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Nurses' salaries from a Russian's perspective

by Pasolopi Pasolopi (New) New

Hi everyone! I'm new here and really glad to meet you all :) I'm from Russia, currently in my third (final) year of nursing school. I've finally decided to ask a question that has been bugging me for a few years now. I've been reading up a lot on the subject, comparing data and opinions, so here it goes.

Why does almost everybody keep saying that nurses in the UK and the US make little money? As far as I know (from different sources: payscale, articles on the web, job offers, your threads here) on average a nurse gets about £12 an hour in the UK and $20 in the US. You work shifts – that is 3 12-h days a week (again, on average, I know there are other options). Judging by this quote from a recent thread Ratios are much higher, not unusual on medical or surgical wards to have up to 12 patients per registered nurse”, I can tell that more than 10 patients per nurse is considered hard work. Am I right so far? So what's the catch? :)

In Russia (and bear in mind that it's a huge country, so it's really difficult to talk average”) a nurse works 24 hour shifts and it's not on call”, you're actually not really allowed to sleep. Or you are and you get paid less. In state hospitals a nurse can care for 40 patients and more and it's the norm. And my favourite part, the pay. Now here's where it gets interesting. Provincial towns – 10-15k per month, can be less. Moscow – 20-50k per month. And I'm talking roubles here, guys :) So that's $170-250 (£130-200) and $340-850 (£270-680) respectively. Per freaking month! So, what am I missing?

You might say, well, the cost of living is different. Okay, I'm actually really interested in that. How different? Maybe taxes eat half your salary up, maybe there are some hidden, not obvious factors. Please, fill me in. What's your take-home pay? How much do you spend on your flats, houses, utilities and how much do you have left to spend purely on yourselves (food, books, entertainment, travelling and so on)?

I would greatly appreciate your insights, thoughts and experience. I'm also willing to answer your questions about my country, so feel free to ask :)

I can have as few as three patients and am capped at five patients. I work on an ICU step-down unit. I make around $55,000 a year (US). That's full time, three days a week, twelve hour shifts, night shift, and I don't pick up extra days. It's equivalent to what I made as a teacher before going into nursing. It's considered decent pay for my area, I suppose. I'm married and my husband makes six figures, so I can't speak to exactly how one can get by on just my salary. I have co-workers that are single parents and they are always picking up extra days and having to budget. It's doable but not easy. Where you live in the US can determine how far your money/salary can go.

I can only speak for California but an experienced RN well into their career can live very comfortably on a single salary if they live away from the coast, Bay Area and certain affluent communities. You can live in a beautiful area or a hot dry but nice area and make enough to rent a nice non affluent home in a safe area and enjoy the usual material things.

Without overtime I've raised 3 kids, help one go to school in So Cal, keep a horse, eat well, take modest but nice vacations, contribute to my retirement..

If I were partnered with another nurse, we would live quite well on a combined 200K+ dual income in areas such as greater Sacramento, greater Fresno, upper north and the foothill communities.

Double-Helix, BSN, RN

Specializes in PICU, Sedation/Radiology, PACU. Has 10 years experience.

There was a thread about this topic about 18 months ago. So I'm not claiming credit for the responses, here's a quote from one of the more informative comparisons:

Nursing in Russia has nothing in common with one in US. NOTHING. There is no ADN, BSN or MSN, all nurses have 2 or 3 years of technical school with zero admission standards. Nurses still officially considered "doctor's helpers" as well as handmaidens. It is unknown to refuse a doctor anything at all, including intimate favors. Scope of practice is zero, you do what you told to do and shut up. There are hardly any CENAs, nurses do all their job in addition to their own. There is no ethical standards, no professionalism. Pay is at or below official poverty line. Nurses are not trusted, not respected and commonly considered as stupid handmaidens good only to entertain doctors while on night call. Add to this racism, officially propagated xenophobia, antiAmericanism which worse now than in 1980th and extremely low life standards.

Pay is based on several factors. Among them, cost of living, education/skills required, supply/demand, job responsibilities, and willingness/resources of the employer. If these factors aren't comparable between US/UK and Russia, neither is the salary.

Service reimbursement is another big factor in how much healthcare staff are paid. In Russia, healthcare is primarily paid for by the government. Only about 5% of the population actually has health insurance. Which means that the government decides what they will pay hospitals for, and how much they will pay. I don't have numbers, but I'm willing to bet hospitals in rural Russia get reimbursements that are much, much lower than hospitals in the US/UK are receiving from private insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid.

Edited by Double-Helix
additional info


Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine. Has 8 years experience.

To clarify things, I was born in Russia, worked as a nurse there before medical school and then repeated it all here in the US.

First of all, there are quite a few kinds of nurses (and therefore salaries) here. One can be licensed practical nurse after studying only one year or so. These nurses mostly get $20 or so per hour. Nurses who are Associates of science (2 years) or Bachelor's (4 years of university studies) get proportionally more. There are big differences in pay depending on place and cost of living and case and capacity you work - if you work for an agency which provides nurses for "short coverage" (roughly, being called to work at any time, any place, any condition), you can easily get $60/hour or more. You will be expected to oversee and partially care for like 40 to 60 mostly stable elderly patients or total care for 4 sick as a dog vents for that. Nurses who work such agencies can earn $80.000/year and more, and in a place with low cost of living it means you can afford pretty much almost everything - a good house, car, private school for a child, travel, etc.

But that is not the main point. The thing is, nursing here in the US and back in Russia are not even apples and cabbages to compare. As it is medicine in general :( Plus, you can study more and be paid more. I expect to make close to $100.000 after I finish my MSN where I live.

P.S. for those who do not know, Moscow and St. Petersburg are pretty close to Chicago regarding cost of living.

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Wow - VERY INTERESTING thread. This is why AN is such a valuable resource.

OP, can you provide more information on the scope of practice for Russian nurses? Are physicians employed by all hospitals? What is the scope of the employed physician job as compared to the nurse? For instance, when patients need complicated dressing changes, nasogastric tube insertions or IV starts... who does them?