Disaster Response Nurse Salary

Disaster response nursing encompasses performing crucial tasks during emergency situations such as earthquakes, floods, other natural disasters, mass shootings, pandemics, humanitarian crises, and other emergency situations, whether natural, a result of climate change, or human-made.

While many disaster response nurses believe their profession is a calling—often taking risks to travel to danger zones, such as supporting with earthquake or tornado responses or during outbreaks such as Ebola—this career, like all others, needs to compensate you adequately given your expenses and the risks you’re taking on to fulfill this essential role. That said, as with all nursing specialties, disaster response nursing has its rewards and challenges

If you’re considering a career as a disaster response nurse, you may be wondering, “How much does a disaster response nurse make?” It’s important to understand the various factors which can impact your salary. In this blog post, we’ll share these factors, as well as average salaries, so you can determine if this is the right nursing specialty for you. 

Factors Impacting Disaster Response Nurse Salaries

Please be advised that the figures mentioned in this blog post are general figures. The actual salary you can earn as a disaster response nurse can vary greatly and is subject to a wide range of factors, such as the following:

  • Your location 
  • Your employer (hospital, medical center, government, community non-profit organization, international medical relief organization)
  • Your contract (whether you’re a salaried, full-time employee or a short-term contracted disaster response nurse being deployed for a specific emergency)

How Much Do Disaster Response Nurses Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary for a registered nurse (RN) is $77,600 per year. This amounts to an approximate salary of $6,466 per month, $1,492 per week, or $37.31 per hour. 

However, the salary range for RNs is broad, with data showing that the highest earners make approximately $120,250 per year, and the lowest earners make less than half of that at $59,450 per year. 

For disaster response nurses in particular, pay will vary based on their employer. Some disaster response nurses work in community health centers, hospitals, or government agencies to help prepare community members for disasters and other emergency situations. Generally, registered nurses who work for the government receive the highest pay, earning an average salary of $85,970, while nursing counterparts in hospitals ($78,070), ambulatory healthcare services ($76,700), nursing and residential care facilities (72,420), and educational services ($61,780) all earn less. 

While the salaries of these disaster response nurses working within the US will be in line with national averages, many disaster response nurses choose to work with international organizations in disaster response settings. These opportunities are either completely voluntary, voluntary with expenses paid, or are paid contract positions with expenses paid as well. It is important to note, however, that international organizations operating outside of the US may offer a disaster response nurse a salary that is less than the minimum wage in the US but will likely cover in-country expenses such as accommodations, transport, or meals. 

International Disaster Response Nurse Salaries

If you’re looking to work abroad as a disaster response nurse, responding to international health emergencies, your compensation will vary greatly depending on which organization you choose to travel with. 

Some nurses who work full-time in the US decide to put their nursing skills to use during international emergencies, such as by responding to Ebola outbreaks or supporting relief efforts following the February 6 devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Some nurses take unpaid leave from their salaried jobs in the US or prefer to take on these missions when between contracts, as they may be in unpaid positions. 

In other instances, disaster response nurses working internationally with organizations such as American Red Cross International Services or Doctors Without Borders (also known as Medecins Sans Frontiers, or MSF) are paid. According to Doctors Without Borders, the starting gross monthly salary is $2,209. 

“Americans working in the field with MSF receive a US letter of agreement in which all required taxes and contributions are deducted,” the organization states. This starting salary is adjusted based on expertise and experience, and all employees receive a salary increase after twelve months in the field. In addition, Doctors Without Borders offers benefits, including paid vacation (twenty-five days per year), a 401k retirement plan, life insurance, and a comprehensive leave package which may include paid parental leave, medical insurance, and psychosocial care before, during, and after field assignments. 

A Career in Disaster Response Nursing

Disaster response nurses play a vital role in preparation for and response to various types of disasters. They are involved in creating disaster mitigation plans, assisting communities in overcoming traumatic events, and performing other important duties that are crucial in helping people manage challenging situations.

If you want to learn more about disaster response nursing, take a look at Nursa's ultimate guide on disaster response nursing. Our guides are designed to provide helpful information to assist you in determining which nursing specialty best aligns with your career goals. This ultimate guide should be your go-to resource to answer questions such as the following: What is the role of a disaster response nurse, and what does a disaster response nurse do? How can I become a disaster response nurse, and how long does it take? Why should I choose disaster response nursing? And what makes a good disaster response nurse? 

Whether you’re a new nurse or an experienced professional looking to transition into a new specialty, our guides to nursing specialties will support you in making the best decision for your needs and goals.

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