Nurse Salaries Rising - Gender Gap Widening

female nurse excited wearing pink
Written by
Miranda Kay, RN
January 5, 2023

Yes, it's true. Nurse salaries as a whole are rising, which includes not only registered nurse (RN) salaries but licensed practical nurse (LPN) salaries as well. While we can certainly point to logical economic factors of inflation and rising costs of living, years of experience, and increased training and education, which are all analytical indicators to justify salary increases, it is widely believed that the rise can be directly attributed to the fundamental law of supply and demand.

Nurse Supply and Demand 

The healthcare industry has long known, been warned, and warned of a nursing shortage. Before the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) was gearing up for its 2020 campaign to spotlight nurses, reporting that 9 million nurses and midwives were needed worldwide. Enter COVID-19, and the already alarming demand for nurses reached a crescendo.

To put that number in perspective, we look to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for national data. According to the BLS occupational outlook for registered nurses in 2021, the number of jobs for RNs was over 3 million and is anticipated to grow by almost 200,000 by 2031.

Furthermore, nursejournal.org organized nurse employment data by state to assess the number of nurses per 1,000 people and found that many states have fewer than ten nurses per 1,000. Only one state had more than 16.1 nurses per 1,000, and four had 12-16 nurses per 1,000.

As a result of the nursing shortage, healthcare systems, hospitals, and facilities of all types are competing for nurses to fill their vacancies. Add in the increase of nurses leaving their staff jobs and turning to travel nursing jobs and per diem (PRN) freelance, so the demand is high, and the supply of nurses can't meet it. This creates the perfect storm for nurses as employers are increasingly motivated to attract and retain nurses, and we're seeing that motivation play out in wages.

How Much Do Nurses Make?

According to data published by the BLS, the average RN salary in 2021 was $82,750 per year or $39.78 hourly. Those figures level out the highs and lows present across the United States. For example, the lowest ten percent of RNs earned $28.58 per hour ($59,450 for the year), whereas the highest ten percent averaged $57.81 per hour ($120,250 for the year).

The average LPN salary in 2021 was $51,850 per year or $24.93 hourly, while the highest ten percent averaged $30.67 per hour ($63,790 for the year), the lowest ten percent averaged $17.86 per hour ($37,150), showing a significant variance.

Gender Gap Pay Disparities

According to the Nurse Salary Research Report 2022, the survey conducted by Relias and Brandware found that 25% of responses indicated a salary increase. Of the respondents who identified as travel nurses, higher pay was cited as the primary motivator. Another key finding from the report was that the gender pay gap has widened among nurses. They noted that the median salary for male nurses was $14,000 higher than that of female nurses, almost double the figure in their previous year's report.

Only 18% of responding nurses stated they always negotiate salary; by contrast, 30% said they never negotiate salary. Reportedly, "female RNs were less likely to negotiate salary either always or most of the time (31%) compared to male RNs (40%)".

With the current supply and demand dynamic in the nursing industry, nurses who have hesitated to negotiate salary should reconsider because the current marketplace is decidedly in their favor.

Nurses Work PRN to Earn Fair Compensation and Other Benefits

Alongside the pandemic, we saw the rise of the gig economy. Now more than ever, nurses are looking for more than fair compensation. They want flexibility and are more willing to change their work settings. Working per diem shifts (PRN) is a perfect balance of both. PRN is the medical abbreviation for on-demand or as-needed. Nurses who work PRN shifts often earn a higher hourly wage and enjoy flexibility rarely experienced in a staff position.

PRN shifts can be a second job to augment your regular income. By working PRN shifts, you choose when to work and where. Apply only for the PRN shifts that fit within your schedule, which means no more missing important life events for your loved ones. Alternatively, you can work PRN shifts as your full-time job.

How to Find PRN Shifts Near You?

Nursa, the healthcare staffing smartphone app, is free for clinicians to download and gives you access to PRN shifts wherever you are. Find PRN shifts at hospitals and healthcare facilities near you or in surrounding cities with Nursa. Nursa pays for completed shifts twice weekly, so once you start picking up shifts, you'll have your wages without a long payroll cycle lag. Get started today by following these simple steps.

  • Download Nursa.
  • Register an account.
  • Create your professional profile.
  • Verify your nursing license.
  • Set your search parameters. (How far do you want to go?)
  • Browse available PRN shifts.
  • Apply for the PRN shifts that check your boxes.
Blog published on:
January 5, 2023

Miranda is a Registered Nurse, Medical Fact Checker, and Publishing Editor at Nursa. Her work has been featured in publications including the American Nurses Association (ANA), Healthcare IT Outcomes, International Living, and more.

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