The average annual salary for registered nurses, not including bonus pay such as overtime, increased about 4% this year to $81,376.
HCA Healthcare Inc., one of the nation’s largest hospital chains, has increased nurse pay in order to deal with impossibly high Covid-19 pandemic caseloads and keep pace with rivals that are also trying to fill vacancies and hold on to existing staff, the company’s human resources chief said.
Competition for nursing talent is heating up. Hospitals say that they are working on raises in order to match the offers of rivals. Desperate for nurses this month, a small Missouri hospital raised nurse salaries by up to 5% after hospitals nearly 40 miles away boosted wages.
The average annual salary for registered nurses, bonus pay such as overtime not included, increased about 4% in the first nine months of the year to $81,376, according to healthcare consultants Premier Inc.
The U.S Department of Labor reports a 3.3% increase in average annual nurse wages from 2020 until the pandemic, as opposed to previous growth rates which have been 2.6%.
The need for nurses has risen so high that many have been able to make even better livings by leaving hospital payrolls and working as travel nurses instead, which means bouncing between temporary jobs seeking emergency staffing.
As new Covid-19 cases plague hospitals nationwide, rapid job turnover and long staffing gaps persist due to high turnover rates coupled with chronic shortages of qualified candidates and many patients who had postponed care for other conditions seeking treatment.
“We are employing more nurses now than we ever have, and we also have more vacancies than we ever had,” said Greg Till, chief people officer at Renton, Wash.-based Providence health system, which operates 52 hospitals across seven states largely in the Western U.S.
Nurse turnover rates have increased to 22% this year, compared with an annual rate of 18% in 2019 says Premier.
Higher labor costs threaten to crimp already tight margins for many hospitals. Others may curb services to tighten expenses, or seek higher prices from health insurers in order to help cover the additional labor costs.
Nurses, meanwhile, have been able to take advantage of their increased clout in the industry. Some have secured more flexible work schedules, according to recruiters, nurses, and hospital executives.