by Scott E. Rupp
It’s survey season again, and we’re being met with a harvest of new data that — for the most part — shines the sunlight on the healthcare industry and gives all a little something extra to talk about. I’m passionate about such information, partly because I believe it’s like salt to an often stale plate of daily healthcare headlines.
Far too often, the coverage seems to bog down in the minutia of regulation and opinion of how minds in D.C. are going to affect the practice of care throughout the entirely of the land where patients, and their dollars, rule — though that concept seems out of touch too often in the capital.
So, where does the seasoning of the day bring us? To a somewhat familiar place: nurses and their compensation. Does this matter to the healthcare policymakers? Probably not. Does it matter to those who administer the care? Likely.
A new survey from Medscape of more than 10,000 nurses (RNS, LPNs or APRNs) in the United States helps paint the financial landscape for the field. This information is important because the numbers can help encourage new folks into the fold and just might help alleviate the nursing shortage. I’ll dig in, if you allow.
Where do they work?
RNs overwhelmingly work in hospitals or hospital systems (56 percent), mostly in inpatient settings (41 percent). LPNs are divided among hospital-based clinics (15 percent), nonhospital ambulatory settings (18 percent) and skilled nursing facility/long-term care (22 percent) — in others words, a solid balance across the board.
RNs self-reported that they are more likely than LPNs to work in hospital inpatient units. Other settings where RNs were significantly more likely to work include academic and public health nursing.
How much do they make?
Average full-time RN and LPN earnings for the year 2015 were $78,000 and $43,000, respectively, according to the survey. The numbers are down, though, from 2014 earnings, which were $79,000 for RNs and $46,000 for LPNs. Full-time APRN earnings averaged $176,000 for nurse anesthetists, $104,000 for nurse midwives, $103,000 for nurse practitioners and $95,000 for clinical nurse specialists.
Among all survey respondents, 83 percent reported that they work full-time, while 13 percent work part-time and 4 percent work per diem. The average hourly wages were similar for full-time and part-time/per-diem RNs — $37 per hour — while full-time LPNs averaged $21 per hour and part-time/per-diem LPNs averaged $23 per hour.
“Traditionally, nurses in acute care hospitals are paid the highest wages, whereas nurses in academic positions and non-hospital-based clinics are paid considerably less,” the report’s authors noted.
As you might expect, more education means more money.
What effect does location have?
Average annual full-time earnings for RNs in 2015 were reported to be highest ($98,000) in the West, which includes California, Alaska and Hawaii. The next-highest incomes were reported in the Northeast region ($85,000). The lowest average full-time annual incomes were reported in the North Central region of the United States ($70,000), reflecting a difference of $28,000 from the highest- to the lowest-paid region.
LPN earnings were highest in the West ($50,000), Southwest ($49,000) and Northeast ($49,000) and were lowest in the North Central states ($39,000) — an $11,000 difference between the highest- and lowest-paid regions of the United States.
What other factors come into play?
Regarding overtime, it’s common. 47 percent of RNs and 52 percent of LPNs report that they regularly put in overtime hours. Of RNs, 86 percent work up to 10 additional hours weekly, and the remainder work 11 or more hours.
Moving on to benefits paid, full-time nurses are paid time off (offered to 96 percent of RNs and 92 percent of LPNs) and health insurance (offered to 96 percent of RNs and 90 percent of LPNs). For all nurses, tuition/education reimbursement, professional liability coverage, paid parental leave and professional membership dues offered.
In regard to debt, nurses seem to have less than their physician counterparts. 26 percent of RNs and 38 percent of LPNs report that they are currently paying off college or nursing school loans. However, those with debt report they are still paying off their nursing school loans many years after graduation. For example, 43 percent of RNs reported still paying off nursing school loans after they had been in practice for between 11 and 20 years.
Overall, the numbers are interesting and provide excellent insight into the profession, especially for those who are looking to enter the healthcare market. Perhaps not the sexiest or the spiciest of reports, but the information here is insightful if nothing else.