Nursing Salaries Are Stagnant, New Survey Shows
Troy Brown, RN
October 11, 2018
Nurse income may be falling, according to Medscape's 2018 RN/LPN Compensation Survey
of 5011 registered nurses (RNs) and 2002 licensed practical nurses (LPNs). In 2017, for the first time, average annual nurse wages and hourly rates of pay failed to increase significantly. After adjusting for inflation, income may even be falling, according to the report's authors.
The percentage of RNs (56%) and LPNs (46%) who believed they were compensated fairly for their work fell slightly from the previous year.
During previous years, there have been small but steady increases in compensation. Average annual gross income for RNs was $81,000 in 2017 compared with $80,000 in 2016. For LPNs, annual income was $46,000 in 2017 and 2016. Hourly wages in 2017 were $37 for full-time RNs compared with $22 for full-time LPNs.
Nurses in salaried positions - a much smaller group when compared with those in hourly positions - were the only group whose average salaries increased.
The reasons for this lack of wage growth are unclear.
Registered nurses living in the Pacific region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington) of the United States had the highest average annual income, at $102,000 per year, whereas those in the East South Central region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) reported the lowest ($69,000 per year) - a difference of 33%. Licensed practical nurses in the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) reported the highest annual pay, at $56,000 per year, compared with $42,000 in the South Central region.
Among RNs, income was highest for those working in hospital inpatient and occupational/employee health settings ($84,000) and lowest for those working in school/college health services ($66,000). Licensed practical nurses working in skilled nursing facilities or other long-term care reported the highest annual income, at $48,000, compared with $37,000 per year for LPNs working in school/college health services.
Although more than half of nurses (RNs, 61%; LPNs, 58%) said their income had risen from the previous year, the survey did not show the amount of this increase or the source of the increase - whether it resulted from a raise or from working overtime or extra shifts. Approximately one third of nurses (30% of RNs and 34% of LPNs) reported working extra hours or shifts. To supplement their income, 13% of RNs worked on-call shifts, 12% assumed charge nurse responsibilities, and 11% worked a second job or had a non-nursing income-producing activity.
Most RNs worked for employers that provided paid time off (96%), health insurance (95%), contributions to retirement savings (84%), and education allowance or reimbursement (65%). Almost one third of nurses (RNs, 29%; LPNs, 39%) still had student loan debt.
Where Are the Nurses?
Nurses were most likely to work in hospitals (RNs, 52%; LPNs, 20%), which paid the highest wages. Nurses in the insurance industry and occupational health reported annual income that was comparable to that of nurses in hospitals; however, relatively few nurses work in those sectors.