Why Nurses Should Be Paid More

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thank you for coming and hanging out with me today! I’m glad that you are here. Alright, today I’m going to revisit the topic of nurses getting paid more. I touched on this briefly in a previous post, but since then there has been a greater, ongoing conversation regarding this matter. First, I don’t think that this is the largest issue that needs to be addressed if we are going to begin to correct the nursing shortage. That being said, I do believe that nurses deserve higher pay than they are currently getting and that it could easily be done without costing the patient an extra penny.

Let’s start with why I believe that nurses deserve more money then they are currently getting. I’m just going to list them because I have already talked about these things in greater depth in a previous post. Here’s my list:

  1. Nursing is an emotionally damaging job that leads to PTSD and suicide in some cases.
  2. Nurses are injured from violent events three times more often than every other occupation combined.
  3. Nursing is a high stress profession where people’s lives are literally depending on the decisions that you make.
  4. Nurses are twice as likely to suffer a nonviolent work related injury than any other occupation. Most likely their back.
  5. Nurses are expected to fill in for the roles of every other position when there are shortages in the hospital.
  6. Nurses risk exposure to deadly infections with COVID being only the most recent addition.
  7. PAY EQUITY

The last reason, pay equity, is really reason enough and is honestly the reason that I believe there are many professions that should be earning more then they currently are. When we talk about pay equity, we usually focus on making sure that people of different races and genders are being paid fairly and equally. This is important, but not what I’m talking about today. Another part of pay equity is simply being compensated a fair amount for the work that you are contributing to the success of the company. Thus, people who are contributing more to the success of the company should be earning more then those who contribute less. See where I’m going with this?

I think you’d be hard pressed to argue that nurses are not the backbone of a hospital. With out nurses (and other essential workers, but I’m talking about nurses today) hospitals would not be able to function. If every nurse left a hospital, that hospital would have to close its doors. It simply would not be able to provide patient care. Right? Alright, now consider the CEOs of these same hospitals. Essential health care services can be provided without them. In fact, hospitals were run without CEOs for centuries. They are not essential and are not contributing to the success of the business at the same level as nurses. Yet, it is the CEO of the hospital that is being well compensated rather then the nurse. This is not pay equity.

Let’s look at some numbers. In 2018, Bernard Tyson, then-CEO of nonprofit health care giant Kaiser Permanente, made nearly $18 million, making him the highest-paid nonprofit CEO in the nation. A nurse at Overlake Medical Center and Clinics (a Kaiser Permanente hospital) makes an average of $51,395 a year. Let’s break that down, shall we? That means the CEO was making 1.5 million a month while the nurses were making $4,282 a month. That means the CEO made $9,375 an hour while the nurses made $26.76 an hour. What was the CEO doing that earned him that pay rate? After all, it is the nurses that are providing patient care. This is not pay equity.

Let’s consider those numbers more. The average nurse has a student loan debt of $47,321 or about a year’s worth of wages. When nurses are trying to pay this off and support their family, they often face challenges. 20% of nurses older than 55 still have student loans. But when you make 1.5 million a month any college debt you had is easily paid off. This is not pay equity. In fact, it begins to look a bit like indentured servitude which is just another type of slavery. Especially when you consider the fact that many of these nurses paid for their college with assistance from the hospitals that they are now legally obligated to work for.

In 2017, the highest paid non-profit hospital CEOs gave themselves a 33% raise in their wages. In nursing, salaries increased on average about 1.3% per year from 2008 to the middle of 2014, and up 2.6% per year by 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that nurses aren’t even getting 10% of the raise that CEOs are giving themselves. Additionally, in most hospitals these raises are performance dependent. This means that few nurses actually received the full raise amount since they failed to achieve a perfect work performance evaluation. That means that most nurses were doing well to receive a raise that reflected the cost of living increase. This is not pay equity.

So, why should nurses be paid more then they currently are? Because the basic principles of pay equity demand it. We as a society need to reject the idea of a CEO making more than $9,000 an hour while people who are essential workers are not making enough money to both support their family and pay of their college debt. When you consider all the essential workers in a hospital that are getting wages closer to minimum wage, the wages of the CEO only becomes that much more gratuitous.

Can we please stop talking about how nurses are being selfish and greedy when they ask for more pay? Can we instead shift the conversation to the fact that hospital CEOs and their board executives are making ridiculous amounts of money that no one requires to sustain themselves. All while they have employees working in their hospitals who are on welfare because they cannot meet their basic needs. Another disgusting number for you is that CNAs need public assistance more often then the general population. Looking at just one piece of this: 11% of CNAs require food stamps while only 8% of the general population does. This is not pay equity.

Well, thanks for coming and listening to me rant today! Until we hang out again, you take care of yourself.

Some articles to read:

  1. On the Front Lines: Violence Against Nurses on the Rise
  2. Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare
  3. The Top 5 Reasons Nurses Quit Their Jobs
  4. U.S. Faces Crisis of Burned-Out Health Care Workers
  5. Occupational injuries and illnesses among registered nurses
  6. Nonprofit Hospital CEO Compensation: How Much Is Enough?
  7. Highest-paid not-for-profit health system executives earn 33% raise in 2017
  8. Registered Nurse yearly salaries in Bellevue at Overlake Medical Center and Clinics
  9. Average Nursing Student Debt: How Much Debt Do Nurses Have?
  10. Indentured Servitude
  11. Nursing salaries are on the upswing
  12. Cost-Of-Living Adjustments
  13. The National Nursing Assistant Survey: Improving the Evidence Base for Policy Initiatives to Strengthen the Certified Nursing Assistant Workforce

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