Survey: Pay gap between male and female nurses persists

The gender pay gap between male and female nurses persists, though the number of male nurses remains relatively small, a new survey found. 

Salaried male registered nurses made 10% more than salaried female nurses, while hourly male registered nurses made 5% more, according to Medscape's 2017 nurse compensation survey. Though too few salaried male licensed practical nurses responded to the survey to compare, those that were hourly made almost 7% more than their female counterparts. 

Despite the gap, men only accounted for 9% of the 5,072 registered nurses and 8% of the 2,034 LPNs surveyed.

The gap for hourly workers may not be a result of base pay differences, according to the survey, as both male and female RNs averaged $37 per hour in pay. However, the men surveyed on average had been in practice for less time than the women who participated; 48% of men had been in practice longer than 20 years, compared to 68% of women. 

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Male nurses were more likely to work in urban facilities and on inpatient units, which could increase their pay compared to nurses working in rural facilities. Half of the male nurses who responded to the survey also said they would be likely to work overtime, compared with 35% of women, another factor that could boost pay.

Male nurses were also more likely to work longer stretches of overtime, with 34% of those who did so routinely saying they worked six to 10 hours of overtime each week and 26% saying they worked 11 hours or more. Sixty-two percent of female nurses who worked overtime regularly said they worked between one and five hours per week. 

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The survey also found that nurses who are part of a union make significantly more than those who are not in one. Just 12% of the RNs surveyed belonged to a union, but union RNs made $90,000 on average in 2016, compared to $79,000 for nonunion nurses. 

Nurses in the most heavily unionized parts of the country, like Alaska, California and Hawaii, reported the highest salaries overall, averaging $103,000 in pay, while those in regions with more limited unionization averaged $71,000 in pay last year. 

Joanne Spetz, Ph.D., an economist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Medscape that the number of unionized nurses is likely higher, around 20%, and research suggests that nurses in unions can make between 5% and 10% more than their counterparts.