Show Me The Money

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    Talking about salary with coworkers has long been seen as a taboo topic in nursing. Could this be hurting us as a profession? Let's explore some of the things we know about this difficult topic.

    Show Me The Money

    Show Me The Money is not just a phrase for Jerry McGuire! This is a phrase that nurses should get comfortable saying. Now, maybe we should not yell it at our boss in true Cuba Gooding Jr. fashion, but we certainly still need to say it! Cuba's character in this movie, knew what he was worth and he didn't settle for a penny less. There is much for nurses to learn from this idea.

    It seems there is an unspoken rule among nurses that we don't share our salaries or hourly wages with one another. I recently had a conversation with a colleague where we reminisced about all the times in our careers that we have been asked (or even told) not to share our wage information. We decided that often times it was due to an employer not wanting to have the difficult conversation as to why two nurses with similar backgrounds were making such different wages. Employers don't want to be perceived as having biases, favorites or even just simple discrepancies in wages. But our silence allows the issues to grow, nurses to be paid less than they are worth and the profession as a whole to not receive the compensatory respect it deserves.

    Keeping salaries private is proven to be more harmful to performance, hiring and the economy at large, according to David Burkus in his 2016 book, "Under New Management: How Leading Organizations are Upending Business as Usual." In his book, he explains that people who are aware of the salary information of co-workers work harder and increase their performance. IIt has been proven that keeping salary information private is likely to cause us to feel that we are underpaid, per David Burkus. Many organizations have heeded the advice of this and other studies and embraced the idea of salary transparency, or publishing the wages of workers.

    Let's explore 3 simple ideas about our wages that with help with these difficult conversations:


    • We must be in the know: It is actually illegal for your employer or manager to tell you that you can not share your wages with a coworker. Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining and to inhibit certain private sector labor and management practices. This is a fancy way of saying that you can tell anyone you like how much you make, even co-workers. It is important to know your rights when it comes to your wages.


    • Gender Pay Gap between Male and Female Nurses: Male nurses make more than female nurses: A 2015 survey conducted by allnurses.com reported that women made up 92% of the nursing workforce while men made up the remaining 8%. However, when comparing wages, men earned approximately $5100 more per year than their female counterparts. This pay gap has been steady since 1989.

    Why would there be such a long standing gender pay gap for nurses? There are a few reasons. First, men are more likely to negotiate their salary than women. Second, men often work "off hour" assignments, which come with differentials. Finally, women tend to look for 9-5 type jobs in search of a work-life balance.

    Even knowing these reasons, it is important we continue to explore these issues and discuss them openly. Wage transparency helps fight gender bias. Washington D.C has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the country (11%) for general wages. This is largely attributable to the fact that the federal government believes in salary transparency, according to Kate Mueting, a partner at Sanford Heisler, LLP. This further supports the idea that being transparent with our wages will help to eliminate gender bias.

    • Know when to Hold ‘EM: According to themuse.com in an article titled, "4 Times to Negotiate Your Salary (and 3 Times Not To) there is an art to negotiating, and you must know when to show your hand. Never start negotiating before you have received a formal job offer. When you are going to negotiate, build your pitch! Remind the employer what you can bring to the job to justify your salary requirements. Finally, never walk away from an offer that you think is too low if the job is right you. Negotiate!


    Just like Cuba's character, we must know what we are worth and never settle. What are your thoughts on salary transparency in nursing? Is it a good idea or a bad one? Do you share your wage information with coworkers? This is an important conversation, tell me your thoughts.
    Last edit by traumaRUs on Nov 20
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    19 Comments

  3. by   Medic/Nurse
    ^^^^ I think this dogma of "you must never speak of money with your peeps or can be disciplined up to and including terminated" needs to go. It is intimidating and kinda technically illegal (though in at-will states, you can be "let go for any and or no reason, so there's that!). It serves to allow wage discrimination, playing of favorites and allows some to prosper, while others do not. And in short order it just sucks. Wage inequity is real.

    How would you feel if you found out that everyone with your education & experience made 15k more a year than you did for the same job and number of hours yearly? Yep. I found out a guy I worked with that has LESS education and experience made $8 an hour MORE for the same job/shift. And I was better paid than quite a few others. Made for marked unhappiness.

    Pay inequity matters on the front end, middle and up the ----. You lose in retirement, SS withholding and defined contributions to a point.

    At another employer, we got around the disclosure issue, by compilation - copying top of pay stub. Marking out everything except rate of pay and making a note on number of years employed and as a nurse. Then someone listed pay rates rounded to the quarter, total experience in nursing/total years with employer in years and 6 months intervals. Those that chose not to participate with their stubs did not get a copy of the compiled results and they were on numbered copy proof paper. Skin in the game.

    Pretty easy to compile for accurate results. The salary "market adjustment" was epic within 6 months for many spots.

    Know your worth kids!

    Last edit by Medic/Nurse on Nov 21
  4. by   Jules A
    I have been saying this for years. It is crucial to discuss our wages because the only one who benefits from the secrecy is the employer. I'm fine if someone wants to think I'm lacking in social graces if it solidifies my income. It doesn't hurt me to have peers make the same as I make but it definitely can hurt me when those come in willing to work for peanuts.

    Bottom line for me: They run a business, their job is to get me for as little as they can and my job is to get the highest salary. Its a process, no hard feelings I tell them my rate and if they are interested in paying it we have a deal.
  5. by   Rocknurse
    Their new tactic is to set the hourly rate and tell you that there is no negotiation and that's "just what they pay". That way they can have control again.
  6. by   NICUMurse87
    I made an offhand comment one time that, all things being equal, I would go where the pay was better and I was just BERATED for even considering compensation for nursing. I was told that money should NEVER factor into my decision and that this person was on the hiring board at that hospital and would be sure that I wouldn't be hired there if that was my attitude. Joke's on her, I took less money to work in a department that I wanted, because all things weren't equal.
  7. by   cleback
    Quote from NICUMurse87
    I made an offhand comment one time that, all things being equal, I would go where the pay was better and I was just BERATED for even considering compensation for nursing. I was told that money should NEVER factor into my decision and that this person was on the hiring board at that hospital and would be sure that I wouldn't be hired there if that was my attitude. Joke's on her, I took less money to work in a department that I wanted, because all things weren't equal.
    Wow. That's both horrible and sad for the profession at the same time.
  8. by   melissa.mills1117
    @Medic/Nurse,
    Thanks for the comments! You make some great points. Knowing your worth is very important.

    Melissa
  9. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from Jules A
    I have been saying this for years. It is crucial to discuss our wages because the only one who benefits from the secrecy is the employer. I'm fine if someone wants to think I'm lacking in social graces if it solidifies my income. It doesn't hurt me to have peers make the same as I make but it definitely can hurt me when those come in willing to work for peanuts.

    Bottom line for me: They run a business, their job is to get me for as little as they can and my job is to get the highest salary. Its a process, no hard feelings I tell them my rate and if they are interested in paying it we have a deal.
    Jules - Great points. We each have to know what we feel we are worth and not back down!

    Melissa
  10. by   melissa.mills1117
    @Rocknurse,BSN,RN - At least if they stick to one rate, it is a bit more fair across the board for us and out colleagues. Thoughts? ~Melissa
  11. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from NICUMurse87
    I made an offhand comment one time that, all things being equal, I would go where the pay was better and I was just BERATED for even considering compensation for nursing. I was told that money should NEVER factor into my decision and that this person was on the hiring board at that hospital and would be sure that I wouldn't be hired there if that was my attitude. Joke's on her, I took less money to work in a department that I wanted, because all things weren't equal.
    Thanks for sharing! I think this is a great point, "if all things are equal". If you have the choice between two exact jobs and there are literally no differences, why shouldn't you take the one with higher pay. Yes, we are nurses and we go into this career because of passion and a desire to help. However, we have bills, families and responsibilities just like every other professional in this world. We have EVERY right to expect fair compensation. ~Melissa
  12. by   Gods_nurse
    I will be the devils advocate here. Because I have known, and even more importantly, noticed that in all the replies to your post, that those who agree with talking about wages with co-workers (everyone else haha) are always disgruntled. They can almost always find someone somewhere that makes more or less than they do. Thus making those others feel (or themselves) upset.
    It is just plain good manners and good professionalism ( and kindness to your co-workers) to not discuss money, religion, or politics.
  13. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from Gods_nurse
    I will be the devils advocate here. Because I have known, and even more importantly, noticed that in all the replies to your post, that those who agree with talking about wages with co-workers (everyone else haha) are always disgruntled. They can almost always find someone somewhere that makes more or less than they do. Thus making those others feel (or themselves) upset.
    It is just plain good manners and good professionalism ( and kindness to your co-workers) to not discuss money, religion, or politics.
    Great comment! There are plenty of people out there who agree with you. And, as you stated, they don't comment because it simply is not a burning issue for them. My points are larger than just being disgruntled though. I am certainly not disgruntled with my current pay, yet I feel that it is important for us to have these conversations for the greater good of the profession. And, it is not just nursing. This is a current social topic. Just search for "salary transparency" and you will find stories about Amazon, Whole Foods and more who have gone to this exact practice to avoid issues. It is not that they are always engaging in poor practices, it is an exercise of openness and honesty. If our employers are transparent, there are no unknowns for us to worry about. Thoughts? Thanks for your comments! ~Melissa
  14. by   traumaRUs
    As a provider, I bill for my services and my practice is paid for my work. We need to know what we bring to the table, moneywise in order to come up with our worth.

    Healthcare is a business and we should approach it as such. Nurses need to know their worth and should discuss their wages

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