Talking about money is hard, and the thought of asking for a raise makes most people sick to their stomach.
Remember, as nurses, we work hard at our jobs every day, and we deserve to be compensated for that hard work.
I've talked a lot about the different ways to make more money as a nurse, but truth be told, negotiating your pay on hire and asking for a raise is one of the best ways because it doesn't require you to seek out new employment or some tricky side hustle.
Whether you ask or not, at some point, you're going to want a raise in your nursing career. You'll want to ask but won't know where to begin.
You're not alone in this, and that's why I have this guide.
I want to give you the tools you'll need to not only ask for your raise with more confidence but actually be more successful as well.
*Disclosure: This article on how to get a raise as a nurse may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.
What to do Before Asking for a Raise
Your success on whether or not you're going to get your raise starts long before you ever ask.
Nurse managers and companies in general, are unlikely to give anyone a raise just for the sake of giving a raise.
You need to think of getting a raise as your company choosing to keep investing in you.
So, ask yourself this…why would my nurse manager want to invest more in me? Below are some food for thoughts to keep in mind before asking for a raise.
Below I'm going to show you some questions you should ask yourself before approaching your boss about a raise.
My Embarrassing Story of When I Asked for a Raise
Keep reading at the end of this article I'm going to share with you my embarrassing story of the first time I asked for a pay increase.
Plus I'll share with you some things I should have done differently.
1. Are You a Quality Nurse?
Ask yourself do you have the qualities of a good nurse?
Are you that nurse that goes with the flow? Are you an effective communicator? A problem solver? Do you serve and treat your facility's customers well?
Your nurse managers are going to be wondering some of these things about you.
2. Do You Have a Good Personal Nurse Brand?
Your personal brand as a nurse matters when it comes to asking for a raise.
Your personal brand is equivalent to saying what your manager and your coworkers think of you.
You might be one of those who read this and immediately think what I'm referring to is “being a suck-up” or caring too much what other people think.
I don't think you have to be a “suck-up,” but if you think about it, people are generally more willing to help people they like. I'm not trying to say it's right or wrong, just a matter of human nature.
With that said, if your manager doesn't think very highly of you, what's the likelihood you're going to get a raise?
3. What Kind of a Leader are You?
Another question to ask yourself is “do you possess the qualities of a good nurse leader?“
You might be confused by this and this might lead you to think of a couple of questions. So let me elaborate.
The first question you might have is “how is this different from having the qualities of a good nurse.” It's a subtle difference.
Someone can possess the excellent qualities of a good nurse but not of a good nurse leader.
I see the difference as someone who shows up and does their immediate role well versus someone (a good nurse leader) who shows up and does their role well and elevates the entire unit.
This could be the nurse who spots a patient safety issue on the unit and comes up with a plan to resolve the safety issue.
Or they see a HIPAA violation issue, and even though it doesn't really affect them, they feel compelled to bring it up and have it be resolved because it's better for the patient and the unit.
Managers would be more compelled to give raises to this person because they go above and beyond their job role.
These are also probably people who work hard so they could easily go elsewhere and their ability to go above and beyond makes them very valuable to their department.
I have seen and heard of managers doing interesting things to keep someone who's about to leave.
Find Your Next Nursing Job
Use our nursing job board to start looking for and applying to great nursing jobs near you.
4. What's Your Customer Service Like?
How well are you taking care of your facility's customers? This could be patients or a patient's family members, depending on where you're working at.
Customers are the lifeline of any business. Healthcare is a business. Every business needs good paying customers. Customers prefer business where staff members treat them well.
If you're not taking care of your facility's customers, those customers are going to go somewhere else.
You might respond with…“Thomas, you don't understand. I deal with challenging patients [or customers]. You don't know how bad it is.”
In response, providing exceptional customer service is important even in the midst of dealing with difficult patients or customers.
This is what makes customer service-type jobs very difficult…it's dealing with customers. Nursing (at least most of the nursing profession) is a customer service-focused industry.
So ask your self are you asking for a raise when your customer service sucks?
5. How You Get Along with Your Coworkers?
I could have lumped this in with the personal brand or the qualities part of this list earlier but based on the experiences I've had throughout my career, this one was worth singling out.
It will be hard to get your nurse manager to approve a raise if your coworkers continually complain about how difficult a nurse you are.
It seems like every job has that one coworker that's difficult. Even if it's not you, one of the things your manager will be looking at is how you handle those difficult coworkers.
Ask yourself, are you a part of the solution, or are you a part of the problem?
6. How Long Have You Been Working There?
Many organizations, companies, and hospital systems (employers generally) will give incremental raises every year or every other year.
Those raises could be for anything:
➔ Cost of living raise
This is a raise given that has to do with the rise of living expenses.
➔ Competitive pay increase
A company may decide that their nurses' average salary is below where they want it to be relative to what others in their industry are paying in the same geographic area.
Companies will usually have some kind of internal metric that they're using to come to this conclusion.
For example, some companies may like to stay at the low end or high end of the pay range, and some may like to be in the middle.
Subsequently, when they do their analyses, some companies may only conclude that a certain group is underpaid relative to the market. For example, they may decide that a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is underpaid in their company.
➔ Merit increase
In simplest terms, this is the raise given to employees for workplace performance.
For example, Sally, a nurse practitioner (APRN), may get a 2% raise at the end of the year for scoring really well on her performance evaluation.
Unless there was a major shift in your job duties (for example, you've received a lot of extra responsibilities), you probably shouldn't ask for a pay increase when you've only been there for less than a year.
In that scenario, the conversation for more money should have happened upon hire.
Related: Do Nurses Still Get Pensions?
7. When Was Your Last Pay Increase?
If you just recently got a pay raise, you should think twice about asking for another one so soon.
Once again, the exception would be if there's been a significant change in your job duties/description.
Besides that, avoid asking for a pay raise less than 6 months to a year of the last time you had one.
8. What Value are You Providing to Your Organization?
Your company will not give you a raise just for breathing, and using the “I have too many expenses” is not going to cut it for your manager to give you a raise.
You need to make sure you're providing value to the organization. Going back to what I said earlier, are you making yourself hard to replace for the organization?
9. Are Your Evaluations Exceeding Expectations?
Have you noticed a pattern yet?
If you're going to go down the route of asking for a raise, it helps if you're in a situation where you're making yourself hard to replace.
I know in many areas there's a high demand for a medical professional like a nurse. But keep in mind there are also other levers a company can pull to get new hires.
That's why I keep harping on making yourself harder to replace. They can do an emergency hire or contract out to a travel nurse agency to replace your patient care duties.
It's harder to contract a nurse who cares about the facility they work in and is invested in the organization. To summarize this section, before getting into the steps to ask for your pay raise, you should ask yourself some of these questions.
If you're meeting expectations, you're doing your job. Raises tend to be rewarded to those who go above and beyond.
How to Get a Raise as a Nurse
Here are the steps you should take when you're wanting to ask for a raise.
1. Negotiate Your Pay at Hire
The best time to negotiate your pay is during the hiring process. After you've been hired, it gets a lot trickier from there.
Remember down the road before starting a new nursing job to negotiate for a higher base salary.
2. Do Your Research and Prepare
If you decide you want to ask for a raise, you need to prepare.
For starters, do your research and know what your goal is before approaching your boss about getting a raise. I'm sure you've heard of the slogan “knowledge is power.”
That's a true statement, and when it comes to negotiating your pay, that statement is even truer.
Before asking for more money, you need to understand what other nurses working in your area, doing similar jobs, with similar titles, are making.
When you understand what the average pay is for other healthcare workers in your area, it could mean that you:
- Change up how you negotiate.
- Change up the tactic you were going to use.
- Decide not to even bother asking (you might go down this route and see you're being overpaid relative to other people with a similar job description in your area).
There are several different ways to research this and a quick google search with the phrase “what's the average nurse making in my area?” or “what's the average annual salary of a ____________ (your specialty) in _____________(your city).
Here's a full example “what's the annual nurse practitioner salary in Boston Massachusetts”. Here's an example below.
You could also start your search on a site like Payscale to see what others are making in your area.
Another way you could get this information is by networking. You might be wondering, “wait, I thought it's generally considered not appropriate to ask someone how much they make?”
I've seen so many debates on whether or not that's good for the employee. The rationale being that an employee could be getting underpaid, and they wouldn't know it.
I'll let other people debate that, but what I will tell you is that over the years, I've had more people willing to tell me what they make than I thought would.
I've had friends tell me how much they make. I've had nurses who work with other companies in the same area (and some out of state) for one reason or another tell me how much they make.
Sometimes I think they were either bragging or upset that they thought they didn't make enough, but that's neither here nor there. It also doesn't end there either because videos like the one below are very prevalent on YouTube.
I searched for many different nursing specialties, and I was able to find someone on YouTube who was sharing how much they were getting paid.
What does this mean?
It means you can find this information if you really want it. If nothing else, if you network with a lot of nurses in your field, you could ask them something like, “what's the ballpark range I should expect to make.”
Even if you don't get an exact number, it's still very beneficial, especially if you get a range from multiple people.
4. Know the Right Time
There are right and wrong times to be asking for a raise. If you know there's a big project being worked on or everyone is preparing for accreditors, it might not be a good time to ask.
Wait until the project is over or after the audit is done before you ask. You want to ask when your manager is not under stress.
5. Show Your Worth
When negotiating for a raise, you need to highlight your strength. As I previously stated, think of getting a raise as the company taking the time to invest in you.
Why should your company want to invest in you?
Your goal is to highlight all the positive reasons why your company should invest in you. Make sure you highlight all the positive things you've done for the organization.
If you were involved in a project that decreased cost for the facility or increased revenue, highlight that.
Maybe you came up with something that increased patient experience or bettered patient outcomes. Make sure to bring that up also.
6. Prepare for Multiple Outcomes
For me personally, when I'm asking for a raise, I assume the initial answer is going to be no. I think you should also.
The better question is what are you going to do if that's the case.
What if your boss doesn't say no but says we'll have to see what the company's financials are for the quarter?
What if he or she says yes but only if you…
As you can see, various outcomes could happen. You need to prepare for what some of those outcomes might be.
Find Your Next Nursing Job
If you feel like you're underappreciated at your current job, it might be time for a change. Use our job board to start looking for your next job opportunity.
7. Keep Your Emotions in Check
Money conversations can be very emotional and can escalate quickly. You need to make sure your emotions are in check.
Don't come in yelling and screaming and demanding things. It won't work and will guarantee you won't get your raise.
8. Be confident
This is a big one, and it's something I didn't have the very first time I asked for a raise. Learn from my story I shared below.
When you ask for a raise, make sure you approach it as a confident nurse.
9. Show Appreciation
Regardless of what happens, make sure you start from a position of gratitude.
It would be best if you also ended at a place of gratitude regardless of whether the answer is a yes or no.
Limitations to Getting a Raise.
You need to be aware of some reasons why you might not get your raise.
- Poor company finances.
- Poor employee evaluations.
- Raises are based on years of experience. Some organizations have a set way they give out raises and bonuses. (For example, your employer might do their nurse pay based on years of experience and might not budge from it.)
I have found the argument “my facility only pays based on experience” to be true until it's not.
In other words that's an argument made until there's someone they really want to keep.
What Happens if You Don't Get the Raise
You could do everything right and still not get your raise. Don't be disheartened. There're a couple of options at your fingertips.
1. Talk to Your Manager
If your manager turns you down, ask him/her what you can do differently to earn a pay increase.
If they give you a list of things you could do or work on, make those recommendations your goal. Set yourself action steps (or a SMART goal) so you can accomplish them.
Later on, you can have another meeting with your boss to discuss how you accomplished everything he/she said.
2. Was Your Presentation Off?
If you didn't prepare well enough, then you might have to go back to the drawing board.
Try to figure out what you could have done differently.
After figuring it out, you might have to give it a year or so and improve on the areas you need improvement in, and try again.
This time more prepared.
3. Ask for More Responsibility
If your request for a raise gets declined, ask your manager if there are new responsibilities you can take on to get a pay raise.
It might be taking on a more leadership role, becoming a superuser, or a coordinator of sorts.
Be careful with this one because you want to make sure new responsibilities come with some more incentives.
4. Seek Other Employment
Think carefully about this option.
If you feel you're underpaid and can command a higher salary elsewhere, this could be a viable option.
Build out your resume and start applying to different nursing positions. If you get called back, go to those interviews and see what offers you get.
Make sure to negotiate your job offers.
If you do decide that leaving your current job is what you want to do make sure you leave the right way.
Make sure to write a letter of resignation and to give proper notice before you quit.
Go check out this linked article to see how you should quit your nursing job.
My Story of the First Time I asked for a Raise
Here's the story of the first time I asked for a raise. I'll give you the backstory, and at the end, I'll highlight some teachable moments of what I could have done differently.
While I was younger when this story took place, you'll still be able to relate to the awkwardness of talking about money.
The story starts when I was in my mid-teens, and I was working for the local fast food restaurant in my city.
Not to brag, but in some ways, I was better than your typical high school worker. While in other ways, I had the typical teenager immaturity and mentality.
For example, you could ALWAYS count on me to show up to work. I don't think I called in once when I was working in high school while keeping the same job through my first couple of years of college.
The one major downside was that you could also always count on me to be late. I was late a lot. I was probably late more times than I was early.
One day after hearing one of my classmates talk about how much they made, I decided I would ask for a raise.
I did zero preparation.
I couldn't even tell you if my pay was competitive compared to other teenage fast-food workers in my area.
All I knew was I wanted more money.
It took me weeks to finally get the nerves to ask for a pay raise.
Each time I thought about asking, I would talk myself out of it with one or all of these thoughts…
- ” This isn't a good time.”
- ” The restaurant is too busy.”
- ” I'm too busy. “
- ” She doesn't look like she's in the mood.”
- ” I'll do it tomorrow.”
It was one excuse after another.
Let me be clear some were legitimate reasons because when asking for a raise, timing is important. At the same time, most were bad reasons and just excuses not to ask.
Finally, I got the nerves to ask my manager for the raise.
I remember she was on her lunch break eating and I figured it would be a good time to ask. (Thinking back on this her lunch break probably wasn't a good time to ask)
I went up to her and asked if she had a quick second.
She said, “yes.”
I remember being nervous. Sweating like I just got out of the gym and with a quivering voice I said,
That's what I said. She paused and looked at me. There was a silence that seemed to last forever. She finally spoke and said something to the effect of
Keep reading below to see what the conclusion of the story is.
I'm sure you could already tell I did just about everything wrong. I didn't do what I needed to do before asking for a pay increase.
To make matters worse, I didn't approach talking to my manager in an appropriate manner to facilitate that pay bump.
Take-Aways From the Story
To conclude the story from above. I did end up getting the raise. I was fortunate, but the odds were definitely not in my favor.
- I didn't set up ahead of time to give me the best possible chance of getting the raise (remember I always showed up, but I was late a lot.)
- I didn't prepare ahead of time to see what others like me were making. So for all I know, I was probably still being underpaid.
- I was not confident when I asked.
- I picked a bad time to ask.
With everything I listed that I did wrong, I ended up getting a raise. It wasn't a lot but it was still more than what I was making before.
Sometimes just getting up the nerves to ask even when you're really nervous can still lead to a positive result.
If a 16 year old can do it (granted very poorly) you can too. Just please do a little bit more preparation than I did.
I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite videos on asking for a raise.
It was an interview of Barbara Corcoran (millionaire and Shark Tank star who employs 100s of people) and how she reacts when people ask for a raise.
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Frequently Asked Questions
These are some frequently asked questions related to asking for a raise.