If you’re like me, you graduated nursing school without a clear sense of how much you were going to make. It’s unfortunate that within our women-dominated field, negotiating and discussing pay has been historically uncommon and even discouraged. Maybe you’re about to graduate from nursing school and are wondering if you will earn enough to pay off your loans. Or perhaps you have years of nursing experience under your belt and feel frustrated that you're not being compensated for what you deserve. Thankfully, there are strategies to know what you’re worth and earn more now with your current nursing license.
Know your worth - when comparing yourself to others is beneficial
Comparing yourself to others is no longer about what your high school classmates are wearing. It now serves as one of the best bargaining tools you will have when asking for a raise and applying for a new (or your first) nursing job. For starters, learn the average RN salary in your state and at your hospital. According to 2019 data from Nursing License Map, this pay can vary by as much as $53,700 depending on the state you work in. South Dakota, Mississippi, and Alabama were the lowest-paying states for RNs at $60,230 or less, while California offered the highest mean salary of $113,240. The average income across all US states was $77,460. As a Lume member, Lume’s salary and reviews databank is perhaps the easiest tool you have to compare your salary and job experience to other nurses. With the databank you are empowered to ensure you are being paid and treated fairly.
Find a bank that gives back to you
That is where a bank like Lume comes in. Many checking accounts advertise that they offer free checking, which means you have a place to store your money without paying. The first rule is to never use a checking account that you have to pay for. To take things one step further, Lume offers the unique opportunity for on-demand pay. This allows you to pay less interest on loans by paying loan balances down faster and earning more money back by investing sooner. The discounts you will enjoy on popular nursing brands by being a lume member are also a benefit unique to lume, allowing you to save more of your nurse salary.
Travel if you can
Although benefits are typically less comprehensive, travel nursing contracts have historically paid a higher salary than full-time nursing positions. As nursing turnover rates continue to present challenges for hospitals, many are providing higher rates to travelers despite full-time compensation remaining fairly stagnant. Additionally, you don't necessarily have to travel across the country for an assignment — taking a contract might just mean walking down the street.
If you can’t travel, pursue clinical advancement programs at your hospital
More and more hospitals are offering clinical ladder advancement programs that nurses can pursue after a few years of experience. These may offer the opportunity to showcase hard work, present an evidence-based project, and ultimately get a raise. If raises are offered as a reward for clinical advancement, the pay increase will vary between hospitals. Make sure to ask management early on if these programs are available. That way, you can learn the requirements for advancing, the rewards for doing so and you can start planning ahead.
Consider working some night shifts
Like it or not, it's nearly universal that night shift nurses make more money than those on the day shift. Shift differentials can result in a variation of thousands of dollars per year. Don't mind staying up real late? Consider the schedule switch.
Try a new nursing specialty
Some hospitals are willing to pay critical care or emergency nurses more than nurses in other specialties. When applying for a job, ask the human resources department whether pay varies by the department if you’re open to different areas.
Building wealth takes years, so it’s important to learn strategies for doing so early on in your career. No matter where you work, what your weekly schedule looks like, or how new you are to nursing, make your money work for you. Once you pay off your debt and have saved enough in the bank to cover three to six months of living expenses, invest what's left over. Investments will earn you 10% back on average over a span of 10 years—more than any high yield savings account ever will be able to. Utilize financial institutions like Lume that actually care about the wellbeing and wealth building of nurses and aren’t in the business just to profit off your money. Today, nurses are in higher demand than ever. Know your worth by using lume’s salary databank and use that knowledge to negotiate for a fair salary. In doing so, you’ll not only benefit yourself but the nursing profession as a whole.