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Study may cause employers to ensure nurse pay equity, authors say

March 27, 2015
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Employers of nurses have another reason to look at their pay structures to ensure that they don’t contain inequities, say the authors of a new study that found that male registered nurses (RNs) outearn female RNs across settings, specialties and positions in the United States.

The analysis of 1998-to-2013 salary trends was published in the March 24/31 issue of JAMA. The pay gap did not narrow over time, the authors found.

“Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, the male-female salary gap has narrowed in many occupations. Yet pay inequality persists for certain occupations, including medicine and nursing,” according to background information in the article. Studies have documented higher salaries for male registered nurses, according to the authors, although they said that analyses have not considered employment factors that could explain salary differences and have not been based on recent data.

Ulrike Muench, PhD, RN, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues used data from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses and the American Community Survey. Both surveys showed that male RN salaries were higher than female RN salaries during every year. No significant changes in female versus male salary were found over time. The analysis estimated an overall adjusted earnings difference of $5,148.

The salary gap was $7,678 for ambulatory care and $3,873 for hospital settings. The gap existed in all specialties except orthopedics, ranging from $3,792 for chronic care to $6,034 for cardiology. Salary differences also existed by position (such as for middle management, nurse anesthetists).

“The roles of RNs are expanding with implementation of the Affordable Care Act and emphasis on team-based care delivery. A salary gap by gender is especially important in nursing because this profession is the largest in health care and is predominantly female, affecting approximately 2.5 million women. These results may motivate nurse employers, including physicians, to examine their pay structures and act to eliminate inequities,” the authors write.

Organizations that discover gender differences in pay “should examine whether there are legitimate reasons for paying these men more than women and take action to correct existing inequities,” Muench said in a statement. “By increasing transparency of gender differences in compensation, the hiring climate may become more conducive for female nurses to negotiate with their employer for wage parity, which also may help in the closing of the gap.”

Infographic: Nursing Pay Gap: Men Earn Far More Than Women | Statista
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