A new salary report finds men in nursing earn over $6,000 more per year than women.
In a profession where women comprise 88% of the workforce, one might assume nurses would be largely unaffected by the gender wage gap.
But the nursing profession is not, in fact, immune to disparities in pay, finds the newly released Nursing Salary Research Reportconducted by OnCourse Learning.
According to the study, on average, men who are nurses out-earn women nurses by $6,000 annually.
"Even taking into account total hours worked, years of nursing experience, age, education level and certification status, men still are making more money than women," says Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, executive vice president and chief clinical executive for OnCourse Learning.
"And from our robust research, salary is the most important job factor for nurses across all demographics," Hess adds.
Consistent Pay Gap
Just over 4,500 nurses from all 50 states took part in the survey.
Among the notable findings regarding average annual earnings:
Male nurses earned $79,688.
Female nurses earned $73,090.
Men who were chief nursing officers earned an average salary of $132,700.
"Based on this survey, it seems clear men are being paid significantly more than women in the profession doing comparable work," he said. "I would call on employers to assess their current workforce for gender gaps and raise salaries to create parity."
Narrowing the Gap
Two actions nurses can take to close the pay gap are negotiating salaries and pursuing certification.
The survey found that men are more likely to negotiate their salaries, with 43% of men reporting that they negotiate salaries "most of the time or always," while only 34% of women do so.
The pay gap between men and women appeared to narrow with additional certification or education. The survey showed that men with specialty certifications only made $1,252 more than certified female nurses, a significant improvement compared to the overall numbers.
50% of overall respondents reported pursuing higher education, certification or training to boost salary was a consideration or goal.
"It is heartening that the survey found many nurses are planning on pursuing higher levels of education, which is what the Institute of Medicine called for in its 2010 report on the future of nursing," said Susan C. Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior vice president and director, AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist, Center to Champion Nursing in America.
"Research has linked greater levels of education for nurses with safer, high-quality care," Reinhard added. "Higher degrees also give nurses more career choices and can lead to better-paying jobs."
Excessive alarms are a threat to patient safety. New guidelines offer strategies to improve alarm management.
Nurses working in acute-care settings are all too familiar with alarm fatigue, which occurs when clinicians are exposed to excessive amounts of alarms, particularly false and clinically insignificant alarms. In fact, studies estimate that approximately 90% of alarms in various critical care settings are either false or clinically irrelevant.
This poses a significant patient safety risk, as the desensitization to alarms can cause delays in clinician response time or may be missed altogether, which could lead to patient harm.
To help address this issue, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses released a Practice Alert at the end of May that outlines the evidence-based practices to reduce false or nonactionable clinical alarms and prevent alarm fatigue, with specific guidelines for both bedside caregivers and nurse leaders.
“This practice alert takes what is known about alarm management and puts it into action-oriented strategies to help nurses provide the safest patient care possible when managing clinical alarms in acute and critical care environments,” said Linda Bell, MSN, RN, AACN clinical practice specialist. “The issue of alarm fatigue can most effectively be addressed, and eventually eliminated, by working with the people closest to the patient and those who support the needs of the patient.”
For nurse leaders, the main takeaways of the alert are:
Develop unit-specific default parameters and alarm management policies. Each hospital unit is different, so try to come up with policies that better fit your patient population. Changing the unit’s alarm default settings based on the unit’s expertise can help decrease insignificant alarms, the researchers found.
Provide ongoing education on monitoring systems and alarm management for unit staff. As with most issues on the nursing unit, continuing to educate staff is a crucial component to ongoing success. Education increases understanding of how monitoring systems and their alarms should be managed, which will lead to more individualized settings at the outset, reducing the overall number of false alarms.
Develop policies/procedures for monitoring only those patients with clinical indications for monitoring. The interprofessional team should determine which patients in a population or care unit should be monitored and under what parameters. Reducing the number of unnecessary monitors can significantly decrease the number of insignificant alarms.