Nursing is not about making money, it’s about providing care to patients and saving lives. However, we all need money to live. In this article (and video), I’m going to reveal eight ways that nurses can increase their income. If you’re currently working as a nurse, these eight strategies could help you grow in your salary and earnings.
Eight Ways Nurses Can Increase Their Income
- Network. Networking refers to meeting new people and establishing contacts in your career. You’ll hear a lot about networking in nursing school or on the job. There are many ways to network these days: Social media, on the job, while you’re in school, and so forth. Allow me to illustrate how networking can pay off. Not too long ago, I heard of a guy on a nursing floor who wanted to apply for a new shift leader position that had opened up. Everyone like this particular guy, and he was sure to get the job. However, the nurse manager over that unit had to promptly step down. A new nurse manager was hired, and she filled the shift leader positions by hiring one of her friends. It’s not always about how hard you work in life–sometimes it’s about who you know! So networking can pay off.
- Work Night Shift. A lot of people dislike working night shift due to the change in sleeping habits. However, most night shift positions offer a pay premium. This could be a dollar amount (extra $1-3 per hour), or a percentage increase in pay. Either way, working night shift usually increases your overall income. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but if you’re willing to do it, you can reap the rewards.
- Work in Critical Care Areas. If you work in high-stress areas such as the ICU or ER trauma centers, you’ll likely earn more money per hour. Why? These areas can be very stressful and very demanding. Nurses encounter very serious situations, and they require thick skin and quick action. So if you work in one of these areas, you’ll likely earn a premium. Some healthcare facilities call it “critical care pay.” Others may call it something different. The bottom line is that you’ll likely have a bigger paycheck!
- Obtain Additional Certifications. You can obtain certifications for many nursing specialties. These may be directly offered by your employer, or you may have to sign-up to take a certification course through a credentialing agency. One such agency is the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center). This agency offers certifications for many nursing specialties. Once you become certified, your employer may offer a wage increase. In addition, you’ll open up opportunities for advancement throughout your nursing career!
- Participate in Career Ladder Programs. These programs are usually offered by hospitals or large healthcare organizations, and they allow nurses to earn an extra bonus based on the completion of their program. My wife participated in one of these programs, and it was called the BEST program at her hospital. BEST stands for Bedside Excellence Shining Through. This program had different tiers, and based on your tier, you had a percentage wage increase from 2-6%. To complete this program, my wife had to submit a paper, put together a portfolio, and some other minor tasks which detailed her experiences and training as a nurse.
- Move Into Management, Shift Leader, or Charge Nurse Positions. There are always plenty of ways to grow in your nursing career, and one way is to simply apply for a management or leadership position. By becoming a charge nurse, shift leader, or a nurse manager, you stand to earn a big bump in your earnings.
- Earn an Advanced Degree. When it comes to healthcare professions, obtaining an advanced degree almost always pays off. Consider this: The average salary for an LPN (as of 2014) in the United States is $43,420. The average salary for an RN (2014) is $69,790. You can become an LPN in about one year through a diploma or certificate program, but you can become an RN with just one year of extra schooling (ADN degree, which takes about 2 years). Just one year of additional schooling could give you a gross increase of $26,370 per year (69,790-43,420). Over a 40-year career, that’s over $1 million bucks. Likewise, consider the average salary for a CRNA as of 2014: $158,900. This requires a master’s level education, so there’s definitely more schooling involved, but you could earn $89,110 more than a BSN-RN per year. Over a 40-year period, that’s over $3.5 million bucks! Not bad! Grated, I didn’t factor in the cost of tuition, taxes, or opportunity costs, but it’s pretty clear to see that an advanced degree in nursing (or other healthcare professions) almost always pays off.
- Change Your Industry. Some industries just pay more than others do. You may make more money working for a large for-profit company as compared to a smaller not-for-profit company. One of the top paying industries for RNs within the healthcare sector (as of 2014) was specialty hospitals (state owned), which had an average salary of $77,660. One of the lowest paying industries within the healthcare sector was residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, with an average salary of $59,950. So sometimes it can pay to switch employers or work in different industries.
By the way, if you’re interested in working through a career ladder program or obtaining additional certifications (like I mentioned above), my advice would be to speak with your nurse manager or your employer’s HR department. They should be able to tell you whether they offer advancement or pay bonuses based on certifications, or if they offer a career ladder program for nurses. Many larger ones do, but some may not.
Conclusion: There are Ways to Grow Your Income
As a nurse, you work hard to meet patient’s needs. You break your back to save lives. You deserve to be paid well for your service to humanity. I hope the eight strategies I provided above help you boost your income over time. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your service as a nurse!