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7 Key Steps to Negotiating Salary

Nurses Article   (6,616 Views | 4 Replies | 980 Words)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

18 Followers; 103 Articles; 234,662 Profile Views; 2,059 Posts

Learning how to negotiate is an important skill for nurses. While many nurses fail to negotiate, nurses who do negotiate make more money.

7 Key Steps to Negotiating Salary

Learning how to negotiate is an important but often overlooked skill for nurses.

I just talked to Kim, a nurse and friend who is leaving her facility to work in Corrections. They made her an offer and immediately followed with "But if that's not enough, we can work with the numbers". My friend replied, "Oh, no, that's fine".

Clearly, the hiring manager was ready to offer more money but Kim was not prepared to negotiate for herself.

Kim's response is typical of nurses. Somehow it's ingrained that it's a value to not discuss money. We're here to care about people, after all. We know that other professionals routinely ask for more money- but nurses are focused on caring, not compensation.

The very thought of negotiating is intimidating. Most of us lack skills when it comes to negotiating. It's embarrassing to put yourself out there and be told "No". We don't know what to ask or what's acceptable. Many nurses assume that what's offered is what they're worth and that there is no room for negotiation, anyway.

In male-dominated professions, negotiation is more common, if not expected. It's noteworthy that In nursing, men overall make more money than women.

Know When

Know that entry-level clinical bedside positions don't offer room for negotiation. This is because the new grad rarely has anything to negotiate with- meaning nursing experience.

Likewise, when you are transferring from, say, an experienced bedside clinical nurse to a novice Educator, you cannot negotiate the same as an experienced Educator. You may even take a dip in pay temporarily although the ceiling in your new range will be higher.

A bedside clinical nurse accustomed to making differentials and working overtime will make less as a new manager but will gain new skills that eventually increase her lifetime earnings.

The pay structure in many environments is tiered, based on years of experience and credentials. Even so, as a previous hiring manager in both union and non-union facilities, there is usually always wiggle room. Managers will do everything they can to hire outstanding employees.

Know the Going Salary in Your Area

A nurse in California makes $70.00 an hour while the exact same nurse in South Dakota makes only $30.00 an hour. It would be naive to try to negotiate for $70.00 an hour in South Dakota. See the comprehensive allnurses 2018 salary survey to see how much nurses make in your area. Take the time to research salaries for the job before your interview. Talk to nursing recruiters and look on Glassdoor and Indeed.com for information. Knowing what the market pays makes you an informed negotiator.


Negotiating doesn't have to mean being aggressive, which is undesirable in an applicant. Maintain a friendly and positive tone but don't be pushy. You may want to work for this organization in the future, or at least keep your bridges open.

You both have the same goal- to negotiate a salary and benefits package that is fair to you and aligns with the market. Think of you and the employer as being on the same team.


Don't bring up compensation until the employer makes an offer. It's preferable not to be the first one to throw out a number.

If you are asked about your salary requirements, you can say you are open and you want to learn more about the responsibilities before discussing salary. Ask the employer, "What kind of salary range are you working with?" or "What is the typical salary at your organization for this position?"

When given a number you can say "Thanks! Is there room for negotiation?" or "Thanks! Is this a firm job offer?"

It's OK to wait once an offer has been made. You can respond "I need time to think it over". You can also say "I am going to talk with my spouse. When do you need an answer by?"

Sometimes this in itself can garner a higher offer. At the same, avoid an overt power play as this is a turnoff. Don't wait more than 2-3 days to respond to the offer.

Negotiate from the skills and experience you have to offer and not from your personal need. If you bring several years of managerial experience and raised patient satisfaction scores on your unit, leverage this over the fact you have two children in college.

Why are you right for the job and what do you bring to the table?

Know Your Bottom Line

You can also say No. Identify your bottom line before going into salary discussions. There is a break-even point you cannot go below to meet your needs. Negotiating means you are in control of your emotions and always prepared to walk away.

Negotiate Benefits

Remember to look at the whole package. If the salary is firm, you can ask for moving expenses or a higher rate of vacation accrual. What is the commute like? Is there a sign-on bonus?

Remember that it may be worth taking an initial pay cut to work in a well known or prestigious organization just to get in and grow professionally.

Get the Offer in Writing

Finally, remember an offer is not an offer until it's in writing. It's OK to ask "Will I be getting the offer in writing?"

Even if you decide not to accept the offer, be polite and gracious in your response.

What experiences have you had with negotiating salary, and what has worked or not worked for you?

Beth Hawkes (Nurse Beth) is an accomplished nurse working in Acute Care as a Staff Development Professional Specialist. She is also an accomplished author, blogger, speaker, and columnist. As Nurse Beth, she regularly answers career-related questions at allnurses.com Check out her book, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Job" Nurse Beth blogs at nursecode.com

18 Followers; 103 Articles; 234,662 Profile Views; 2,059 Posts

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llg has 43 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

6 Followers; 13,271 Posts; 59,591 Profile Views


I was a bit skeptical when I opened this thread as I so often hear unrealistic expectations and advice about nurses negotiating compensation. But I thought you were right on the money. Nurses need to be realistic about when and how to negotiate. You also gave some practical tips about what to say at the time the offer is made.

I've never worked for a hospital that did much negotiation on salary for people with minimal experience. But I've seen some people negotiate on some other things -- especially if the new hire has some valuable experience.

I myself have negotiated some benefits that were important to me, such as time off, computer software to make my job easier, a few job duties that I did not want to be responsible for, work hours, etc. While these thing didn't increase my income, they made my work life much happier.

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BeenThere2012 is a ASN, RN and specializes in PICU, Pediatrics, Trauma.

1 Article; 781 Posts; 7,121 Profile Views

I had a better offer in a different practice...That did it!

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DowntheRiver has 5 years experience and specializes in Urgent Care, Oncology.

903 Posts; 14,060 Profile Views

The only thing that is negotiable at my facility for floor nurses is schedule. Salary is non-negotiable, they pull from a pay scale chart based on years of experience. PTO is based on years of service and benefits are the same across the board. Only thing managers can really be flexible with is how they schedule you.

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