This post is going to give you some actionable tips on how to get a raise as a nurse.
Talking about money is hard, and the thought of asking for a raise makes most people sick to their stomach.
But remember as nurses we work hard at our jobs every day, and we deserve to be compensated for that hard work.
Asking for a raise is one of the best ways to make more money as a nurse.
At some point, in your nursing career it’s very likely you’re going to want a raise.
You’ll want to ask but won’t know where to begin.
You’re not alone in this, and that’s why we have this guide.
We want to equip you with some tools to gain more confidence to ask for your raise.
We also want to help you be more successful when you do ask.
(Disclosure: Some of the links on this site may be affiliate links.)
My Story of the First Time I asked for a Raise
I’m going to tell you my story of the first time I asked for a raise.
At the end of my story, I’ll highlight some teachable moments of what I could have done differently.
While I was younger when this story took place, we can relate to the awkwardness of talking about money and we can all learn from it.
The story starts when I was in my late teens and I was working for the local fast food joint in my city.
In some ways, I was better than your typical high school worker.
In other ways, I had the typical teenager mentality.
For example, I always showed up to work, but I was probably late most of the time.
After hearing one of my classmates talk about how much they made I decided I was going to 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 it, I would talk myself out of it.
- “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 to not 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,
“there wouldn’t be any point asking for raise would there?”
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
“that’s not how you ask for a raise, but I’ll see what I can do.”
(keep reading to find out the conclusion of the story…)
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.
What to do Before Asking for a Raise
Now that you’ve read my embarrassing first ever attempt at asking for a raise let’s talk about ways to make your next attempt at getting a pay raise more successful.
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 is some food for thoughts to keep in mind before asking for a raise.
They’re actionable tips you can start working on today.
1. The qualities you possess
Ask yourself do you have the qualities of a good nurse?
At work do you go with the flow?
Are you the type that complains a lot?
Your nurse managers are going to be wondering some of these things about you.
2. What’s your personal 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.
If your manager doesn’t think very highly of you what’s the likelihood you’re going to get a raise?
Make sure you build your personal brand.
3. What kind of a leader are you?
Do you possess the qualities of a good nurse leader?
I’m not just talking about the nurses with the formal titles.
Every nurse should strive to be a leader in their unit or in the workplace.
Your nurse manager is going to be more willing to give a raise to his/her leaders who are having a positive influence and making positive changes.
4. What’s your customer service like?
How well are you taking care of your facility’s customers?
Customers are the lifeline of any business.
If you’re not taking care of your facility’s customers, those patients are going to go somewhere else.
Providing exceptional customer service is important even in the midst of dealing with difficult patients.
Are you asking for a raise when your customer service sucks?
5. How do you get along with your coworkers?
Are you a difficult nurse to work with?
It’s going to be hard to get your nurse manager to approve a raise if your coworkers are continually complaining about you.
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.
Are you a part of the solution or are you a part of the problem?
6. How long have you been working there?
Many hospital systems and employers will give incremental raises every year.
Some of those raises could be tied to the cost of living, competitive pay increase or merit increase.
You 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.
The exception to this will be if you’ve received a lot of extra responsibilities or job change.
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.
The exception would be if there’s been a significant change in your job 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 is not going to give you a raise just for breathing.
Using “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.
9. Are your evaluations exceeding expectations?
If you’re meeting expectations, you’re doing your job.
Raises tend to be rewarded to those who go above and beyond.
Steps to Take to Get a Raise as a Nurse
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 your new job to negotiate for higher pay.
2. Preparation is Key
If you decide you want to ask for a raise, you need to prepare.
Figure out what you’re going to say.
Do your research and know what your goal is when you approach your boss about getting a raise.
3. Do Your Research
Have you heard the slogan knowledge is power?
That’s a true statement, and when it comes to negotiating your pay, that statement is even truer.
Before trying to ask 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 going rate is, it could change up how you negotiate, what tactic you use or even if you’re going to bother asking.
There are several different ways to research, but I’ll focus on two.
1. The first is to network. It’s generally considered not appropriate to ask someone how much they make.
Instead, look at it this way.
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, a range is still very beneficial especially if you get a range from multiple different people.
2. The second way is to check online. Sites like Payscale can help you figure out what other people are making in your area.
Those sites can be very beneficial to give you a ballpark idea of where your pay ranks versus other nurses in your area.
4. Know the Right Time
There are wrong times to be asking for a raise.
You want to ask when your manager is not under stress.
For example, if you know, everyone is getting ready for a joint commission visit you should wait till after the audit before asking.
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 have done for the organization.
If you were involved in a project that decreased cost for the facility or increased revenue make sure to highlight that.
Maybe you came up with something that increased patient experience 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 answer is going to be no.
I think you should also.
The better question is what you’re 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 hospital financials are for the quarter?
What if he or she says yes but only if you…
As you can see, there are various outcomes that could happen.
You need to prepare for what some of those outcomes might be.
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
Learn from my story.
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.
You also need to end at a place of gratitude also regardless of whether or not the answer is a yes or no.
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Limitations to Getting a Raise.
You need to be aware of some reasons why you might not get your raise.
- Poor hospital finances
- Poor employee evaluations
- Raises are based on years of experiences 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.)
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 there is make those recommendations your goal and set action steps to accomplish those goals.
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 you 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 like what you get then put in your nursing resignation letter to your current employer.
Make sure to follow your facility protocol which probably involves some kind of two weeks notice.
Make sure you leave your current job the right way and start your new job in the right direction.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some frequently asked questions related to asking for a raise.
Yes, nurses do get raises. Some of the raises nurses can get include cost-of-living raises and incentive-based raises.
It will vary based on the facility, but nurses can probably expect to get some kind of raise even if it’s just cost-of-living raise once every 1-2 years.
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.
Follow the tips I mentioned to increase your chances of getting your raise.
Remember your personal brand and your work ethic is important.
It matters if you’re a good coworker and providing exceptional care to patients. Your employer will be looking at those qualities.
When you ask for a raise:
- Prepare for it.
- Do your market research.
- Approach the conversation with confidence
What other tips did we miss to help others figure out how to get a raise as a nurse?
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