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What Determines Nursing Salaries

Sep 8, 2008
In today's economy with declining employment in many fields that require degrees, the profession of nursing is as solid as it ever was. People with prior degrees are looking to enter the nursing profession. The salary of a nurse varies greatly. There is really no base salary but a fluctuation across the board. The reasoning for this is a varied as the salaries in nursing.

The base pay of a nurse is determined by many different factors. The first of these factors are the years of experience that the nurse brings to the table. A GN or graduate degreed nurse will start out at the lowest salary of nurse pay. They will remain at this level until they pass their board exam or NCLEX. Upon passing their boards they will receive a small increase in pay anywhere from $2.50 per hour to $5.00 per hour. The most important factor in this scenario is to keep in mind that if the graduate nurse does not successfully pass the board exam the hospital can terminate their employment or extend to them a grace period in which they have the opportunity to pass the boards a second time. In the past years, it was not unusual for a graduate nurse to stay on as a hospital employee for years before finally passing or taking their boards.

This practice is no longer widely accepted. Also the graduate nurse is not allowed to pass any medications until they have their licensure. The question remains, what is the typical base salary for a graduate nurse. It is safe to say that the salary ranges in the low to mid forty thousand dollars per year. This discrepancy of several thousand dollars has much to do with the location of the hospital. For instance, in rural communities where much of the hospital funding comes from the government, the pay rate may be higher or lower than a privately funded institution.

The mitigating factor is how successful the grant writers are at tapping into government funds, and how much private endowment monies are bestowed to the hospital. Even with these two factors in place comes the process of dissemination of the funds. This is dependent on how the board of directors see fit to use the funds. These funds could be put to the construction of a new hospital wing, or to the purchase of new diagnostic equipment.

Whether or not the nurses are unionized is also another factor in entry level nurse pay. Unions can either work for or against nursing wages. Sometimes non-unionized hospitals pay more.

Shift premiums are also a factor. The top shift premium is paid for the midnight shift. Midnight shift premiums range anywhere from $2.50 per hour to $4.50 per hour. Since most shifts in hospitals are now twelve hour shifts, midnights start around 7:30 p.m. and end around 7:30 a.m.. These are attractive hours for many nurses since they get four days off during a week and are still considered full time at thirty six hours per week. Health benefits including dental and optical are included in the total package and begin anywhere from one week after hire up to ninety days.

The area of the hospital that the nurse will work in is also a factor in pay. For instance those nurses that are trained for specialty care areas such as intensive care units (I.C.U.), the operating room, recovery room, or in the cardiac care facility will get paid an extra premium upon completion of their training in the hospital.

Different areas of the United States have been known to differ in nurse pay scales according to the cost of living and population densities.

In the final analysis, the following factors are involved in determining the salary of an entry level nurse; a) their years of experience in patient care, b) the shift they will be working, c) the hospitals location, either rural or metropolitan, d) whether or not the nurses are unionized, e) the population density and per-capita income of the residents in the hospitals region, f) the area of specialty the nurse will work in, such as I.C.U., C.C.U, etc., g) successful completion of licensing boards. h) whether or not to accept a benefit package or keep extra dollars per hour and opt not to take the benefit package, i) whether the hospital is government or privately funded.

Learn more about nursing education at The Nursing Entrance Test Study Guide.
About the Author
Pass the Nursing Entrance Test the first time with our guide at Nurses Learning Center. Written by a Professor of Education for nurses, the guide has over 600 pages with details answers to every question.
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