Our recent 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report shed light on nursing salaries during one the most unprecedented events in health care — the COVID-19 pandemic occurring amid an existing problematic nursing shortage crisis and a growing nurse gender pay gap.
A total of 2,516 qualified nurses successfully completed the survey between November 12, 2021, and December 12, 2021, from across the U.S.
The report showed that the median nurse salary in 2021 was $78,000 for RNs, $120,000 for APRNs and $48,000 for LPNs/LVNs. Compared to our 2020 results ($73,000 for RNs, $107,000 for APRNs, and $45,000 for LPNs/LVNs), this year’s survey showed a significant rise in salary.
The 2020 Nurse Salary Research Report found that male RNs earned almost $7,300 more than female RNs. However, the most recent report showed an increase in the gender pay gap, with male RNs earning $14,000 more — nearly doubling the former gender pay gap rate.
Understanding the Nurse Gender Pay Gap
While the nurse gender pay gap is disconcerting, it’s unfortunately not a new problem — one that is not specific to nurses in the healthcare space. A 2020 report from the American Association of University Women notes that at the current rate, the overall pay gap will exist until 2111, unless we accelerate progress.
The 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report revealed that the nurse gender pay gap significantly widened from $7,300 to $14,000 over the course of just a few years. A variety of factors could be fueling this disparity, such as clinical settings or higher acuity specialties that pay higher differentials.
The 2022 report also showed that men are more likely to negotiate their salary (40%), which could be one factor fueling the pay divide. According to our survey, 30% of nurse participants said they don’t negotiate their salary, and 31% of female RNs were less likely to negotiate salaries either always or most of the time.
Cara Lunsford, RN, Founder and CEO of HOLLIBLU and Vice President of Community at Relias, weighed in on the nurse gender pay gap and how to move forward.
“This is a time where it’s more important than ever for us to be very united and supportive of our nurse peers. It’s important that we acknowledge that these pay gaps have existed in almost every industry and, although we are making progress, the disparity in pay still exists and is something we still need to address when thinking about salary negotiation.”
Taking Steps To Close the Nurse Gender Pay Gap
Considering the history of the gender pay gap and its continued growth, changes are clearly needed in the healthcare industry. While many decisions require leadership’s initiative, there are steps nurses can take to help close the nurse gender pay gap in years to come:
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate for higher pay.
Many nurses accept an initial offer without negotiating a higher salary. Other nurses who are otherwise satisfied in their careers (and on their unit, team, etc.) might not want to be perceived as negative or unappreciative for asking for higher pay. The demand for nurses has increased for many reasons, including retiring nurses, staffing shortages, and higher care needs as the population ages, which place nurses at an advantage to negotiate for higher salaries.
- Research available data to share and compare salaries.
The internet has armed nurses with a plethora of available data and places to communicate with other nurses. Tapping into nursing communities on social media or job sites are great resources to share and compare salaries.
- Discuss the gender pay gap with your leadership.
During an initial interview is a great time to let leadership know you’re aware of the nurse gender pay gap. Healthcare leaders should be aware of the issue and be willing to address it in their organization. Be direct about your concerns during interviews or performance reviews.
- Learn which positions offer higher pay and why.
If you’re interested in increasing your salary and willing to switch roles, take the time to understand which units/positions offer higher pay and why. Is more experience or education required? Knowing which resources are required will help you get there faster.
- Choose an organization that values equity and transparency.
While a higher salary might draw you in initially, choosing an organization that prioritizes equity and transparency will likely pay off in the long run. Leadership that understands and addresses what matters to nurses is key. Look for organizations that are thoughtful in their approach to staff support. Flexibility, education, and support can end up better-serving you and your practice more than a slightly higher salary.
The Promise of Nursing Now
This is a remarkable time to be a nurse. While it’s challenging and sometimes traumatizing, it is also so rewarding. And for many nurses, they can’t imagine doing anything else. Nurses instinctively prioritize patient safety, almost always putting others first. It should not be an added burden on nurses to ensure they’re paid fairly, and yet the nurse gender pay gap has widened.
The demand for nurses has increased and is projected to increase over the next decade. Current and future nurses are in positions to prioritize what matters most to them and ask for it. Information is power, much like communication and transparency. Leveraging data, such as the insights shared in this salary report, can serve as a resource for you to understand effective ways you can further your career and as a guide to understand disparities and inequities in salary across the nursing profession, giving you awareness to address those concerns.
For additional insights download and review our 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.