How Much Does A Nurse Make Per Hour and Per Year?

How much does a nurse make?  I suppose there are a lot of variables.  Sinus Arrhythmia  answered some questions you may never think to ask.  I found the post interesting, considering my wife is a nurse.  She has about 15 years experience in nursing, about half that after receiving her bachelor's degree.  I can tell you some of the stuff I've seen her hospital pull on nurses is simply disrespectful.  And I know it's not a single hospital phenomenon.  It's the culture of the economics.

For example, how many other four year college degree tracts do you know where you can earn a state license for your  your expertise and then show up to work, only to get sent home for $2 an hour of call pay. Hospitals forcing you off when it's slow to save a buck, and force you in when the revenue is flowing like a raging river.  It's a one way street of respect.  I've seen my wife get called off just one hour before her shift, time and time again. I would never stand for that kind of lack of stability in my job.  If I am hired to work full time, I expect to work full time.

I talked to a nurse a while back that jumped ship to go into VA nursing.  She said she couldn't afford to be a nurse at any other facility.  You see, at the VA, they apparently can't call you off for low patient census.  That's the way the government functions.  You just do less work if it's slow.  At community hospital USA, if there aren't patients, you don't get paid.  You go home.  For $2 an hour.  

Does that happen at the engineering firm?  The architect firm?  If no students showed up to your lecture, do you get sent home professor?  These are college graduates who should demand a stable pay structure. They put their time in. Some hospitals are perpetually overstaffed.  Some are perpetually understaffed.  I have  seen that even within the same hospital amongst different floors and specialties.

In a field with a looming shortage of 500,000 nurses by 2025, we have ourselves a major catastrophe  on the horizon.  That's 10,000 nurses per state.  That's scary.  Nurses run hospitals.  They are with the patients all day long.  They are their advocate against badness. If you don't pay them what they are worth, they will go else where to make a living, just like every other American.

So how much do nurses earn every year?  I don't think that's a question that can be answered.  If they leave their job, the answer is not enough.  Nursing jobs, tracks and careers have so many variables.   Nurses are employed by hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, retail centers, VA systems, urgent care centers, schools, cruise ships, military bases and many other places.  Years of nursing experience will certainly play a big role in how much an RN will earn per hour.  Geographical considerations are huge too.  Nurses in California, New York  and other areas with higher costs of living will likely earn more than their colleagues in Florida, Texas or Arizona.  In addition, penetration of managed care and other insurance market variables will certainly determine labor cost variables too for nursing staff.

Many websites on the internet give data with nursing salaries and ranges from $20 an hour to $100 an hour or more for traveling nurses with no benefits and a gazillion hours of overtime.  The Bureau of Labor and Statistics report from 2010 says the median annual pay for nurses was $64,690 per year with a wage of $31.10 per hour, which I'm sure doesn't include getting called off for $2 an hour.  Median is defined as half the workers earning more than that figure and half earning less.   Does this make you wonder if you're earning what your colleagues around the country are earning?

So, if you're a nurse, and you get called off just hours before your shift and you don't have enough money to pay your gas bill because there aren't enough paying customers in your hospital, you can be rest assured your hospital desk jockeys are calling themselves off, without pay, in solidarity. Said no administrator ever.  These original Happy Hospitalist crude medical humor e-cards help explain:

"In support of reduced nursing hours during low census, I decided to call myself off without pay. -- said no administrator ever."

Administrators reduced pay for low census ecard humor photo Medical Humor Store Banner

"Stay in school.  Work hard.  Get good grades.  And someday, you too, can get sent home for $2 an hour call pay."

Stay in school for $2 an hour nurse call pay ecard humor photo Medical Humor Store Banner

"I'll happily take my $1 an hour on call pay over your stable 9-5 government job any day. --- said no nurse ever."

I'll happily take my $1 an hour on call pay over your stable 9-5 government job any day said no nurse ever ecard humor photo

"What's the difference between nurse's hours and banker's hours?  The hours."
What's the difference between nurse's hours and banker's hours?  The hours ecard nursing humor photo

Some of this post is for entertainment purposes only and likely contains humor only understood by those in a healthcare profession. Read at your own risk.

Print Friendly and PDF

7 Outbursts:

  1. And the wages depend on where you work.....I took and $8.00 an hour cut in pay when I left the hospital to work in a long term care facility....What the heck is that all about????? Do they think the work isn't as hard? Isn't as impotant?

  2. Do you ever see a patient admitted to a hospital that doesn't need nursing care? Doesn't that need constitute the need for admission? Until nursing salaries are not included in "room & board" there will be a shortage of nurses.

  3. Yep, yep, yep. Actually the low work call-offs don't bother me as much as the expectation that I should be sitting around, at their beck and call, just waiting for them to let me know I should come in now, right away. I'm not their indentured servant and I am not going to wait around, twiddling my thumbs, so they can call me back. I've also been called "girl" by a supervisor - yes, I quit that job - as well told that any spare time I had I was expected to clean. I don't think that I'm too good to clean something that is dirty but I will not wipe down already immaculate bedrails just to impress some suit that might happen to walk by.

    For anyone who is interested, I'll tell you what I'm paid. But let me tell you my starting grad nurse salary first. $12.01 an hour. This was in 1991, in Wichita, Kansas. In 1997 I was making all of $15.50 an hour. Now I live in Austin, Texas and I make $34 an hour HOWEVER that is working for a staffing agency, where I get no benefits except for a 401k. When I moved here in 2 1/2 years ago I was making $27 an hour as a PRN nurse, also without benefits. I really don't care. I'll pay for my own health insurance as long as I don't have to beg someone to please let me off a few days at Christmas. Right now I tell them when and where I want to work, and to me that's worth any amount of money.

  4. My heart goes out to nurses. They do the work of angels. They should definitely have a stable pay schedule and a steady work schedule. I suggest though that they are not the only licensed professionals with bachelor's degrees who are not treated as professionals. Teachers, for example, have similar circumstances. Teachers all have bachelor's degrees, many have masters degrees, and their hourly wage in most cases is quite a bit less than that of a nurse. Teachers have very little say about their own schedules and do not get paid for extra work, essential though it may be. The teaching profession is facing a similar need vs demand shortage. We don't live in a fair world- not everyone is compensated according to their education level, skill level, etc.

  5. "For example, how many other four year college degree tracts do you know where you can earn a state license for your your expertise and then show up to work, only to get sent home for $2 an hour of call pay."

    My wife's isn't nearly as bad. If she gets called in when they're short (it's optional, for one), she gets $40 off the bat. If she gets sent home or has her shift canceled, which almost never happens, she can call in PTO (of which she gets a lot).

    She tried some agency nursing and got jerked around a lot, but she works at a big hospital and has no problems with this.

  6. Call pay.

    Yup, didn't include that in my rant. All true.

    Thanks for the link.

  7. Thanks Happy!

    I am just finishing up Nursing Grad School, and what you say is sooo true. I just wonder why we as nurses who advocate for our pt's all the time cannot advocate better for ourselves?



By Posting Here I Promise To Do Something Nice For Someone Today