Survey: Gender gap persists, pay flat when it comes to nursing compensation

Nurse-Patient-Hospital-Credit: Getty/monkeybusinessimages
(Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

A gender gap continues to persist when it comes to nurse salaries, with men making an average of 7% more than women despite men making up only about 10% of the nurse workforce, a newly released survey found.

Medscape surveyed more than 7,000 RNs and LPNs for its annual look at nursing compensation. Echoing results from last year, respondents indicated that men in nursing make an average of $6,000 more per year in salaries compared to women. There is no difference in hourly rates of about $37. 

It’s unclear why the gender gap persists. While intrinsic bias is a likely factor, they said, they also found that nurses who are men are more likely to hold hourly positions, be employed in inpatient units, work in an urban setting and work overtime routinely. 

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Overall, nurses' salaries have remained flat over the last two years at about $81,000 for RNs and $46,000 for LPNs despite a strengthening economy, the report found. Salaried nurses reported much higher annual gross income—8% and 13% more among RNs and LPNs, respectively—compared to nurses paid by the hour.

RELATED: Survey: Pay gap between male and female nurses persists

Union membership is fairly uncommon, the report said, with 16% of RNs and 10% of LPNs indicating they belong to one. It also found that nurses who work in hospitals were much more likely to be members of unions. RNs who belonged to a union earned, on average, about 13% more while LPN union members earned 10% more on average (not accounting for union dues). Nurses who are union members were more likely to have benefits like education allowances or reimbursements. 

The amount nurses are paid varied greatly by region. For instance, those in the Pacific region, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, make an average of $102,000. That is about $33,000 more than those in the East South Central region made up of Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama. The report's authors attribute the difference in part to the fact that nearly half of the Pacific region's nurses are in a union.

RELATED: Pay difference persists between male and female physician assistants 

Nearly all the responding RNs and LPNs indicate they have paid time off and health insurance. RNs are more likely than LPNs to receive benefits such as contributions to retirement savings, education allowance, paid parental leave or professional liability coverage. Nearly one in three RNs and 16% of LPNs have their own professional liability insurance coverage. A majority of nurses report that their policies cost less than $500 a year.

Nearly 30% of RNs and nearly 40% of LPNs indicated they are paying off nursing education loans, including 14% of RNs who are between 55 and 65 years old.