in the same state) will pay nurses more than others.

Sites such as payscale.com can help when trying to find high paying nursing jobs in other cities or states. 

3. Negotiate: Many nurses don’t do this, but you should. Not negotiating your salary means you could be leaving money on the table. 

I know what you’re going to say “hospitals only pay by experience” some hospitals will say this, and some might even stick to this, but there are plenty of others that you can negotiate for a higher wage. 

In my career as a nurse I’ve been able to successfully negotiate a higher pay than what was initially offered to me, and I know plenty of other nurses who have been able to do the same.

According to Payscale.com, not negotiating your salary could cost you 1 to 1.5 million dollars over the course of your lifetime (source). 

5. Seniority My last point and this one you can’t really change is that nurses who have worked in the field longer tend to make a higher wage than newly registered nurses.

What’s the takeaway?

Overall, nurses are paid well enough compared to the median household income. Before deciding if nursing is an appropriate occupation, it is important to assess more than just the salary. 

If you’re optimistic towards a career in nursing, you must examine the sacrifices, job description, hospital work/life, and if working with ill patients is an appropriate job for you. 

However, if you do decide that nursing is the career for you, then you shouldn’t doubt that the salary would be anything but worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs related to our question “do nurses get paid enough?”

1. How much do nurses make an hour starting out?

This can vary significantly depending on what state you’re in, what city, and what hospital. I’ve seen nurses start out anywhere from $19/hour to the mid-twenties.

For example, nurses in California are probably going to start out at a higher rate than nurses in Oklahoma or Kansas.

Related Articles to Do Nurses Get Paid Enough

If you’re looking at nursing as a career for you, check out this article on becoming a registered nurse or this other article on becoming a licensed practical/vocational nurse. 

Let us know what your thoughts are in the comment section below. Also, if you found this article helpful please share it on your favorite social media.

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