Under-Compensated Nurses Are Seeing New Opportunities
By Sarah Mayer

Recently, InCrowd reported on the realities of harassment in nursing. This pervasive issue was not necessarily a gendered one, with the responses indicating that the physical and verbal abuse reached male as well as female nurses. This week, we approach another potentially gendered topic in nursing: compensation and benefits.

In late January 2017, Medscape released its annual Nursing Career Satisfaction Report for 2016. When asked for the least satisfying aspect of a career in nursing, the majority reported low financial earnings as one of their top frustrations. Looking to learn more about the inadequacies of nursing compensation and benefits packages, our microsurvey tool reached 271 US nurses averaging 12 years of experience. Two thirds of nurses surveyed identified as women and one third as men. 73% of the nurses reached work in a hospital setting.

The majority of our nurses empathized with those of the Medscape report, with 62% reporting that they are not compensated enough for their work. Just 36% of nurses stated that they negotiated their own current wages and benefits package, a statistic unsurprising given that the same group reported that overall only 24% of nurses generally discuss these elements prior to accepting a position. Considering the frequency with which nurses are hired on a per diem or part time basis, it would seem that they are rarely in a position where these types of conversations can occur. Is our healthcare system so underfunded that the money just isn’t there? Given our earlier assessment of harassment in the workplace, however, it is easy to wonder if there is a more sinister element to this dynamic. If the healthcare system fails to support nurses in reporting an injustice as obvious as aggression, how can nurses feel empowered to request adequate payment? 

Gendered analysis of the data reveals variation in the level of earnings dissatisfaction between men and women. Where 66% of female nurses would prefer to be better compensated, only 54% of men took issue with their wages. Payment negotiation rates remained the same across both genders, implying that a percentage of male nurses are offered better compensation upon hiring than the female nursing staff.

On a positive note, over 50% reported that nurses are now more likely to negotiate their compensation and benefits when compared to 5 years ago. Women in particular acknowledged this change, with 65% reporting increased negotiation, as opposed to only 35% of men.

This may be due to the increasing transparency of pay data in the digital age. Employees can now research online and confidently demand compensation that is consistent with that of their colleagues.

Additionally, our survey wanted to more closely identify exactly how nurses judge their own workplace achievements, and whether or not their employers acknowledge their hard work.

The data indicate that nurses frequently encourage each other to reach professional success. Over 50% of nurses serve as a mentor to or have found a mentor in a colleague. Of this group, 33% of nurses are currently acting as a mentor to one or more nurses, 7% benefit from having a mentor and 13% participate in both capacities. Still, 48% of nurses reported taking no part in a mentorship program or relationship. Given our previous data on harassment between colleagues, it is unexpected that so many nurses would opt to disengage from this opportunity for support and community.

“Salary is only part of the issue. Respect and collaboration are often in short supply!” –RN, CT, 41 years of experience

The individuals most unwilling to develop a mentorship may be male nurses. Only 4% of male nurses benefit from a mentor, and 9% both have and act as a mentor for another nurse. These numbers are doubled in the female nursing group. Almost a full half of male nurses do not participate in any sort of advising or training relationship. One potential reason for this is that male nurses may be slower to find community in this female-dominated profession.

At the same time, supervisors and administrators do take note of their nurses’ contributions. While 42% have never obtained a promotion, over 72% did receive a pay increase in the last year. These bonuses are slightly more common among female nurses, with 73% receiving them, compared to 68% of male nurses. Work promotions are complicated in nursing, where traditionally advancement requires increased education and new certifications, but employers are clearly aware of this and increasing the compensation their nurses earn.

Although almost a third of respondents have never been recognized for their work with public thanks, awards, or a one-time pay bonus, 44% were recognized for their work in the last 6 months alone. These statistics are consistent across both genders of nurses. While these numbers may indicate that only the most superlative nurses are recognized, more research needs to be done to understand this gap.

Most exciting, over 50% of nurses were encouraged to attend a professional development conference or event in the last 6 months. This data was slightly skewed more favorably toward female nurses with 52% of women compared to 46% of men receiving this recommendation. Employers in the healthcare industry are prioritizing the progression their nurses of all levels and facility types as invaluable contributors to the healthcare system. 

With an increasingly strong network offering advice and education, as well as employers encouraging growth and training, we look forward to the continued advancement of nursing professionals. 

Missed last week’s report on nurse harassment and gender? Find it here.

Are you a healthcare professional looking to participate in interesting, paid microsurveys?  Join the Crowd!

Interested in launching your own research with the InCrowd network? Connect with us!

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