Gender wage gap persists among nurses

Male nurses continue to earn significantly higher salaries than their female colleagues even though women outnumber men in the profession, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers, led by Ulrike Muench, Ph.D., R.N., of University of California, San Francisco, analyzed 20 years of salary data from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, which collected information every four years from more than 30,000 registered nurses nationwide. Of the 87,903 responses used in the study sample, 93 percent were women.

Muench and her team's raw analysis found that RN salaries were, on average, $10,775 higher for men than for women. This wage gap appears in every survey year as far back as 1988. It narrowed in the 1990s but expanded again after 2000, according to the study. After researchers controlled for factors such as type of degree, amount of experience, location and weekly hours, they still found a $5,148 wage gap. Nurses earn an average of $66,973 a year, which means men earn about 8 percent more.

The pay gap widened for RNs in some specialties, as much as $6,034 in cardiology. Orthopedics was the only specialty where researchers did not find a statistically significant disparity. The gap persisted in different workplace environments as well, with male nurses who cared for hospital patients earning $3,873 more, and those who worked in outpatient settings earning $7,678 more.

Because the most recent data was from 2008, researchers compared the survey numbers to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, in which more than 200,000 RNs participated from 2001 to 2013. An unadjusted analysis found the 1 in 10 nurses who were men earned an average of $9,562 annually.

Despite the persistent wage gap in nursing, it is smaller than the overall gender wage gap, under which women only make 78.8 percent as much as men, compared to about 91 percent within the nursing field, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Males always tend to get more money than females," said Deborah Burger, co-president of the Oakland-based California Nurses Association. "Even in a female field, the men still manage to eke out more money."

The healthcare industry increasingly seeks to recruit men to the nursing profession to diversify the workforce and increase the range of perspectives and skills within the field, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the LA Times article