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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Gender & Salary in Nursing

Published April 1, 2015 9:12 AM by Guest Blogger

By Rose Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, CNL, FAAN

Research reported in March 24/31, 2015, issue of JAMA has opened a nationwide discussion about the pay inequality in nursing. The study findings indicate that male nurses make on average $5,100 more than their female colleagues. The data was drawn from National Nursing Samples conducted between 1988 and 2008 and American Community Surveys conducted between 2001 and 2013. The research team included two RNs - Dr. Ulrike Muenich from the University of California and Dr. Peter Buerhaus, a well-known workforce researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. While none of the surveys used were originally targeted to look at pay inequity, the researchers were able to control for demographic differences, job position, hours worked and a variety of other factors as they evaluated pay.

The salary gap existed in all specialties except orthopedics and all positions including management. The monetary differences ranged from a low of $3,792 in chronic care to a high of $17,290 in nurse anesthesia. The study has limitations in that only 7% of the total sample were men. No specific reasons for the inequalities were identified.  Nursing experts have speculated that men may be better salary negotiators, women may take lower paying positions with more flexibility to raise children, and some organizations may offer higher salaries to male nurses to diversify their workforce. This is the first study published on this topic and more research is clearly needed.

Although there may be missing pieces to the puzzle, the research findings provide compelling evidence that there are pay inequalities in nursing. This is a troubling trend in a predominantly female profession long believed to offer equal opportunity to both sexes. It has resulted in a call to action from leaders in professional nursing associations for Executive Nurse Leaders in organizations to review wage data by gender for employees in equal positions with comparable experience to identify any bias in pay. Likewise, female RNs seeking positions should do more due diligence in organizations to insure that there is pay equity for both sexes.

There is a sense of urgency to rectify this problem. With 3 million Baby Boomers turning 65 each year between 2014 and 2034, it is anticipated that Generation Y (born 1980-2000) will be 50% of the nursing workforce by 2020. Workforce shortages are anticipated across all specialties. Generation Y nurses look to work in healthy environments where there is leadership transparency and equity in how they are rewarded.  Their technological abilities and the availability of websites such as will enable them to more easily identify organizations where there are pay inequities between men and women. If they find inequality, they are more likely than any generational cohort that preceded them to leave an organization and seek other opportunities. 

Wise leaders will look at this research and take action now.

Rose O. Sherman is the Blake Distinguished Professor in Nursing and Director of the Nursing Leadership Institute in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University. She can be reached at


Muench, U., Sindelar, J., Busch, S.H. & Buerhaus, P.I. (2015).  Salary Differences between Male and Female Registered Nurses in the United States.  Journal of the American Medical Association. 313(12), 1265-1267.






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Quebec AE

I believe that male nurses are paid little bit more in some aspects of nursing jobs than female nurses and female nurses are paid the same as male nurses.  Male nurses are paid little bit more in the ER, surgery, and managed care clinic like an HMO.  Female nurses are paid a little bit more when it comes to labor and delivery and some surgery units.  I would do a google search on gender salary in nursing and see what comes up as well.  

Carly Moore, School - School Nurse, School November 3, 2016 10:02 AM
Vienna VA

At the rehab center where my mom is staying and will be discharged tomorrow, there are a lot of male nurses there; especially CNA's.  I am grateful that there are male CNA's at the rehab center because they do a lot of heavy lifting and they do a lot of care as well.  The RN's there are female and there is one LPN who is male.  So, males are becoming nurses more and more every day.  

Carly Moore, Nursing - School Nurse October 6, 2016 2:49 PM
Vienna VA

It is hard with the salary differences between a man and a woman, but it is even harder if you decide to move and you get less money for the job that you had in your previous state.  For example, I live in Virginia and most facilities pay CNA's between 13-15.00 dollars depending on the facility whereas the state of Wyoming would pay less for that same job.  So, it is hard to adjust the pay rate based on gender and location, but it is happening in the USA.  

Carly Moore, School - Nurse, School September 6, 2016 2:30 PM
Vienna VA

Thank you for having this forum posting.  It is important to discuss salary in the nursing profession.  In Virginia, a nurse makes good money here, but it depends on where you work.  Some places pay very well while others do not pay well.  It all depends on experience and what type of nurse you are; although CNA's can make great money here in Virginia and move up the ladder and gain more opportunities as well in their field.  

Carly Moore, Nursing - CNA, School July 17, 2016 4:52 PM
Vienna VA

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William Patterson, Registered Nursing - RN BSN CEO July 13, 2016 6:30 PM
Los Angles CA

Thank you so very much for your article.  It is very interesting and very true.  I do agree with what you are saying in the article.  Thank you for your research and for writing such an important aspect in nursing today.  Males and Females work together in the nursing profession as a cohesive group; therefore why should there be a change in their pay or a big gap in their pay.  Women have to work in order to support themselves.  I for one know what that is like.  I have to support myself.  Thank you for letting the public become aware of this matter.  I greatly appreciate it.  Purplespider, CNA

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Vienna VA

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David MC, RN June 17, 2015 6:32 AM
Texas TX

I have been in nursing for over 33 years and have been able to work in many roles. By starting in the hospitals (I have worked in every unit except OR itself), rehabilitation centers, doctor offices, in home care and university clinics in my area. The wages are all different depending on where you work. The nurses before me taught me to be willing to float where I was needed, first as a nurse.When I was burned out in one area I would move to another. Which is why I started working for an agency when I left the hospital after 15 years of working there.

Today I am paid well for my position but negotiations of pay are always a must for a nurse. Years ago I negotiated with a hospital to have my pay $2.00 less than the ICU nurses that have worked for the hospital for ten years. At the time I was a LPN and working on an step-down unit.

It is the responsibility of each nurse to research the facility that they are wishing to work for and to know prior what is the lowest wage that is acceptable for the individual nurse to work for. Knowledge and experience pays off in negotiations.

Phyllis, Rehab & Long Term Care - RN ADON, Bayside Rehabilitation and Healthcare April 25, 2015 11:41 AM
St. Petersburg FL

Don't believe everything you read, even if it comes cloaked in the shroud of "research"  The description of the study acknowledges that it wasn't targeted to look at pay inequity.  I practiced for 43 years; at different levels from staff nurse to manager to clinical instructor to Trauma Coordinator.  I was certified in Emerg Nsg, Critical Care, Nursing Admin and have a Masters in Psych...and challenge the comments about "laziness" and favoritizism.  I've seen my fair share of those qualities in all levels and both genders. It's sad to see some commenters painting Men in Nursing with generalizations    

I have not encountered a position where I negotiated my salary.

From my first day in Nursing School I've heard the arguments about physical differences and fetching better salaries because men are assertive or head of households, but I didn't see it play out in the work setting or salary.  I got help and gave help when it's needed; and am aware of differences in personality and professionality.  I worked with those I liked and those I disliked...but it boiled down to those with issues generally let it affect their work; which is being a nurse, a professional.  

Let's keep in mind this is a societal struggle; and it shouldn't be an opportunity to pit nurse against nurse.  If women aren't paid equitably it isn't a nurse/nurse gender's that nurses haven't been adequately compensated historically because it is predominently female.  Don't let this isolated study data be a spring board for in-fighting; we (men and women in nursing) need to keep pushing to being recognized financially for the value we bring to the health of humanity.    

Jon, retired - RN April 11, 2015 12:14 PM
Cortlandt Manor NY

Talk about discrepancies in pay, I went from hospital nursing to home health.  Not only was my salary cut by 60% but have no benefits now.  So with less money now pay my own health insurances premiums.  I understand that most of the clients are on public assistance but do I not deserve benefits like the government employees then.  Expected a decrease in salary when I changed but 35 years experience got me $0.25 more in salary.

Debora, pediatrics - rn, home health April 10, 2015 8:49 PM
wichita KS

I have been a nurse for over 35 years, and have never gotten paid what I think I'm worth, I had a family to raise and was a single parent, so I took the job.  When men first started coming into the nursing profession some 20 years ago, one of the things I knew was that eventually they would make more than females, but they would also drive the salaries of nurses up. New Nurses starting out today make on average 3x what a new nurse made when I started, and they biggest fight nurses had was with HR and management over salaries not today. I think most in part due to males entering the field. So we all have benefited.  

Deborah Anderson, Psychiatric Nurse - Team Leader April 10, 2015 9:50 AM
Washington DC

I have been an RN since the 1980s and was enthusiastic about the professional benefits of increased numbers of men entering the profession at the beginning of my career. I agree with the other commenters that some women treat their profession as "jobs" rather than careers; but I have not noticed that occurring more often than among male peers. I have seen that some female nurses accept or seem more comfortable with male leadership over women supervisors, regardless of leadership abilities. There are male nurses who just "get by" with less effort and professionalism than their female counterparts in both school and the workplace (usually in the name of gender diversity.)

dale, RN/MSN April 9, 2015 7:36 PM

I discovered that my contract pay for a federal position was 28 % less than my peers (same job, same location, etc). There are rules on the books regarding equal pay act, but how do you get action?

I have reported via DOL and no reply.

The contract companies involved simply retort that I wasn't suppose to know of differing salaries, BUT, an executive letter (Obama) was sent out in late winter 2014 that prohibited federal contract companies from disallowing employees to discuss salary and benefits.

How to get action?

Kate, Military Health - Adult Nurse Practitioner, anom April 9, 2015 1:12 PM
Southern Command AA

Any suggestions on how to be successful at due diligence? (Likewise, female RNs seeking positions should do more due diligence in organizations to insure that there is pay equity for both sexes.)

Melissa Redmond April 9, 2015 9:26 AM

I have been board verified in Occupational Health for over twenty years. In my facility I have found that they hire male RN's even with no Occ. Health background at a higher salary than me. Don't know if it's the facility/HR or just "the men get paid more" culture.

Lea, Occupational Health - RN, COHN-S, Steel Mill April 9, 2015 8:30 AM
Gary IN

The fact that someone is writing an article stating there is pay inequality between female and male nurses and the comment as long as nurses see "nursing as a job and not as a career" is indicative of what is wrong in nursing. Blaming nurses for what is wrong in nursing is a catch all defense and is meant to keep us inline and down.    

Judy Martin, ICU - RN, THR April 9, 2015 5:13 AM
Denton TX

Men have always been given a higher salary than women counterparts throughout my nursing career. Physicians address male nurses as an equal quite unlike how the way they treat female nurses..... I'm not sure why because the physician can be male or female....

Pat Freeman, CCU - RN April 8, 2015 7:25 PM
Tavares FL

I have been in pediatric nursing for over 27 years, and an APN for 22.  I graduated with my MSN from an Ivy league APN program with a 3.9 average, and after 10 years of clinical APN experience, as well as speaking roles, etc, I was hired in my latest position at a  leading institution with the same salary as a "new" APN grad with NO experience. She lasted 6 months, I have lasted 13 years.  I was told, "This is our salary package, take it or leave it."  As we both knew, there happened to be a shortage of APN positions, particularly "day" jobs, and pediatric positions.  Yes, I took the position.  It was a good decision.  As far as gender inequality, there are many facets.  In nursing, we do tend to "eat our young."  In our society, we as women, still have the bulk of the responsibility of caring for our children and aging parents.  Men simply have less "baggage" in this regard.  In this economy, it is ALWAYS hard to "walk away."  Our floor nurses/shift nurses are the ones serving in the trenches with the "stable benefits", the flexible hours, the ones that can add a shift here and there to compensate for lost pay in the family income.  Yes, nursing is a absolutely a profession. We must remember however, that many benefits are priceless benefits. We cannot always put a price tag on the "rewards" of being there for a child's recital, being home when your kids get off the bus, or taking your aging mom and dad to their specialist appointments.

Johanna, Pediatrics - APN April 8, 2015 5:55 PM
New Brunswick NJ

Needless to say,  in my current position I get a lower pay than the previous female manager. 6

Romano, management - MSN, private duty agency April 8, 2015 5:22 PM
Phoenix AZ

I have been nursing for over 24 years. In those times, I have worked side by side with many nurses. It seems the men were much lazier than the females and took advantage of working in areas with less physical areas which of course, were ICUs and higher nurse/patient rations.  In that, they also have more physical strength than women and are sought out for lifting help.  Most DID get involved with politics especially if it affected them, individually.  Men are also opting to seek higher paying positions in nursing.  There is a good ole boy club problem that we all deal with, starting with administration.

Maryellen Race, Insurance - RN Casemanager, Humana April 8, 2015 5:10 PM
Punta Gorda FL

No r also given hiring preference,esp in psych and critical care....they r viewed as extra security and as more mentally able to handle stress and available for more they don't get evolved in politics or cat fights...they stabilize a unit in many ways....once again women r their own worst r more proactive....women passive aggressively cause problems instead of demanding solutions

Gail Psych nurse , Psych - Rn April 8, 2015 4:08 PM
Raleigh NC

I think the author actually answered the reasons.  1.  Men are better salary negotiators and are willing to walk away from a job offer they feel does not meet their expectations. 2. women do take lower paying positions with more flexibility to raise children.   Men also will take flexibility vs pay in their negotiations, but if it is one of those 50 to 70 hour week management position where they are having to give up family time, ,men expect to be compensated for it, or they want stay.  As a male nurse of 30 plus years, with most of it in management, nurses who are willing to provide to the job or position what it fully requires and are willing to walk away from an offer do as well as men.  I've actually had husbands call me to negotiate for their nurse wife.  This article has so many more variables that should be discussed, especially the 7% men sample, before they make a blanket statement about pay inequalities in nursing.  Far to many nurses view their jobs as second incomes, and are content with that.  They have to approach their profession as a profession, a life's career.  They will not be compensated as a professional if they view nursing as only a job.  

Troy, Surgery - Director, St. Vincent's April 8, 2015 12:14 PM
Jacksonville FL

I am older nurse with a very long career.  I have always been aware of favoritism give to male nurses in many ways besides salary.  They advance faster because many of the female nurses promote them. .often flirting with them .  more so if they are single! I have found they do not work any harder  and are talked to differently by physicians like they  are buddies.

Ida Goldstein, endo - bsn, smh April 8, 2015 11:55 AM
sarasota FL

Unfortunately, the pay inequalities in nursing continue to persist irregardless of gender differences. My spouse entered the accounting field after I was a registered nurse and makes three times my salary as a nurse. We both have our bachelors.

Barb, Quality - PI Dept April 8, 2015 11:07 AM
Lancaster PA

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