Nurses satisfied with salaries, but not with where they work

Most nurses feel like they're making enough money, but up to 88 percent would rather work elsewhere, according to a new salary survey conducted by Medscape.

The survey of more than 8,250 nurses also found that more highly trained and specialized nurses are more satisfied with their salary, career and workplace than lesser-trained nurses.

Average compensation ranged from $46,000 to $170,000 depending on specialty, education and the setting where they work. And while only 1 in 10 nurses is male, they make 6 percent to 9 percent on average more than female nurses, the survey found.

Other salary findings:

  • Nurse anesthetists are the highest-paid nursing professionals, averaging $170,000 annual salaries
  • Other advanced-practice nurses (APNs) earn starting salaries of $95,000
  • Registered nurse (RN) salaries average $79,000
  • Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the lowest-paid group, with salaries averaging $46,000 per year
  • About three-quarters of nurses anesthetists say they're financially satisfied, compared with 53 percent of RNs and 43 percent of LPNs
  • The highest-paid settings are contract work for agencies, long-term care, military and government organizations, and inpatient and outpatient hospitals
  • The lowest-paid nurses work in school and college health services, medical offices and urgent care centers, and public and occupational health roles

By a wide margin--68 percent of APNs, 78 percent of RNs and 88 percent of LPNs and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are dissatisfied with their practice setting, the survey found. Only 32 percent of APNs, 22 percent of RNs and 12 percent of LPNs said they would choose the same setting again.

And just 60 percent of APNs, 56 percent of RNs and 48 percent of LPNs said they would choose nursing as a career if they had to do it over again.

Nurse practitioner Laurie Scudder, executive editor of Medscape, called the high levels of dissatisfaction in practice settings distressing. "Further efforts to understand and address the factors behind this dissatisfaction will be critical to our profession and the healthcare system as a whole," she said in a statement.

Indeed, nurse satisfaction plays a significant role in mortality and other outcomes at hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Those hospitals empowered nurses to make more decisions, were willing to make it easier for nurses to do their jobs, and lowered the patient-to-nurse ration to 4-to-1 from 5-to-1.

Another recent review found nurse salaries were highest in California--a finding that meshed with the Medscape finding that salaries are highest in the far Western states. California's RNs average $82,560 per year, followed by $81,185 in Massachusetts. Washington, New York and Connecticut rounded out the top five.

To learn more:
- see the survey summary report
- here's the announcement