Nurse Recruiters Share Top Tips for Negotiating Salary

Most nurses rank salary as the number one aspect of job satisfaction. Yet less than half of RNs say negotiating salary is something they always do at the start of each new nursing job, according to the Nursing Salary Research Report.

More than 7,400 registered nurses from all 50 states, working in a wide range of settings, responded to online survey questions last summer. The data revealed salary was the No. 1 compensation factor for all RNs in relation to job satisfaction, followed by their ability to use their full scope of practice. Nurses also said the mission of the organization, advancement opportunities, regular merit increases, tuition reimbursement, and overtime opportunities were what they looked for most in a job.

Although APRNs (61%) and LPNs (61%) were more likely to negotiate their salaries, only 46% of RNs say negotiating salary is something they do all or most of the time. Almost half of all nurses surveyed said they never or rarely negotiate their salaries, even though negotiating salary can result in a higher compensation. And men and non-binary individuals negotiate salary more often than women.

How much wiggle room do nurses have when it comes to negotiating salary? And how should they go about it?

Ask About Pay Structures When Negotiating Salary

Theresa Mazzaro, RN

Salary negotiations are worthwhile and may be possible for experienced nurses seeking new jobs, but not likely for new nurses, according to Theresa Mazzaro, RN, CHCR, senior talent acquisition specialist at Suburban Hospital, in Bethesda, Md., part of Johns Hopkins Medicine. She also serves as a member of the board of directors of the National Association for Health Care Recruitment.

The reality is there are many factors that impact how much employers can vary on nurses’ and other providers’ salaries, according to Jessica Quezada Jackson, CHCR, a talent acquisition recruiter at a health system and NAHCR board member.

In a unionized environment, for example, the union determines employment parameters, including salary. But even in the absence of a union, employers like hospitals have to abide by Affirmative Action and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines, which promote equity in hiring practices, according to Jackson. Many employers pay nurses based on level of experience, with tiers built in for certifications, higher degrees and more. It’s not really a negotiation, according to Jackson, but rather a set tiered pay structure.

The most important thing nurses can do to make sure they’re leveraging their experience, education and more is to understand a potential employer’s pay structure, so they can negotiate where possible, Jackson said.

“Nurses can get that information through their recruiters,” she said. “A lot of recruiters are in-house, and they’ll be able to tell you what you’re going to make based on your background.”

New Graduate Nurse Pay

Jessica Quezada-Jackson

Jessica Quezada-Jackson

For new graduate nurses, there is typically no negotiation, Mazzaro said.

There are numerous factors that can …read more

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