4 tips for nurses negotiating salary

Although nurses rank salary as the top factor in job satisfaction, 31 percent of them don't negotiate their pay when starting new positions, according to Nurse.com's Nursing Salary Research Report.

To address this issue, Nurse.com talked with two nurse recruiters, who shared advice on how and when RNs can negotiate salary.

Four tips from the recruiters:

1. Ask recruiters about pay structures. Since most employers pay nurses based on experience, taking certifications and higher degrees into account, it's not a matter of negotiation, but understanding a set tiered pay structure, said Jessica Quezada Jackson, a talent acquisition recruiter for a health system and National Association for Health Care Recruitment board member.

One of the most critical things nurses can do to ensure they're leveraging their experience and education is to understand a potential employer's pay structure, enabling them to negotiate where possible, Ms. Jackson, said. "Nurses can get that information through their recruiters," she said. "A lot of recruiters are in-house, and they'll be able to tell you what you're going to make based on your background."

2. Understand new graduate nurse pay. New RNs typically have no opportunities to negotiate, Theresa Mazzaro, RN, senior talent acquisition specialist at Bethesda, Md.-based Suburban Hospital, told Nurse.com.

Several factors affect a new nurse's salary, including credit for previous licensed practical nurse experience and education level. But new nurses can still find ways to earn higher pay. A new graduate nurse, for example, could earn a differential for working the night shift.

3. Harness experienced nurses' negotiating power. Experienced nurses should share details of their previous experience and the value they bring to a new role, Ms. Mazzaro said.

"From a negotiation standpoint, it would behoove the nurses to be able to tell their stories about the experiences of jobs they've had and what they've done," she said. "Because if we're looking at just a resume and that's the only snapshot we have when we're calculating a salary, we might not have the whole picture."

4. Prepare for having a higher salary in the future. To increase their salary potential, nurses can become certified in their specialties.

"Getting that certification shows and proves via an evaluation and exam that you are competent and certified as a specialty nurse," Ms. Mazzaro said. These certifications can help secure an increase in pay at a current job or a higher starting pay at a new job.

Nurses with an associate's degree, for example, should ask their employers if they pay more for a BSN. The increase in pay for higher education may be a differential, added to a nurse's pay or  worked into the base salary, Ms. Mazzaro said.

It is typically best for nurses to discuss pay with recruiters rather than hiring managers, according to Ms. Mazzaro.

"Work with your recruiter and make sure your resume is complete and up to date, especially for those nurses who are highly tenured and have lots of years of experience," she said. "The more you can diversify and expand your knowledge base and skill set, the more opportunity you do have to ask [for higher pay]."

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