Where nurses work, as well as their education level and specialty, can all influence how much they earn in salary. But all in all, respondents to the third annual Minority Nurse salary survey report making more this year than they did last year.
With rising salaries, the outlook for nurses may be getting brighter, but there are still some differences in pay by ethnicity.
Last year, nurses reported earning a median $68,000, and this year they reported an increase that brought their median salary to $71,000—a $6,000 jump over what they’d said they earned five years ago.
While African American nurses reported earning more this year than last, a median $60,200 in 2014 as compared to this year’s $70,000, they still took home slightly less than the overall median. Hispanic and Asian nurses said they earned slightly more than the overall median salary, and more than they reported earning last year, while white nurses reported a salary close to the overall median salary and similar to what they reported taking home last year.
To collect this data, Minority Nurse and Springer Publishing e-mailed a link to an online survey that asked respondents about their jobs, educational background, ethnicity, and more.
Nearly 2,400 nurses from a variety of backgrounds and filling different job descriptions responded to the survey to provide a glimpse into their day-to-day roles, their plans for the future, and their current and past salaries.
The respondents work in various aspects of nursing from patient care to education and research, and have certifications in critical care, advanced practice nursing, and family health, among others. The nurses also work for a range of employers, from large organizations with more than 10,000 employees to ones with a hundred or fewer employees, and from public hospitals to colleges to home health care services.
Drilling down deeper into the data, wider gaps in pay start to emerge. For instance, white nurses working at private hospitals earn a median $80,000, while African American nurses earn a median $62,000. Similarly, at public hospitals white nurses earn $79,500, and African American nurses $71,000. However, nurses employed by college or universities reported largely similar salaries falling between $70,000 and $80,000, with African American and Asian nurses reporting receiving the higher end of that range.
Salaries also vary by region in the United States. Nurses take home the most in the Northeast, followed by the West, though there also appear to be slight variations by ethnicity as white and Hispanic nurses living in the western US earn a median $80,000, while African American nurses earn a median $73,000.
Education also affects take-home pay, and nurses reported higher salaries with increased education. Nurses with associate’s-level degrees reported earning $67,000, while nurses with bachelor’s-level degrees said they earned $70,000. And that increased further with advanced degrees as those with master’s degrees reported taking home a median $72,000 and those with doctoral degrees said they made $82,000.
There, too, were slight differences by ethnicity. For instance, African American nurses with associate’s-level degrees reported taking home a median $65,119, less than the overall median, while white nurses took home a median $68,320, slightly more than the median. At the bachelor’s and doctoral levels, though, African American and white nurses reported earning approximately the same salary.
Despite rising salaries—and recent raises—more than a third of nurses still said they are contemplating leaving their current jobs in the next few years. When they left previous jobs, respondents said it was mostly to pursue better opportunities, and this year’s respondents reported that the best-paying places to work are in private practice or at private or public hospitals.
Do you work at one of the more than 400 Magnet-recognized hospitals around the world? It has been said that minority nurses who work at these recognized facilities have the benefit of flourishing in a positive environment with employers who value their skills and career goals.
However, the results of Minority Nurse’s 2014 best companies survey suggest that nurses value other qualities far more than Magnet status when it comes to selecting an ideal employer. The survey, which was conducted late last year, asked nurses how important certain qualities (such as salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours) were to them when considering an employer. The results revealed that Magnet status ranked near the bottom of the list, only ranking ahead of one category: workplace size.
For some health professionals, the question of whether or not Magnet status is important can’t be fully answered until they know more about the designation, and that includes those nurses who work at Magnet-designated facilities, says Kristin Baird, RN, a hospital consultant.
“In some programs, people talk about ‘Magnet’ but people don’t understand it,” she says. In turn, they may be less likely to advocate for it or share its benefits with their colleagues. If a facility has already achieved the designation by the time a nurse is hired, then the nurse who didn’t go through the certification process may have a harder time understanding its importance and impact, especially when speaking with fellow nurses, Baird argues.
“If it’s just part of who [their hospital] is and people stop talking about it, and they don’t embrace what it means, they’re not going to be promoting it,” she says.
However, many nurses who work at Magnet hospitals and who do understand the program believe that it is a very important ideal. “Having Magnet status heightened our visibility in the community and state for being a leader for health care,” says Cabiria Lizarraga, RN, manager of telemetry at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, California. Sharp Grossmont Hospital first received Magnet status in 2007.
Other hospitals likely receive positive coverage in their communities as well, Lizarraga adds. In fact, according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), 15 of the 18 medical centers on the 2013 US News Best Hospitals in America Honor Roll and all 10 of the US News Best Children’s Hospital Honor Roll for the same year are recognized by the ANCC as Magnet-recognized organizations.
“It’s very important to have because it shows we are committed. When people see we are a Magnet facility, they know the employer is committed to nursing excellence,” says Lizarraga.
Patients who are seeking hospitals may also look for the Magnet designation as an objective benchmark to help them choose where they’ll do business, says Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN, a nurse anesthetist in Pensacola, Florida. Angelis has worked at Magnet and non-Magnet hospitals throughout his career.
Understanding the Magnet Designation
According to the ANCC, which is the Magnet credentialing organization, there are three goals for the program:
• Promote quality in a setting that supports professional practice;
• Identify excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients/residents; and
• Disseminate best practices in nursing services.
The process to achieve Magnet status is identified by the ANCC as the “Journey to Magnet Excellence.” Facilities have to show that they have strong nurse leaders who are able to guide teams, develop professionally, take the lead in research efforts, and can show good empirical outcomes and the impact of those results. The certification lasts for four years, after which time the facility can re-apply.
Angelis, who has served on several committees on hospitals seeking Magnet status, says it is an expensive and time-consuming process, but it’s a good way for hospitals to prove that they value nurses. “A Magnet designation can be a hint that a hospital has a culture that respects the contributions its nurses make,” he explains.
“Nurses want to work for an organization that really strives to empower them, one that has opportunities in place for them to do research or advance their degrees,” says Lizarraga. Facilities that have Magnet status can attract some of the best nurses available, she adds. “It is used as a recruiting tool because nurses would know about Magnet nursing excellence.”
Angelis says that if a hospital has low morale among nurses, achieving Magnet status can provide positive motivation. “It’s an opportunity for the hospital to change their culture,” he says. “Facilities that empower their nurses can improve morale, and that can help with job recruiting and retention.”
Some Nurses Left Behind?
Having an environment that encourages professional development among nurses is a positive, but there is a concern among some professionals, particularly those who don’t have advanced degrees, about where they fit in under a Magnet facility, explains Lizarraga.
Will the jobs be there for LPNs and for associate degree and diploma nurses? “There is some concern about whether or not they’d be able to practice in an acute care hospital or Magnet facility,” says Lizarraga. It may be understandable why many Minority Nurse survey respondents viewed Magnet status as only “somewhat important.”
But that issue is bigger than Magnet certification, Lizarraga argues. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine released a report recommending that the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees be increased to 80% by 2020. This recommendation affects all nurses, not just those at Magnet hospitals, she adds.
However, many nurses who have more advanced degrees obviously have an advantage, states Baird. “It’s not to say there’s not a place for LPNs, but if you’re a Magnet hospital you’re looking at advancing nursing as a profession and making sure you’re finding nurses who want to be at the peak of the profession,” she explains.
Find the Best Match
So what’s a nurse to do? According to Baird, nurses of all education levels should first identify their career goals and factors that are personally important, such as career growth potential, flexibility options, and income. Then, identify an employer that seems to offer the best environment.
“I’m a big advocate of hiring for fit and choosing a job for fit,” says Baird. “Identify your core values, then find an organization that’s in alignment with those values.”
If you plan to obtain an advanced degree or would like the opportunity to go into research or academia, working at a Magnet facility may be able to provide you with more opportunities than a non-Magnet facility, she says.
However, if a potential employer is not a Magnet facility, but has other benefits that may be important to you—such as more flexible scheduling or a generous tuition reimbursement program—that could be the way to go, says Baird. Whether nurses work at Magnet hospitals or not, identifying employers aligned with their values puts them in the best position possible to benefit their patients and their careers.
Margarette Burnette is a freelance writer based in Georgia.
Depending on where they work and their specialties, nurses can earn a range of salaries. Salaries continue to appear to vary by ethnic background as well, but overall, nurses reported in the second annual Minority Nurse salary survey making more this year than they did last year—and more than they did five years ago.
Although nurses reported making higher salaries this year than they reported last year, there are wage gaps by ethnicity that remain to be closed.
In 2013, nurses reported making a median salary of $67,000; this year, they reported earning a bit more, a median $68,000. Still, African American nurses earned a median $60,200 and Hispanic nurses received a median $60,000, while white nurses took home a median $72,000.
To gather all this data, Minority Nurse and Springer Publishing e-mailed a link to an online survey that asked respondents about their jobs, educational backgrounds, and more to better understand their roles as nurses and to determine their current and past salaries.
Some 4,850 nurses from all over the United States responded to the survey questions. The respondents also hailed from a number of specialties, including nurses working in critical care, as certified nurse educators, and in pediatrics, as well as nurses employed at public hospitals, private hospitals, and at colleges or universities.
Some stark differences, though, were noticeable when survey data were broken down by ethnicity. For instance, nurses belonging to different ethnic groups working at similar institutions reported earning different amounts of money. African American nurses working at a public hospital reported earning a median $65,000, as did Asian nurses. Hispanic nurses reported making less, taking home a median $60,000. White nurses, though, said they earned $79,500.
Additionally, nurses belonging to different ethnic groups with similar educational backgrounds also reported salary differences. African American nurses with a bachelor’s degree reported making a median $62,000—similar to the median $60,000 reported by Hispanic nurses—though higher than the median $50,000 received by Asian nurses, but lower than the median $70,000 that white nurses said they made.
At the master’s degree level, the picture is a little different. Asian nurses with master’s degrees commanded the highest salary, a median $80,000, followed by African American nurses, who received a median $76,000. Hispanic nurses, meanwhile, earned a median $74,940, and white nurses with a master’s degree reported making a median $73,000.
Overall, respondents reported earning a higher salary this year than they took home last year and a bit more than they reported earning five years ago. For example, nurses working primarily in patient care reported earning $60,000 this year, $55,000 last year, and $47,000 five years ago, and advanced practice nurses reported making $89,000 this year, $84,000 last year, and $78,000 five years ago.
Though there are still wage gaps to be bridged, nurses reported earning more now than they did just a few years ago.
17.6% of respondents have a PhD or other doctoral-level degree
33.3% work at a college or university
56.2% have been at their current job for five years or longer
65.8% received a raise within the last year
53.5% left their prior job to pursue a better opportunity
41.1% do not expect a raise this year
48.9% are looking to leave their current job in coming years
A short survey is being conducted to explore the perceptions of registered nurses regarding the current status and anticipated future of the nursing profession. The data will be used to inform a new book to be published by Sigma Theta Tau International, the nursing honor society: Solutions for the Future of Nursing: Learning from the Past to Address the Challenges of the Future. Please go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/futureofnursing for survey to add your perspective.