Do Nurses Earn Big Money? You Decide. - page 9

by TheCommuter 89,685 Views | 364 Comments Senior Moderator

Am I the only one who becomes at least mildly irritated whenever a random individual finds out that someone is a nurse and proceeds to say, “You’re rolling in the big bucks!” To keep things honest, I’ll recall a few... Read More


  1. 6
    Quote from TheCommuter
    The single mom who works a minimum wage fast food job in Detroit has an income so low that she qualifies for housing assistance, a food stamp card, Medicaid for the kids, WIC vouchers for any childrenunder the age of five, and childcare assistance. Through EITC, she might also qualify for a hefty tax refund every April.
    That's a good point. The middle class is, well, stuck in the middle with neither the independent wealth of the rich nor the government assistance of the poor. But I'd argue that all the assistance that minimum wage job mom receives doesn't amount to as much as we'd think.
    tnmarie, cp1024, joanna73, and 3 others like this.
  2. 0
    Quote from TheCommuter
    Am I the only one who becomes at least mildly irritated whenever a random individual finds out that someone is a nurse and proceeds to say, “You’re rolling in the big bucks!”

    To keep things honest, I’ll recall a few observations about the people who generally do (and don’t) broadcast their feelings about nursing pay. In my personal experience, no doctor has ever told me to my face that I’m earning ’big money.’ No engineers, attorneys, pharmacists, speech language pathologists, or other highly educated professionals have hooted and hollered about the supposedly ‘good money’ that nurses make once they discover that I am one. On the other hand, bank tellers, call center workers, clerks, and others who work at entry-level types of jobs have loudly made their feelings known about the incomes that nurses earn.

    I was employed at two different fast food chains while in high school, and during my late teens, I worked a string of dead end jobs in the retail sector. From ages 20 to 23, I maintained employment at a paper products plant in high cost-of-living southern California as a factory worker and earned an income of about $40,000 yearly with some overtime. Of course I thought that nurses earned handsome salaries during my years in the entry-level workforce. After all, the average RN income of $70,000 annually far exceeded my yearly pay back in those days. Keep in mind that I paid virtually no taxes as a fast food worker because my income was so low. Also, I paid relatively little in the way of taxes as a retail store clerk.

    Many of the certified nursing assistants (CNAs) with whom I’ve worked over the years have fallen into the trap of believing that the nurses are awash with cash. However, the ones that pursue higher education and become nurses themselves eventually come to the realization that the money is not all that it is cracked up to be. For example, Carla* is a single mother to three children under the age of 10 and earns $11 hourly as a CNA at a nursing home. Due to her lower income and family size, she qualifies for Section 8 housing, a monthly food stamp allotment, WIC vouchers, Medicaid, and childcare assistance. Moreover, Carla receives a tax refund of $4,000 every year due to the earned income tax credit (EITC), a federal program that provides lower income workers with added revenue through tax refunds. Much of Carla’s CNA income is disposable.

    Carla returned to school part-time, earned her RN license, and now earns $25 hourly at a home health company in a Midwestern state with a moderate cost of living. She nets approximately $3,000 per month after taxes and family health insurance are deducted as she no longer qualifies for Medicaid. She pays the full rent of $900 monthly for a small, modest 3-bedroom cottage because she no longer qualifies for Section 8. She pays $500 monthly to feed a family of four because she no longer qualifies for food stamps or WIC vouchers. She spends $175 weekly ($700 monthly) on after school childcare for three school-age children because she no longer qualifies for childcare assistance. Carla’s other expenses include $200 monthly to keep the gas tank of her used car full, $300 a month for the electric/natural gas bill, a $50 monthly cell phone bill, and $50 per month for car insurance. Her bills add up to $2,700 per month, which leaves her with a whopping $300 left for savings, recreational pursuits and discretionary purposes. By the way, she did not see the nice tax refund of $4,000 this year since she no longer qualifies for EITC. During Carla’s days as a CNA most of her income was disposable, but now that she’s an RN she lives a paycheck to paycheck existence. I’m sure she wouldn’t be too pleased with some schmuck proclaiming that she’s earning ’big money.’

    The people who are convinced that nurses earn plenty of money are like shrubs on the outside looking in because they do not know how much sweat and tears we shed for our educations. They remain blissfully unaware of the daily struggles of getting through our workdays. All they see are the dollar signs. I’m here to declare that I worked hard to get to where I am today and I deserve to be paid a decent wage for all of the services that I render. Instead of begrudging us, join us.
    I guess it depends on how much education you have as a nurse. ADN is good, BSN is great, Masters is better. You have have to spend a lot for all levels of education but I'd say the ROI is pretty darn good. No one goes in to nursing for the "piles" of money.
  3. 1
    Quote from nisteber
    We get an extra 20 an hour at my place of work when they have a high census. 43$/hour, not bad for a community college degree. Also if you have 50k in student loans, that is poor planning on your part. Nobody forced you to go to a university, a community college ADN, and an ADN to BSN program would have cost much less than 50 Gs.
    Sorry Nisteber. I forgot that in these forums you have to carefully screen every thing you say. My bad. It's been awhile since I logged on here. Gee I wonder why.

    I wasn't complaining about my choice. In fact...the total cost of my education was closer to 120K, so with all the scholarships I got, I came out pretty good.

    I want to go on for a masters degree..so no..my planning was perfectly fine for what my goals are.
    But thanks for the input. I'll think of you and cry a little in a couple of years when I am working as a NP.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My point in saying what I said in my original post is that their are alot of other expenses that people do not consider. Around the time I graduated...it was standard for many institutions to have significant tuition reimbursement programs--10 to 20k or more. And I took that into account when I decided to go to the school that I went to. And within 6 months or so of my graduation, many of those programs vanished. I was also expecting to go work somewhere that had a 10-15k sign on bonus..those vanished too.
    cp1024 likes this.
  4. 8
    Quote from BrandonLPN
    I'm probably not in an objective position to judge what equals "big bucks" compared to most here. I have no kids and own my own house and make a little over 50k. I know I am in a position to have WAY more disposable income than most here.

    With that said, I never cease to be
    shocked by people who clearly live beyond their means and then complain about how hard they're "struggling". Barring medical issues or other unforeseen acts of God, I see no reason why a family with 3-4 kids making 50k a year would "struggle". No family "needs" two cars or a big house in the suburbs or name brand anything. That's not struggling, that's just called not having all the crap you want. Think about the fast food working single mother family in Detroit. Now THATS struggling. I think 50k a year for a family is more than sufficient for a perfectly comfortable lifestyle. Our society's definition of struggle shows we really don't understand that word.

    Of course, all this is neither here nor there regarding whether or not nurses are compensated fairly compared to other professions. Remember, though, compensation isn't related to how *hard* or a job is. Or I would have made more moving furniture. It's all about supply and demand.

    My family of 5 lived on about $36,000/year, prior to my husbands promotion, and me finishing nursing school. We had no credit cards and drove used cars (still do). We sometimes had to juggle bills around, we certainly went w/o a lot of extras, but we made it.

    One of my best friends has a husband who made $98,000 last year. And her family of 5 struggles to buy food every week.

    I have never understood how that can be.
    GM2RN, tnmarie, hiddencatRN, and 5 others like this.
  5. 8
    Quote from eroc
    Sure i'm gonna get hate for this, but here's my thoughts.

    I have been an shipyard worker, worked for years in construction, and run my own business for many years.
    And for the benifits nurses get...I consider them fairly compesated.

    I seem to hear alot of complaining about how hard the job of a nurse is, and I agree I don't fully know yet, but it can't be harder than a much more phsyically demanding job, that also requires heavily dealing with customers. I only have my wife to gauge how tough it is, beacuse she has worked along side me, as well as being a RN for the past 2 years, (she works in the ER now) And she feels as though nurses tend to complain more than is necessary about how tough their jobs are, especailly since they are fairly compesated.

    Now i still need to take the Nclex-RN and pass, but I highly doubt is going to make me want to go back to Sandblasting steel ships in 100+ degree weather, filthly to the point of being black from dust, for LESS MONEY.

    Thing is if you think you have it bad....someone else has it worse.

    Everyone thinks they should be paid more...

    BTW, I have made $65k a year without a high school dipolma...working 80+ a week. So I know all the factors, of taxes. And I wouldn't ask for a handout making $10 an hour.

    Well, i'm not going to give you 'hate', lol, but, i have a few thoughts which came to mind as i read your post.

    Yes, yes, it's a well documented, undeniable fact that males ARE generally paid more. Glad for ya!! And you have done something right, that you got to be the boss for many years. Good on you.

    and yes, there are those who feel physical labor IS what makes a job 'hard'. And no doubt, it does.

    But, nursing is also a very physical job, probably even more so in the past, for the bulk of my career, before units were designed more efficiently and we usually logged 8 miles per shift of footsteps. (we checked, with those odometers)

    and that was back before hoyers were more than one per hospital (for real, that's all a hosp had, we had to take turns all over) so much much lifting and pulling was done, many times every shift, and this was before body mechanics were as promoted as much as that topic is today.

    I've worked ER or ICU much of my career,
    and that ER unit was not usually as physically taxing as some units are, for several reasons,
    there is usually less "pulling the patient up in his bed", which, when done bazillions of times per shift, takes a toll on a person's back, shoulders, wrists, etc. and there are usually more males around to assist in the heavy lifting when in the ER, too, and hoyers right there,
    so your wife's summary
    of how physically demanding ER nursing is,
    Might not be applicable to all nurses
    working in all various types of settings
    on this thread.


    What you might consider physically hard, as a male, (and i'm picturing you are probably a strong person, since you did physical labor) might be slightly different than what a smaller person might consider physically demanding or straining.
    For many of us, turning a 400 lb patient who has diarrhea back and forth, frequently, to clean that person, over and over is physically demanding, and arguably, just as disgusting as as your description of cleaning ships.

    I can't wait til you put on your first pair of TED hose onto a really large large person. Get back to me after you have. (kind of joke, most nurses will nod at that, it's hard!)

    When i was young RN, being mentored by seasoned RNs, long ago, they ALL had bad backs, or had recovered from a back injury, it was part of the job. Guaranteed back then, and it is still a risk today. Many had multiple other injuries as well. Tons of boosting, turning, transferring, catching, lifting, twisting, scurrying nonstop is done by many nurses.

    There are different kinds of " physically hard".



    Many nurses have been physically assaulted at their jobs, from mildly to severely, and this is something unusual in most other professions. I've had a 6-4 250lb patient, (head injury) grab my neck and wrench my head to the side, and it was years and years til i was ever '100% right' again, but, luckily, i recovered. (no doctor appt, nothing, just walked it off, over time).

    While we were transferring a 400lb one-legged patient from wheelchair to bed, her one good leg gave out, and my forearm, in her armpit ----took the bulk of her body weight all at once, and to this day, whenever i raise up my right arm, it goes numb. But, she did not fall.

    I once sustained a very very scarey needle stick from an HIV patient, (didn't catch it, but, it felt like the beginning of a 'made for tv' movie for a while, til i was in the clear again.) made that neck injury seem like a piece of cake, really.

    I could bore for a few more paragraphs on various injuries i've sustained, and for a few pages on injuries i've stood witness to, upon my fellow nurses. Tons of 'em.


    Who knows, if we could hypothetically line up injured coworkers, in our two fields, who knows which of us would have the higher % of injured coworkers?

    There are different kinds of "filthy".

    I garden, and get covered in earth, and i work on cars,
    yet, i don't feel nearly as 'filthy' as i do when i am vomited on, when someone throws their colostomy onto my hair, when i have some strangers blood on my skin, when some deathly ill person's green phlegm is on me, or when i get urinated on, long list of other ways to get filthy as a nurse.

    There are different kinds of stress.

    For some humans, moving heavy items repetitively might be the worst kind of stress, but, for some humans, knowing if you make even a slight error, you could orphan some child, is a type of stress, too. Having upset families scream at you, or even throw things around, is a stress, too. Having doctors scream you out, can be demeaning/stressful. Knowing you can't really control getting off work on time, and the impact that can have for parents, (or anyone) is a stress.

    Sometimes, dealing with an unpredictable parade of humans all of whom are stressed out, can make cleaning ships seem appealing.

    Only having time for lunch break once per week is stress, as is not being able to have even five minutes to get to the restroom, cuz you are that busy, is a stress. Being able to remember all 7 of things you need to do right now, is a stress, and it can stay that speed allll dayyyyy long. And at end of day, instead of being appreciated,
    you might be scolded for not being done on time.
    Having to stay abreast of an always changing body of knowledge, mental stress, emotional stress, all kinds of stressors.
    some humans find intellectual demands just as draining or exhausting, as cleaning ships might be.

    I do not mean to disrespect your work, at all, nope. I've done hard labor myself, it is hard. I'm just suggesting, that nursing can be hard in all types of different ways. And when drywallers are sometimes paid the same as nurses,
    there might be something here to consider.



    and re: the "handout" that Carla has paid into each and every paycheck she's ever made, that YOU would refuse if you were making $10 per hour,
    If you are referring to the Carla described by the OP,
    i am proud of Carla for doing whatever it took to ensure her 3 kids were not in dire poverty. There's not a lot i would not do for my kids, either, and if i had to swallow my pride, to ensure i could obtain the proper amounts of protein, to pay the heat bills, get them coats, etc, oh yeah, GULP, i'd find a way to swallow my pride. Yes, i would, i'd do it for my kids, indeed.

    sometimes, it just best not to throw stones, til you have walked a mile as single mom raising 3 kids on minimum wage, paying childcare and everything else.. i'm just sayin.


    EDIT----ps, the poverty stricken are sometimes disproportionately amongst the severely sick in the USA, so you might want to consider, trying to develop a more compassionate, less judgmental view for those that do take govt aide to feed their kids.(IF you harbor such a view, not sure) If you do go into nursing, you might be interacting with quite a few of them.
    Last edit by somenurse on Nov 27, '12
    Nurse Leigh, tnmarie, cp1024, and 5 others like this.
  6. 2
    Quote from Kunzieo
    I think nurses get paid very well for the amount of education that they have. Not in many other professions can one make 60k their first year out of school. Sometimes I look at my union contract and think "I am part of what's wrong with healthcare in America." Double overtime, triple time holidays, large shift differentials, weekend bonuses, extra shift bonuses, and God help us if we don't get a raise every year... Don't get me wrong, I love these perks, but I do think nurses are more than adequately compensated. So yes, I guess to answer the question- nurses can make a good amount of money. Maybe not the "big bucks" but decent enough, I'd say! Hiding now, please don't hate!
    What planet are you from?

    Fresh out of school I made 34k, (2011), time and a half for holidays/overtime, no weekend bonuses, no extra shift bonuses, shift differential was a dollar but I worked days so I didn't get that, and yeah, we got a raise- but a performance evaluation raise is 50 cents at max- and at $20/hr, I was already being paid less than a lot of other states- Iowa is one of the lowest paying states in the nation for nurses. Arkansas, where I just moved to, isn't much better. Getting 19.50/hr at my new job here in the Obs unit. I love it so far though. Compared to LTC/SNF, the patient load is nicer, there's a unit secretary to do a lot of the paperwork stuff I had to do at my last job, and the people and the organization is nicer. And it just about made my day to find out that I get holiday pay for holidays even if I'm not working. But.... I wouldn't say that it's big bucks. I think the majority of nurses in our nation do NOT make 70k a year- and the staff nurses probably make 40k as more of an average. Is this adequate? For me, yep. For me and my fiance? It doesn't cover the bills. He's job searching to relocate to me, but right now he's 400 miles away, and he can't relocate to where I am now, until he has money to be able to cover his car payment while he job hunts- because the extra $400/month doesn't fit into my budget.
    Nurse Leigh and somenurse like this.
  7. 5
    I make the most money of anyone I know.( unless i count other nurses or the attendings pas , pharmacists "i know of" but none are in my social circle). I picked nursing in part for the money. In a good year growing up my parents made together what I make now. I dont have kids either. my fAmily never used gov or privatr assistance like sec 8, free lunches etc as my parents thought that was beneath them and for the lazy or the really disabeled or those who cant work. They think , if you can work then you live with what you make...... Now as a nurse I can buy anything I want for the most part. For the first time in my life I can go grocery shopping and really buy whatever I want. Things like ice cream, pineapples, salmon etc. My diet intake is not restricted by money. I am asked for money by relatives often enough. Of course the ent attending won't think your rich while the janitor does. It is all relative. People making $5million a year arent impressed by a doctor's salary either.
    tnmarie, hiddencatRN, DTW90, and 2 others like this.
  8. 1
    Quote from charli_apple
    Sorry, but I work in social services and the government is not handing out money like that...lol You pretty much have to be starving to death to qualify for anything. In my state, a person making $12hr with one child would only qualify for childcare assistance and medicaid for the CHILD. They'd be expected to cough up $200 a month of their income towards the childcare. If they are living a lifstyle equivalent to an RN it has nothing to do with welfare and everything to do with their under-the-table side hustle. No one can live on or come-up off of government assistance alone.


    Correction, a person making $12/hr with one kid no longer qualifies for childcare assistance.
    If this is true, I'm happy to hear it. But in the OP's article, s/he tells up that the assistance from the government paid for her home, childcare and food. My comment was toward that. If it doesn't happen in your state that is fantastic, but I see that happen ALL THE TIME here in Vegas. And I saw in EVERYWHERE growing up in Brooklyn.
    anotherone likes this.
  9. 0
    As so many others have already said, "big bucks" is subjective. I really hate the way people seem to disparage those receiving public assistance. I, unfortunately, have had to rely on food stamps and Medicaid as a single person (I only qualified for food stamps as a student) and can only imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone with children. When you have rent, utilities, insurance (health and car), food, gas, etc., $8.50 an hour just is not a lot of money. The amount of taxes I pay as a single person is ridiculous as well. I live in Alabama and a 1 bedroom apartment will run you $550 easy and that's if you can get a special. I didn't even qualify for food stamps at making that much because the income limits go by your GROSS pay, not your bring home pay. With Medicaid, I only can get a pap smear and birth control. (I am now unemployed) If I need to go to the doctor I am outta luck. When I file my taxes, I don't really get a whole lot back. EITC does not apply since I have no kids. In my experience, there are those of use who could really use even just a little public assistance but get no help because we have no children. However, while I am in this predicament I decided to also try to get govt assistance to pay for my LPN. This is a situation where my circumstances can work for me and I have NO shame in trying to take advantage of that. Its not about getting a handout, Its about getting out of the situation possibly for good and being able to provide for myself later on down the road. I really think everyone should have to try living this way for a few months so maybe they can stop looking down their nose at people who opt to use these methods to provide for themselves or their families. Trust and believe that not everyone that gets public assistance wants to stay on it... I think I got off topic. If I were to go from (I will use my last wage just as an example) making $8.50 an hour to $13 or $20 an hour, yes I would feel I was making big bucks. As a single person with virtually no bills aside from household ones, I would feel I came up in a major way all else being equal. However, that is not my only motivation for being a nurse. I could make that or better working in IT or Computer Information Systems or doing production work which requires no degree.
  10. 6
    Quote from Jean Marie46514
    Well, i'm not going to give you 'hate', lol, but, i have a few thoughts which came to mind as i read your post.Yes, yes, it's a well documented, undeniable fact that males ARE generally paid more. Glad for ya!! And you have done something right, that you got to be the boss for many years. Good on you.and yes, there are those who feel physical labor IS what makes a job 'hard'. And no doubt, it does. But, nursing is also a very physical job, probably even more so in the past, for the bulk of my career, before units were designed more efficiently and we usually logged 8 miles per shift of footsteps. (we checked, with those odometers)and that was back before hoyers were more than one per hospital (for real, that's all a hosp had, we had to take turns all over) so much much lifting and pulling was done, many times every shift, and this was before body mechanics were as promoted as much as that topic is today.I've worked ER or ICU much of my career, and that ER unit was not usually as physically taxing as some units are, for several reasons, there is usually less "pulling the patient up in his bed", which, when done bazillions of times per shift, takes a toll on a person's back, shoulders, wrists, etc. and there are usually more males around to assist in the heavy lifting when in the ER, too, and hoyers right there, so your wife's summary of how physically demanding ER nursing is,Might not be applicable to all nurses working in all various types of settings on this thread. What you might consider physically hard, as a male, (and i'm picturing you are probably a strong person, since you did physical labor) might be slightly different than what a smaller person might consider physically demanding or straining.For many of us, turning a 400 lb patient who has diarrhea back and forth, frequently, to clean that person, over and over is physically demanding, and arguably, just as disgusting as as your description of cleaning ships.I can't wait til you put on your first pair of TED hose onto a really large large person. Get back to me after you have. (kind of joke, most nurses will nod at that, it's hard!)When i was young RN, being mentored by seasoned RNs, long ago, they ALL had bad backs, or had recovered from a back injury, it was part of the job. Guaranteed back then, and it is still a risk today. Many had multiple other injuries as well. Tons of boosting, turning, transferring, catching, lifting, twisting, scurrying nonstop is done by many nurses.There are different kinds of " physically hard".Many nurses have been physically assaulted at their jobs, from mildly to severely, and this is something unusual in most other professions. I've had a 6-4 250lb patient, (head injury) grab my neck and wrench my head to the side, and it was years and years til i was ever '100% right' again, but, luckily, i recovered. (no doctor appt, nothing, just walked it off, over time).While we were transferring a 400lb one-legged patient from wheelchair to bed, her one good leg gave out, and my forearm, in her armpit ----took the bulk of her body weight all at once, and to this day, whenever i raise up my right arm, it goes numb. But, she did not fall.I once sustained a very very scarey needle stick from an HIV patient, (didn't catch it, but, it felt like the beginning of a 'made for tv' movie for a while, til i was in the clear again.) made that neck injury seem like a piece of cake, really.I could bore for a few more paragraphs on various injuries i've sustained, and for a few pages on injuries i've stood witness to, upon my fellow nurses. Tons of 'em. Who knows, if we could hypothetically line up injured coworkers, in our two fields, who knows which of us would have the higher % of injured coworkers?There are different kinds of "filthy".I garden, and get covered in earth, and i work on cars,yet, i don't feel nearly as 'filthy' as i do when i am vomited on, when someone throws their colostomy onto my hair, when i have some strangers blood on my skin, when some deathly ill person's green phlegm is on me, or when i get urinated on, long list of other ways to get filthy as a nurse. There are different kinds of stress.For some humans, moving heavy items repetitively might be the worst kind of stress, but, for some humans, knowing if you make even a slight error, you could orphan some child, is a type of stress, too. Having upset families scream at you, or even throw things around, is a stress, too. Having doctors scream you out, can be demeaning/stressful. Knowing you can't really control getting off work on time, and the impact that can have for parents, (or anyone) is a stress. Sometimes, dealing with an unpredictable parade of humans all of whom are stressed out, can make cleaning ships seem appealing. Only having time for lunch break once per week is stress, as is not being able to have even five minutes to get to the restroom, cuz you are that busy, is a stress. Being able to remember all 7 of things you need to do right now, is a stress, and it can stay that speed allll dayyyyy long. And at end of day, instead of being appreciated,you might be scolded for not being done on time.Having to stay abreast of an always changing body of knowledge, mental stress, emotional stress, all kinds of stressors. some humans find intellectual demands just as draining or exhausting, as cleaning ships might be.I do not mean to disrespect your work, at all, nope. I've done hard labor myself, it is hard. I'm just suggesting, that nursing can be hard in all types of different ways. And when drywallers are sometimes paid the same as nurses,there might be something here to consider.and re: the "handout" that Carla has paid into each and every paycheck she's ever made, that YOU would refuse if you were making $10 per hour,If you are referring to the Carla described by the OP,i am proud of Carla for doing whatever it took to ensure her 3 kids were not in dire poverty. There's not a lot i would not do for my kids, either, and if i had to swallow my pride, to ensure i could obtain the proper amounts of protein, to pay the heat bills, get them coats, etc, oh yeah, GULP, i'd find a way to swallow my pride. Yes, i would, i'd do it for my kids, indeed.sometimes, it just best not to throw stones, til you have walked a mile as single mom raising 3 kids on minimum wage, paying childcare and everything else.. i'm just sayin. EDIT----ps, the poverty stricken are sometimes disproportionately amongst the severely sick in the USA, so you might want to consider, trying to develop a more compassionate, less judgmental view for those that do take govt aide to feed their kids.(IF you harbor such a view, not sure) If you do go into nursing, you might be interacting with quite a few of them.
    Your description of the physical aspect of nursing is one of the beat posts I have ever reAd on here.
    tnmarie, Mollypita, cp1024, and 3 others like this.


Top