November 10, 2020

How nurses get paid, in 7 charts

Daily Briefing

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

    A new-in-kind report

    According to Medscape, this year is different in kind than the prior six years it has conducted this survey because any discussion of earnings is contextualized by "a pandemic that has probably changed the lives, personally and professionally, of most U.S. nurses." However, acknowledging that "the full effects of the pandemic on annual income won't be known for at least another year," Medscape opted to "forge ahead with [its] survey … but to ask new, timely questions about the impact of the pandemic on U.S. nurses."

    Medscape surveyed 10,424 nurses—including RNS, LPNs, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)—between July 1 and Aug. 25. In its latest report, Medscape disclosed findings from the 5,310 RNs and 2,000 LPNs who participated in the survey, noting that it would publish a separate report on the APRN findings at a later date.

    In addition to select questions about the Covid-19 epidemic, respondents were asked about topics such as salary, practice setting, level of education, and union membership.

    How much nurses make

    Overall, Medscape found average annual earnings for full-time RNs remained statistically unchanged between 2018 and 2019, rising from an average of $80,000 in 2018 to an average of $81,000 in 2019. On the other hand, average annual earnings increased slightly for fulltime LPNs, from $48,000 in 2018 to $50,000 in 2019

    Medscape found that 57% of RNs and 45% of LPNs thought their compensation in 2019 was fair, which—at least for RNs specifically—represents a significant increase over 2018, when just 51% thought their compensation was fair.

    As in past years, full-time nurses who are salaried reported higher average annual earnings than those who are paid hourly, the report found.

    Compensation varied by practice setting, the report found. Among RNs, those working in hospitals and health care companies, such as insurers, reported the highest average annual earnings in 2019, while those working in schools/college health services had the lowest. For LPNs, those working in skilled nursing facilities reported receiving the highest amount of compensation, while those working in school health services reported the lowest amount.

    Respondents also reported a range of educational degrees, Medscape found. Among RNs, just over half had a bachelor's degree as their highest educational degree, and nearly a quarter had an associate degree as their highest educational degree.

    In turn, compensation varied by educational degree, Medscape found.

    RNs with a doctoral degree, which only made up 2% of RN respondents to Medscape's survey, had the highest average compensation, at $93,000, while RNs with an associate degree had the lowest, at $76,000.

    Medscape also found that the gender pay gap persisted in 2019. Male RNs were paid an average of 5% more than female RNs, while male LPNs were paid an average of about 10% more than female LPNs. According to Medscape, the gender pay gap among nurses "has been relatively unchanged for the past four years of [the] survey."

    The survey also found significant pay differences by region. The Pacific region had the highest average annual wages for both RNs and LPNs, while the East South Central region had the lowest.

    How Covid-19 has affected nurse employment

    Medscape also asked the nurses who said they were not currently employed whether their unemployment stemmed from Covid-19. According to the survey, 23% of unemployed RNs and 26% of unemployed LPNs said they were no longer working because of Covid-19, with 18% of both unemployed RNs and unemployed LPNs saying the Covid-19 epidemic led them to retire earlier than planned (Stokowski et. al., Medscape RN/LPN Compensation Report 2020, 10/28).

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