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October 11, 2019

How nurses get paid, in 5 charts

Daily Briefing

    Medscape on Wednesday released its annual RN/LRN Compensation report, which highlights trends in nurse compensation over the last year.

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    For the report, Medscape surveyed 7,145 nurses—5,143 RNs and 2,002 LPNs—between June 10 and Aug. 26, 2019. Respondents were asked about topics such as salary, practice setting, level of education, and union membership.

    How much nurses make

    Overall, Medscape found compensation for RNs dropped slightly, from $81,000 in 2017 to $80,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, salaries for LPNs increased slightly, from $46,000 in 2017 to $48,000 in 2018.

    However, compensation varied significantly by practice setting, Medscape found. Among RNs, work in industry settings, such as health plans, had the highest average annual compensation in 2018, while work in schools/college health services had the lowest. Work in school/college health services had the lowest compensation among LPNs as well, while skilled nursing facilities had the highest.

    Compensation also varied by educational degree, Medscape found. Among RNs, nearly half had a bachelor's degree as their highest educational degree, and just over a quarter had an associate degree as their highest educational degree.

    RNs with a doctoral degree, which only made up 2% of respondents to Medscape's survey, had the highest average compensation, at $94,000, while RNs with an associate degree had the lowest, at $75,000.

    Medscape also found that the gender pay gap persisted in 2018. Male RNs were paid an average 4% more than female RNs, while male LPNs were paid an average of about 10% more than female LPNs. Medscape said it does not "fully understand" the gap but said it could be explained in part by different work habits between men and women in nursing. For instance, according to Medscape, male nurses are more likely than their female counterparts to work in higher paid settings.

    The survey also found significant pay differences by region. The Pacific region had the highest average annual compensation for RNs, while the East South Central region had the lowest. The East South Central region had the lowest compensation for LPNs as well, while New England had the highest.

    Medscape also found that many RNs and LPNs do not feel fairly compensated. Among RNs, 51% said they felt fairly compensated. The rate was 42% among LPNs. According to Medscape, nurse satisfaction with pay has been steadily declining for three years (Stokowski et al., Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report 2019, 10/9).

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