One of the more interesting developments to come out of the economic recession is the affect it has had on nursing employment in the United States. More men have entered the nursing profession and more states have enacted legislation permitting nurse practitioners to provide primary care duties under certain circumstances than ever before. Yet despite these changes there are still debates and concerns centering on payment equality and job satisfaction, and erasing inequities between physician and advanced practitioner pay faces potent arguments and statistical hurdles from both sides.
A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed the conflicting balance between nurses’ opinions of their jobs and of their salaries. 85% of surveyed nurses were satisfied with their jobs and 90% believe that they make a difference in their communities. On the other hand, 59% believe they are not fairly compensated, and 67% believe that their salaries are inadequate, with 56% believing that there are limited opportunities for promotion or other forms of career advancement. The survey notes that nurses have lower reported salary ranges than most state health department positions.
A change in the gender dynamic of nursing has played a significant role. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, a Census Bureau study of the nursing profession revealed that the number of male registered nurses (RNs) more than tripled from 2.7% in 1970 to 9.6% in 2011, and the number of male licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) more than doubled to 8.1% over the same period. Per Alicia Caramenico, editor of FierceHealthcare, “the influx of men into the profession… could provide welcome relief, given research suggests the nursing shortage will reemerge as the U.S. economy improves,” citing a November study in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, although women still dominate the profession at 91% of all nurses in 2011, men out-earned their female counterparts by an average of $60,700 to $51,100. Further, men were more likely to be nurse anesthetists (41%), which pays more than twice that of other nursing fields ($162,900). While this is smaller than the gender pay gap in other professions, medical professionals are concerned at the continuation of this disparity.
The Public Health Nursing Workforce Advisory Committee recommends further research into how health care reform affects public health nurses regarding their functions, responsibilities and education requirements. This in turn may illuminate reasons for pay discrepancies and could help eliminate the gender gaps where they are truly inequitable. Identifying where there is a need for more training and professional development opportunities may also help.
Please contact Chelle Law with any questions regarding Arizona Nurse Pay Inequality at 602.344.9865.