NurseLeigh: How wages affect public perception

  1. quoted from nurseleigh's postI just have a quick note for all of you that think that the respect would follow if the pay was better. . . . . I have heard comments such as "You must be making a lot of money being a nurse" or "Nurses make really good money" and so on and so forth.

    So, seeing as the public seems to think that nurses pay is up there with doctors and lawyers and such, how would actually getting those wages help the publics view of nurses?????

    Leigh

    p.s. just in case ya'll are reading too much into this post, I am in no way being funny or sarcastic, i am very curious about your answers to this.

    I started a new thread rather than shanghai the thread this was posted on, because this is really a different question.
    http://allnurses.com/forums/showthre...757#post286757

    Since I believe that better nursing wages will increase public respect of nurses, and have far more impact on the nursing shortage than educating the public about what we do, or standardizing educational requirements, I will answer your question, nurseleigh.

    Our culture is based on economics, not altruism. When high school kids are looking for a career, they try to match their ability and interests to jobs that will give them personal satisfaction and the best monetary compensation they can get. When they realize that nurses have had a flat salary growth since the Dark Ages, contrary to poplularly held beliefs, and they'll be making $16 an hour working at the bedside, and cap after 5 years without even more costly, specialized education ===they change their majors.

    So suppose I have altruistic leanings and I want a BS degree? I can make way more money while still having job satisfaction by doing something else. Name me one job or career (nothing illegal, please) that a person can do that makes lotsa money but the public has NO respect for.

    Here's an example:
    John Q. Public has a lot of respect for doctors. He thinks, Why do doctors make so much money? Do I have to understand their work before I adjudge them worthy of their asking price?
    No. I only know that they must do something very skilled, very specialized, or they couldn't charge so much. Respect for any career, in today's society, is measured in dollars and cents.

    When the pt says, "Gee, you're a nurse. You must make great money," do you want to reply, "No, I don't. But I'm very intelligent and I have a lot of education."

    Or, "No, I don't. But I have specialized training and I save lives, and I probably have saved your life at least twice since you've been in here."

    Or, "No, I don't. Management doesn't think I'm important enough to pay well, and as soon's I begin to make a decent salary, they'll encourage me to leave, so it'll keep healthcare costs down. They can pay their CEO's millions, the docs have carte blanche to charge you whatever, and the hospital can buy the latest diagnostic equipment, but by golly, since nursing comprises their biggest budgetary outlay, the salaries of nurses must be kept to a minimum. I'm just doing my part for the healthcare industry by allowing it."

    The truth is, we're negotiating our low salaries by saying nothing.
    The public respects money. The public respects Chutzpah. Nurses have neither; the profession's reputation is built on self-sacrifice. That is why there is a nursing shortage.

    If the general public thought, "Nursing is a great way to make a comfortable salary while saving lives," students would be flocking to nursing schools, IMO.

    How many of us personally know people who decided against being a nurse strictly because the salary didn't compensate for the personal sacrifice. I know a few.

    Finally, I have to wonder: If nurses made more money, would the public have less respect for them? Or more?

    Your thoughts appreciated.
    Last edit by Sleepyeyes on Dec 28, '02
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   Pretzlgl
    Originally posted by Sleepyeyes

    Or, "No, I don't. Management doesn't think I'm important enough to pay well, and as soon's I begin to make a decent salary, they'll encourage me to leave, so it'll keep healthcare costs down. They can pay their CEO's millions, the docs have carte blanche to charge you whatever, and the hospital can buy the latest diagnostic equipment, but by golly, since nursing comprises their biggest budgetary outlay, the salaries of nurses must be kept to a minimum. I'm just doing my part for the healthcare industry by allowing it."

    The truth is, we're negotiating our low salaries by saying nothing.
    The public respects money. The public respects Chutzpah. Nurses have neither; the profession's reputation is built on self-sacrifice. That is why there is a nursing shortage.


    Finally, I have to wonder: If nurses made more money, would the public have less respect for them? Or more?

    Your thoughts appreciated.
    Great thoughts! I would have to say that the public would have more respect for nurses. As NurseLeigh pointed out, the public already seems to think that nurses make good money. BUT, we know we don't. So at work, in the halls, in the cafeteria for lunch - nurses gripe. At home to our loved ones, friends - we gripe. About low pay, poor working conditions, disrespect from physicians, etc. What does this do to the public's perception of nursing? I can tell you - my non medical friends say "I don't want to be a nurse - they are so bytchy and whiny..." Therefore, I believe that if our working conditions were improved - including better pay - then our attitudes would as well. And this would be projected to the public, whose perception might then improve.
  4. by   Q.
    So suppose I have altruistic leanings and I want a BS degree? I can make way more money while still having job satisfaction by doing something else. Name me one job or career (nothing illegal, please) that a person can do that makes lotsa money but the public has NO respect for.
    How about attorneys? Or sales people?

    Example: a drug rep I know (who makes lotsa money, but lately the medical and lay communities are starting to not respect) said his daughter wants to "help people" therefore, she wants to be a prosecuter, and put "bad people away." Sounds like a noble goal. But by and large, the public is distrustful of attorneys - yet, they are still paid well.

    I personally feel nursing makes a decent living, in and of itself. I (not my husband and I, but just "I") could survive on my income alone. What the problem is the pay does not reflect what we do, or, as in my case, I've been making the same annual wage since I graduated nursing school 5 years ago. Yet at the same time, employers view us as an expense and continue to find ways to replace us with non-nurses.

    Until our duties are seen as unique and beneficial, and not just starting IVs or pushing meds, but something only a licensed nurse can provide, something truly unique, we will not be seen as irreplaceable or valuable. So, as long as we are seen as providing soley psychomotor skills (and we as a profession continue to place emphasis on a good nurse being one who can do psychomotor skills well) we will constantly be able to be undervalued and replaced because, let's face it, it doesn't take a nurse to give an injection or start an IV.
    Last edit by Susy K on Dec 28, '02
  5. by   fergus51
    The problem isn't that the public thinks we make more than we do, it's that they think what we do make is a lot. When they're making minimum wage, a nurse's salary is a lot of money. The other thing is that their is a perception among the public and among nurses that a good nurse can't be in it for the money, so those that whine about the salary are not good nurses.
  6. by   Sleepyeyes
    Originally posted by Susy K

    Until our duties are seen as unique and beneficial, and not just starting IVs or pushing meds, but something only a licensed nurse can provide, something truly unique, we will not be seen as irreplaceable or valuable.
    Oh, but that's another myth I would love to un-perpetrate! We ARE irreplaceable. Our skills ARE unique and--not just valuable, but ESSENTIAL--to the running of any hospital. Try imagining any hospital without us. I believe even the docs would revolt.


    Trouble is, we seem to be the only ones who need convincing.
  7. by   Q.
    Originally posted by Sleepyeyes
    Oh, but that's another myth I would love to un-perpetrate! We ARE irreplaceable. Our skills ARE unique and--not just valuable, but ESSENTIAL--to the running of any hospital. Try imagining any hospital without us. I believe even the docs would revolt.


    Trouble is, we seem to be the only ones who need convincing.
    Ok then, let me ask, what skills are you referring to? What exactly about a nurse is irreplaceable? (I'm asking because I want your opinion).
  8. by   eltrip
    Here lately, I've considered going into a different field..one that is male-dominated, at that. I've considered both plumbing and carpentry. Plumbers & carpenters earn more than nurses. Electricians, too, from what I hear from my brother. Goodness, I' could paint houses, too.

    These might be extreme examples, but in my part of the country, RNs with 5+ years of experience earn less than men without H.S. diplomas who work in factories.

    It makes me think, what's the point?

    Granted, nurses earn more than minimum wage. However, it isn't enough to cover a house note and child care and a car payment...not to mention the other "niceties" we enjoy, like clothing & Christmas presents. Before I bought my house, I was paying for a decent duplex & supporting my daughter . Now that I've married, we have house & car payments and it takes more than one paycheck to just "get by." Should it be this way? No.

    JMHO.
  9. by   Sleepyeyes
    I think Don--forgive me if it wasn't--answered this so well, in another thread, suzy....

    He said, Pts come to hospitals for nursing care. And the most important function of the nurse is the Assessment. Based on that assessment, we're trained to respond appropriately to changes in pt. condition.

    There have been a few studies done proving that RN's affect patient outcomes.

    If we are truly replacable, show me a hospital without RN's.
  10. by   Q.
    Originally posted by Sleepyeyes
    I think Don--forgive me if it wasn't--answered this so well, in another thread, suzy....

    Dammit! I keep getting confused on Sleepyeyes and SmilingBluEyes.
  11. by   Sleepyeyes
    Originally posted by Susy K
    Dammit! I keep getting confused on Sleepyeyes and SmilingBluEyes.
    ...while i, on the other hand, remain merely confused....

    :chuckle:

    methinks i need to hit the hay===way past my bedtime...
    have a happy!
  12. by   Sleepyeyes
    Originally posted by fergus51
    The problem isn't that the public thinks we make more than we do, it's that they think what we do make is a lot. When they're making minimum wage, a nurse's salary is a lot of money. The other thing is that their is a perception among the public and among nurses that a good nurse can't be in it for the money, so those that whine about the salary are not good nurses.
    so true, fergus, so true....we need to remember this is perception vs reality here...
  13. by   SmilingBluEyes
    MY eyes may be blue but they are NOT sleepy. lol.
  14. by   DIPLOMATICRN4HIRE
    Yes in the publics eye we do make good money. But I would also hope that the Public understood Im not flipping burgers here, Im a very intricate part of the best Health Care Available to them or thier loved one that is currently on my OR table. If the hospitals and health care industry doesnt respect us for what we do as Nursing Professionals then why should we think the general public would?
    Zoe

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