Issues of Nurse Salaries

Kevin Ross of Innovative Nurse and Brittany Wilson of The Nerdy Nurse recently began discussing the issues of Nurse Salaries. Salary and wages are always a hot subject, no matter what field you work in.  Both Kevin and Brittany brought up some great points/issues.  Check them out…..

Raising the Salary for Nurses Across the Board via The Nerdy Nurse
Compensation for nurses; Hourly Wages vs Salaried via The Nerdy Nurse
Kevin Ross of Innovative Nurse via YouTube

travel nurse salariesReading through the articles (and watching the video) I began to think about the wage issues within the Travel Nursing industry.  These observations are coming from my own personal experiences and may vary from Travel Nurse to travel nurse or even company to company…but here is what stood out to me when I began thinking about travel nurse wages: 


Travel Expenses

I began travel nursing in 2004.  When I began travel nursing, I was given aprox $250 for travel allowances…today, nearly 9 years later….we (travel nurses) are still given aprox $250 for travel.  This is a HUGE cut in reimbursements when you take into consideration the changes in gas prices over these past 9 years.

2004 Retail Gasoline Price
Source: Energy Information Administration
2013 Retail Gasoline Price (Avg.)
Source: AAA


Let’s look at these gas prices in relationship to an example contract.  Let’s assume that you are traveling from Chicago to a contract location in San Francisco, CA.  The approximate mileage for this trip is 2,130 miles.  I would guess that an average vehicle gets about 30 miles/gallon (approximate).  This would mean that you would average about 71 gallons of gas for this example.

2004:  71 x $1.85 = $131.35
2013:  71 x $3.30=  $234.30

Based on these numbers, you can see that in 2004; the reimbursement amounts were enough to cover not only gas but enough left over to cover wear and tear on your vehicle as well. Current prices barely cover the gas expenses and there is no room/money left over for wear/tear.  This amount doesn’t even begin to cover the cost for overnight stays during travel, but that’s a totally different subject all together.

Granted, we (travel nurses) can take the un-reimbursed portion and claim it as a deduction on our taxes, but the fact of the matter is that the money is ‘out of pocket’ initially and the tax deduction is not a dollar for dollar return.  If you take this same trip and utilize the current GSA mileage rate of $0.565 this same trip would net a government worker $1203 in a tax-free mileage reimbursement check!!  Talk about HUGE differences….

Travel Nurse Wages:

In 2004 the average assignment was paying (my experience) around $27 – $32/hr (taxable).  These same positions in 2013 are paying approximately the same.  There has been little to no increase in travel nurse hourly rates over the past 9 years.  I know that many staff nurses have experienced these same issues of stagnant wages.  Many hospitals have put ‘wage freezes’ on their staff members.  Those that are offering an annual ‘cost of living’ wage adjustment offer a bit of an improvement but still fall well below the standard wage increases when you look at nursing in comparison to other career fields.

I often have friends in other fields of employment offer comments to me about how ‘at least I’m not responsible for people’s lives’ when we are discussing work issues.  One would think that the level of responsibility would offer a slightly better compensation than say….a factory worker?  Not that these jobs are not important as well; they are! It’s just the level of responsibility is so much different. I know of many factory workers that are making much more hourly than any of the nurses I know.

Discussion of ‘Salary’ for Nurses

In his video, Kevin discussed the benefits of changing nurses to a salary position instead of hourly employees.  Here are my thoughts on the points brought up.

Clocking in/out:  This could be a very important issue due to legal issues; more specifically court cases.  If a nurse did not clock in/out how would the court determine if a nurse was actually on shift during an ‘incident’?

Cutting/canceling shifts: Most travel nurse contracts have a ‘guaranteed hours’ clause.  If your’s doesn’t you should consider requiring it on your next contract.  Getting cut from a shift can be a huge personal financial issue as many nurse depend on a minimum amount of expected pay…no work = no pay.

Shift diff, overtime, etc.: Travel nurses do not typically receive shift differential so this is a mute point.  As for overtime, as travel nurses we generally will contract for an overtime rate as well as when the overtime would go into effect.  I’m not sure how a salary system would work in this instance.

Increase salaries across the board: Kevin recommends a significant increase in salaries across the board in nursing.  I would agree with Kevin’s thoughts on retention.  I would also agree that a higher wage would result in better retention and less money spent on training/orientation.  Nurses feeling invested in a facility can help not just retention but also performance and attitudes.  This could be an overall ‘win-win’ for both facilities as well as nurses.

In one of the above posts, Kevin comments:

[quote author="- Kevin Ross ("]If nurses continue to standby idle, there will be very little done about it. WE should be making these decisions about adequate pay and working conditions. Hospitals can keep their branded lunch bags, chapstick, and water bottles. Pay me like the professional I am.[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly!   What are your thoughts?


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As a travel nursing educator, Candy aka Gypsy Nurse, RN has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years, working up the ranks from CNA to LPN to RN. For the past nine years, she’s worked as a travel nurse, allowing her to practice and live in 15 states throughout the U.S. She regularly shares advice for those interested in travel nurse jobs on her website at:

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