The demand for nurses soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research from the University of St. Augustine Health Sciences showed a major shortage in nurses nationwide. As hospitals overflowed with COVID-19 cases, health care workers in general became harder to find. Moreover, the stress of the pandemic caused a some nurses to leave the profession or retire.
One byproduct of the shortage is that nurse compensation rose rapidly. According to a The Wall Street Journal published on November 22 last year, “Nurses are winning raises worth thousands of dollars a year from hospitals, the latest employer reckoning with a tight labor market.”
Nurse salaries vary considerably from state to state. Simply Nursing’s recent Where It Pays to Be a Nurse study pointed out that there are about 3 million nurses in the United States, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, not all of those nurses are active.
Nurse compensation has risen rapidly over the past several years. Nationwide, the figure was $56,400 a year in 2010. In 2021, the number was $71,900. The study’s authors pointed out that this pace was slightly better than the increases in the consumer price index.
Another factor the study took into account is cost of living by state, compared to nurse compensation on the same basis. The authors pointed out, “A six-figure job sounds great on paper, but if that pay doesn’t take into account the state’s cost of living, it could end up translating to a lot less money in your pocket after expenses.”
The state with the highest nurse compensation was California at $120,600. Based on an adjustment for cost of living, it was also high at $86,900. Nurses in Hawaii made a healthy $104,800. However, the state has the highest cost of living among all states. The means on a cost of living adjusted basis, nurses in Hawaii were the lowest paid among all states at $55,100.
The nursing industry is not novel when compensation is adjusted by cost of living. It is rare in any job or field for pay to be entirely adjusted so income matches expenses. The nurse data shows just how much this is true.
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