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Do salary surveys matter?

By: Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FAAN

Let your data point shine.

Your Participation in surveys is important. Each of us is a “data point” in our nursing universe, so sharing our individual data can help all of us better understand what we represent collectively in that universe.

Research shows that hospitals with better nurse staffing and work environments have better outcomes. For you, that means less burnout, more job satisfaction, and less desire to quit your job. But how does your salary fit in? Researchers are trying to understand how salary, work environment, and staffing levels work together to influence nurse-related outcomes.

The link between salary and outcomes

lillee gelinas characteristics nursing excellenceRecent data show salary is associated with job dissatisfaction and intent to leave, but has little influence on nurse burnout. These results also reinforce other study conclusions, including:

  • Work environment and average patient-to-nurse ratios heavily influence nurse-related outcomes.
  • Salary levels are important in producing good nurse outcomes, but higher salaries don’t lower the more significant influence  of work environment and staffing ratios on nursing outcomes.

We know that salary is a significant factor when looking for a job and that it’s especially important to keeping nurses in a current position. Increasing salaries to address nurse recruitment and retention challenges is a visible and tangible short-term solution, but it’s not the primary driving force in retention efforts. Other job characteristics, such as the work environment and staffing ratios are equally or more important when deciding to remain with an organization, regardless of salary levels.

The American Nurse Today 2017 Nursing Trends and Salary Survey results appear consistent with many of the findings from previous research studies. Our data show that salary is an important part of the overall equation, but they also support the point that it takes more than good pay to attract nurses into hospital employment and keep them there.

Surveys matter to you

The next time you have a chance to participate in a nursing salary survey, remember that more data points create a clearer picture of our professional lives. Equally important, understanding the results of surveys helps us better appreciate and manage our nursing environments, and ultimately patient care. In other words, yes, salary surveys matter.


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Lillee Gelinas, MSN, RN, CPPS, FAAN

View Part 1 of the American Nurse Today 2017 Nursing Trends and Salary Survey at myamericannurse.com/2017-nursing-trends-salarysurvey-results/.

Selected references

Aiken LH, Cimiotti JP, Sloane DM, Smith HL, Flynn L, Neff DF. Effects of nurse staffing and nurse education on patient deaths in hospitals with different nurse work environments. Med Care. 2011;49(12):1047-53.

Kovner CT, Brewer CS, Greene W, Fairchild S. Understanding new registered nurses’ intent to stay at their jobs. Nurs Econ. 2009;27(2):81-98.

May JH, Bazzoli GJ, Gerland AM. Hospitals’ responses to nurse staffing shortages. Health Aff. 2006;25(4):w316-23.

Needleman J, Hassmiller S. The role of nurses in improving hospital quality and efficiency: Real-world results. Health Aff. 2009;28(4):w625-33.

Spetz J, Given R. The future of the nurse shortage: Will wage increases close the gap? Health Aff. 2003;22(6):199-206.


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