This article is going to be about nurse compensation.
Specifically, what I really want to talk about is the differences between salary nursing jobs vs hourly nursing jobs.
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Nursing is a profession where you can find a lot of jobs that are both salary and hourly wage.
There are some differences between the two and it’s important to understand what those differences are.
It’s important to note that there are some advantages between the two even though my preference is for hourly nursing jobs.
Because of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as an hourly employee you are paid for all the hours that you work (are on the clock).
If your employer decides that they want you to do more work, they must pay you for it.
Because of that law, any time an employee works over 40 hours in a seven-day work week, legally that employer must pay them 1.5 times their hourly rate (over time or time-and-a-half).
It’s important to note that any extra your employer does on top of this such as paying two times your hourly rate for holidays or premium pay for hard to fill shifts are not mandated by law but are incentive bonus packages of the facility you work in.
For example, I have worked for a facility that offered 50 dollars for picking up critical shifts and another one that offered 220 dollars.
Neither facility was required by law to offer those premiums, but they did it to incentivize nurses to pick up extra shifts.
Benefits of Working an Hourly Nursing Job
Lets start by talking about some of the benefits of working hourly nursing jobs.
1. Work Life Balance
Work-life balance is a big deal when comparing salary vs hourly nursing jobs. How many nursing managers do you know that are forever on call?
Even when they go home they must answer questions or deal with work-related situations.
There is a blurring between their work life and their family life.
That, unfortunately, is one of the potential consequences of salary jobs in general but especially salary nursing positions.
When looking at the salary vs hourly debate in most situations hourly employees are more likely to have a better work-life balance.
When you are hourly, the moment you go home you are no longer on the clock.
Because of that, it allows you to focus on family commitments or other job commitments.
That is also one of the complaints I have heard from nurse managers who wish they could go from salary to hourly pay.
You might say, “well I know nurses who are hourly but are on a rotational on-call schedule.”
This is true, there are jobs that an on-call schedule is a mandatory part of the job. My current job has an on-call rotation, but guess what happens if I must come in…
I’m getting paid for being on the clock. If I was salary it would be a different situation.
2. Extra Money
When you’re an hourly employee it’s easier to have side hustles.
As stated above when you’re a salary worker it’s harder to separate work and life because work never truly ends.
It’s difficult to have extra jobs because of the looming commitment of the other.
For example, I have worked with floor nurses who were nurse managers at another facility.
There have been times those nurses have had to call in because of commitments that suddenly come up at their salary jobs.
Maybe you’re not looking for another job but just looking to make a little extra cash.
As an hourly staff nurse, it’s easier to pick up over time.
A nurse with a diversified set of skills in most areas could pick up as much overtime as they want.
When you work 40 plus hours as an hourly worker you get paid over-time.
When that happens as a salaried nurse…nothing changes in their pay.
The Pros of a Salary Nursing Job
Working as a salaried nurse does have its advantages.
For starters, once you agree to a monthly/yearly salary it will stay pretty much the same.
For some when it comes to managing their personal finance that’s a big deal because you generally always know what to expect.
If it’s $3000 this month after taxes, insurance and other withdrawals barring changes in taxes or insurance it’s probably going to be the same next month.
Lastly, salary employee hours are not decreased in the same way hourly employees are.
There have been many times hourly staff nurses have been sent home because of low hospital census but it’s different with salary employees when monthly wage has already been agreed on.
Comparing Hourly Nursing Jobs vs Salary Nursing Jobs
Your nurse compensation is one of the factors you should consider before accepting a job.
Analyzing what your nursing compensation is before accepting a job doesn't make you a bad person or greedy, on the contrary, it makes you prudent.
You worked hard to get to where you are and with being a hard worker you should make sure your compensation reflects that.
Many of the jobs nurses are recruited for are not only hourly wage but are also salary.
When trying to compare salary vs hourly wage the problem that many nurses run into is that they try to do an apple to orange comparison.
You need to adjust to make sure you are comparing appropriately.
Generally, I like to compare hourly wage to hourly wage because I believe that more closely reflects how well I will be compensated given my time.
Nurse Compensation Example
You work as a floor nurse and you are making $28.84/hour working about 40 hours per week (hourly position).
You are offered a “promotion” as a clinical nurse manager that is going to pay you $80,000 a year (salary position).
Which position is better compensated?
A lot of times people will focus on the ANNUAL Income because that's how the salaried position reports.
They will think I’m making $60,000 ($28.84 x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks in a year) a year and now I’ll be making $80,000.
That’s not necessarily the most appropriate way of looking at it because it ignores the number of hours spent at both jobs.
This scenario plagues many nurses when they are offered a promotion to a salaried position or contemplating another hourly job quoted in yearly pay.
Ask the hiring manager or somebody else who has worked in that position or a similar position to figure out what the weekly hourly commitment is going to look like and use that to make your decision.
Nurse Compensation Example (cont'd)
You ask around and people tell you the last guy in the clinical nurse manager position was working about 55 hours a week.
Does that make a difference?
Let’s work it through and see if you don’t feel differently about the two jobs.
As a floor nurse, you are making about $28.84 an hour.
(40 hours/week x 52 weeks/year) =2080 total amount of hours worked in a year $60,000 per year/2080 hours worked in a year =28.84
As a clinical nurse manager, you would be making $27.97 an hour.
(55 hours/week x 52 weeks/year) =2860 total amount of hours worked in a year $80,000 per year/2860 hours worked in a year= 27.97
These are conservative numbers because I’m sure we all know nurse managers who work a lot more hours than that.
All it takes is a few of your nursing staff to call in or not show up and you are well on your way to working over 55 hours a week.
It’s important to note that this also doesn’t necessarily reflect shift bonus, shift differential, or any premium pay situations so depending on the actual job position there could be a higher discrepancy in the nurse compensation.
Here me out… I’m not saying you shouldn’t take this position.
If your long-term game plan is management sometimes you must take a step back to take a leap forward.
Also, personal life choices are just that…personal. Different circumstance might warrant different actions.
But make sure those actions are made considering all the important facts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do nurses get paid hourly or salary?
Hourly and salary nursing positions are readily available. Some nursing jobs like floor nursing are more commonly found in hourly positions while other nursing specialties like nurse manager are typically found in salary positions.
Related Articles on Nurse Compensation
- Advice for Nurses: What Nursing School Doesn't Teach You
- How to Write a Nurse Cover letter
- 9 Smart Tips for Starting a New Nursing Job
Does knowing this change your thoughts on nurse compensation?
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