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Negotiating salary could help close nursing wage gap

BY: Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN on November 28, 2018

How often do nurses to negotiate their salaries? Not often enough, according to our recent salary survey.

In our survey 43% of male nurse respondents revealed they negotiate their salaries “most of the time or always” while only 34% of female nurse respondents answered this way.

Not negotiating salary with prospective and current employers is likely a major contributing factor in the huge pay gap that exists between male and female registered nurses, according to some experts.nursing salary

A recent report published by the American Association of University Women called the Simple Truth about the Wage Gap, uncovered a $12.5 billion annual pay gap between the genders in nursing – with male RNs earning an average salary of $71,590 and female RNs having an average salary of $65,612.

That gender wage gap is at about $6,000 per year, which is similar to the findings in our nursing salary survey report.

These numbers reveal nursing is one of the professions with the highest pay gap between the genders.

Salary negotiations are not as commonly practiced as you would expect, whether it’s nursing or other professions.

“Nurses are not more likely than the general public to negotiate their pay,” said Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, FAAN, a consultant for Nurse.com who helped develop questions for the salary survey, analyzed the data and authored the research report.

Mensik cited data published by Glassdoor in May 2016 in which 68% of women and 52% of men said they accepted the salary they were initially offered and did not pursue any salary negotiations after that point.

Salary negotiations can have an impact resulting in higher pay

“We know from the research that negotiating one’s salary can improve the final salary over the original offer approximately 10% of the time,” Mensik said. “If a nurse is in a unionized organization, the salary ranges may be more stringent. However, there may be still be some room for negotiations.”

The goal of attaining equitable pay for women in nursing and other professions is viewed as achievable by tackling the issue using a three-pronged approach, said Kimberly Churches, chief operating officer of the American Association of University Women in Washington.

The three areas of focus to close the wage gap are to:

  1. Work with legislators to enact the right laws, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and to update the version of the Equal Pay Act of 1963
  2. Engage directly with employers to have a positive impact on policies and practices that affect pay equity
  3. Teach women how to negotiate

Churches said the onus is not entirely on women to fix the problem and resolve the pay gap issue; however, teaching women the art and skill of negotiation is an essential piece of the puzzle and can have a tremendous impact on turning the tide.

wage gap“Men are more than four times more likely to negotiate than women,” she said. “Women are typically not taught these skills.”

The American Association of University Women is committed to helping women learn how to negotiate, so much so that they’re offering a free online salary negotiation course called Work Smart Online on their website, along with offering free in-person workshops at various locations throughout the U.S.

“Our goal is to train 10 million women on how to negotiate their salary. We want to thoroughly close the wage gap by 2030,” she said.

Don’t be shy — take the plunge and negotiate

Salary negotiations are an expected part of the hiring process and a practice that nurses need not fear, said Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, a career coach for nurses, nurse podcaster, freelance writer, blogger and keynote speaker located in Santa Fe, N.M.

“I encourage my clients to negotiate as many times it can be fruitful, depending on the organization,” he said.

A nurse needs to do their homework first, prior to stepping into the world of negotiations said Jeremy Tolley, a member of the talent acquisition panel at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., and the chief people officer at CareHere LLC in Brentwood, Tenn., which provides employer-sponsored healthcare in more than 200 health and wellness centers in 26 states.

“Knowing what the market is paying is essential,” Trolley said. “This includes conducting online research from multiple sources regarding what the nursing salaries are in the geographic location you plan on working in, what the salary range is for the position and organization you’re trying to get hired with, while also considering what’s being paid for your specialty, level of education and the certifications you hold.”

Illustrating your worth should be evident on your resume, as well as verbally discussed when meeting face-to-face during interviews, Carlson said.

“It’s important to identify your value and what you bring to an organization, then tell the story of why you’re worth more money,” he said.

Carlson said it helps when you can quantify your value to paint a picture of your accomplishments for prospective employers.

For example, make sure they know if you worked as a charge nurse and there was a decrease in the number of catheter-associated urinary tract infections on your unit, he said.

Tolley said it’s also wise to use these same strategies once you’re in an organization, such as when meeting with your manager during your annual review.

“Managers may forget your accomplishments, so you’ll want to remind them,” he said. “Make the case for yourself and highlight your value. This can have a positive impact on your annual raise.”

Tolley also suggested tout your achievements if you’ve somehow improved the patient experience.

“Discuss any complimentary letters received from patients or positive patient survey results regarding your care,” he said. “You’ll want to bring these up with your manager to help add leverage to your salary negotiations and any additional benefits you’re trying to gain such as educational assistance.”

In addition to knowing your market value, Tolley said in the end it’s about having the confidence and courage to assertively, yet professionally, advocate for yourself.

Download our 2018 Nurse.com Nursing Salary Research Report today!

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Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN

Carole Jakucs. MSN, RN, PHN, is a full-time freelance writer. Her background in nursing includes tenures in healthcare management and as a care provider. She has worked in med/surg/telemetry, pediatric emergency department and college health. She’s a health and fitness enthusiast, studies dance and enjoys cooking.