It’s hard to believe, but in the female-dominated nursing industry, male nurses out earn their female colleagues. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), nurse salary amounts aren’t immune to the gender bias so present in other industries.

According to the study, data from two separate studies were assessed. Results from six National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (information included 87,903 registered nurses, 7 percent of whom were men) provided data from a 20 year period. Information from the American Community Survey (205,825 registered nurses, 10 percent of whom were men) was also considered. Both data sets found that male nurses’ salaries were higher, on average, than females. According to the study, “using the NSSRN, regression analysis estimated an overall adjusted earnings difference of $5,148.”

Researchers used data collected over 20 years for the NSSRN (1998 to 2008 when the project ended) and from 2001 to 2013 for the ASC. Although neither of these studies was specifically performed to look for any discrepancies in nurse salaries, they offered the research team including Ulrike Muench, Jody Sindelar, Susan H. Busch, and Peter I. Berhaus, a look at nurses’ earnings while considering for other factors like work hours and experience.

So while some nurses might not find this information a surprise, others do. Given that nursing is dominated by women, expectations for many in the field would be that pay discrepancies would be less likely.

What does this mean for nurses? The study certainly is a good starting point for many organizations to take a hard look at their own pay scales. If they find the kind of gaps the study indicates, they can take steps and establish goals to rectify any differences. And the results are also something for nurses to consider in long-range career planning. As the demand for skilled and educated nurses continues to grow, pay rates need to keep up.

See also
Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Organizations that don’t take nurses genders and pay rates into account might find that retention becomes much more difficult. Nurses can do some research in their own organizations and even other organizations to find out general pay scales. If they find something lacking or pay rates they deem unjustified, they might just start seeking out an organization where pay rates are aligned without a gender bias.

The news also offers inspiration to nurses who can contact their legislators to make them aware of the study findings and issue their own support for changes.

Is this latest news about nursing salaries a surprise to you?


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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