Nursing salary grew 4% in 2021

The average annual salary for registered nurses, excluding bonus pay such as overtime, climbed about 4 percent since Jan. 1 to $81,376, according to healthcare consultants Premier, which examined salaries of about 60,000 nurses for The Wall Street Journal.

For comparison, average annual wages for nurses grew 3.3 percent in 2020 and 2.6 percent in 2019, according to Labor Department data cited by the newspaper.

Nurse salaries are rising as hospitals and health systems grapple with staffing challenges during the pandemic. Many are offering incentives to attract and retain workers, including providing a wage increase for high-demand workers.

On Oct. 29, Lifespan announced it raised the base wage for nursing and medical assistants, behavioral health specialists and residential care counselors in an effort to retain workers in those high-demand positions. Employees in the high-demand positions, which include members of Teamsters Local 251 at Rhode Island Hospital, will experience a minimum wage bump to $20 per hour or receive a 3 percent pay increase, whichever is greater, the Providence, R.I.-based health system said.

Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, one of the largest for-profit hospital operators in the U.S., also increased nurse pay in 2021 to stay competitive with others in healthcare, with raises varying by market, the company's human resources chief told The Wall Street Journal. A spokesperson for HCA declined to provide the amounts to the newspaper.

Smaller hospitals are trying to stay competitive amid the high demand for nurses, too.

Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Mo., for example, boosted nurse salaries by up to 5 percent in November after hospitals in Springfield, Mo., increased wages, according to The Wall Street Journal

There are various reasons for the high demand for nurses.

Hospitals are competing for nurses in a labor market with staffing agencies that offer lucrative, temporary contracts. Some nurses are leaving their full-time positions at hospitals to take these temporary travel roles, and some are leaving the profession altogether amid pandemic-related fatigue and stress. Healthcare organizations have also lost some workers over vaccination mandates.

Overall, Premier said, nurse turnover rates have risen to about 22 percent in 2021, up from the annual rate of about 18 percent in 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Read the full report here.

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