iStock_000008307023_SmallA new study by Medscape takes aim at a growing issue — nurses and job satisfaction. Not surprisingly, nurses who earn more display higher levels of overall job satisfaction — but there are other important takeaways from this research. Which nurses report the highest level of satisfaction with their jobs, and why does satisfaction matter? How can your organization help lower nurse turnover — and how much does it cost at the end of the day when they leave? The answers to these questions and more lie with the nurses themselves, and the latest research reveals just how much compensation and professional development opportunities matter to today’s nurses.

Salary Satisfaction by Professional Credentials

The higher the degree and professional credentials attained, the more likely a nurse is to be satisfied with his or her salary, according to the most recent findings. Salary satisfaction among nurses peaks with APNs, while RNs and LPNs continue to struggle with the issue. From unrealistic salary expectations to frustration with a lack of advancement opportunities, nurses with lower professional credentials report more job dissatisfaction in general.

  • 73% of the top paid APNs are satisfied with their compensation, according to the Medscape Survey
  • 54% of lower pay range APNs, including clinical nurse specialists and nurse midwives, reported that they were satisfied with their wages
  • 53% of RNs also reported salary satisfaction, despite making less than their specialist and midwife counterparts
  • In contrast, only 43% of LPNs report being satisfied with their compensation

Not all job dissatisfaction stems from salary concerns. The actual setting where the work is performed matters — and so do the day-to-day requirements. While professional development is one of the most commonly cited factors when it comes to nursing job satisfaction, earning that advanced degree comes with a price. For many nurses, making the jump from RN to BSN can cost upwards of $100,000; supporting your nurses who are working towards a higher degree can help boost employee accountability and loyalty.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80% of RNs make the jump to the next level by earning their bachelor’s degree in nursing by 2020; as of the end of 2015, only 51% of nurses have done so. Better nursing care equates to better outcomes, so making education a priority can help your organization stand out to the most ambitious and forward thinking nursing professionals. So, how can your organization help nurses interested in pursuing additional certifications and advancing their degrees?” By offering eLearning courses eligible for CEUs through your learning management system and tuition reimbursement for nurses who are working towards a higher degree, you can boost employee satisfaction and likely retain top talent.

Facing the High Cost of Nurse Turnover

Healthcare by its very nature is a high-pressure, stressful setting — making some turnover unavoidable. Turnover rates can have a direct impact on both the quality of care your patients receive and your organization’s bottom line. Losing good employees hurts your organization, while getting rid of poor performers or troublesome hires improves it. Losing a strong employee that you have invested time and money recruiting and training can cost you anywhere from $42,000 to $60,000 depending on your location and the amount you invest in your recruitment programs. This figure is for one employee — lose multiple employees in a quarter or year and your facility could be out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, simply because of your high turnover rate. Identifying a turnover problem and developing a strategy to mitigate it is essential to both your bottom line and your level of patient care.

Constant turnover needs to be addressed in order for your healthcare organization to succeed. If you are sure you are paying your nursing staff a fair salary, then seeking out other issues can help you determine the root cause. Is the setting itself a problem? Do you have a program in place to encourage development and education? Could your hiring process be to blame? If you’re not actively assessing your potential hires using the right behavioral tools and choosing those candidates most likely to stay long-term, your turnover problem is more than likely related to your hiring practices. Every organization is different, but determining the root cause of high turnover can help develop strategies to improve retention and lower costs.

The actual setting where a nurse’s primary job is performed has a big impact on that individual’s overall satisfaction. An overwhelming number of nurses surveyed claimed that they would not choose to work in a hospital or long-term care setting after an initial position in one of these organizations. For administrators in one of these high stress and typically high turnover facilities, retaining your nursing staff is critical to both patient care and your bottom line. Given the high cost of turnover, developing and retaining your existing nursing staff is a must if you truly want your organization to thrive. This critical need to retain qualified caregivers, coupled with the recently released nursing satisfaction and salary findings reinforce the need for a multimodal approach to nursing retention plans.

Actionable Ways to Improve Job Satisfaction for Nurses

  1. Evaluate Existing Compensation: Compare what you pay your nurses to the most up-to-date compensation market data to ensure that your pay is on par with peer organizations.
  2. Provide Professional Development Opportunities: Nurses who reach higher levels of education also report higher levels of overall job and salary satisfaction. Supporting your staff as they learn and earn advanced certifications, work towards their BSN, APN license, or move into leadership roles can naturally improve your retention.
  3. Give Nursing a Voice At the Top: Having an RN on the board or executive team can provide valuable insights into frontline care delivery. This “peer-advocate” will help the nursing organization feel that someone at the top relates to their job function. Nurses who feel understood, cared for, and appreciated at work are more likely to stick around for the long-run.
  4. Consider Retention During the Hiring Process: Since nurses are in demand and a majority of their skills are transferrable between care settings, personality can play a key role in retention. Choosing those candidates who are most likely to stay can help you cut your turnover rates considerably; behavioral assessments can help you choose the most promising candidates for your particular setting.
  5. Provide a Realistic Job Preview: Make sure new hires have a clear understanding of what to expect on the job from the very beginning. A mismatch between the new hire’s expectations and the reality of the position can lead to rapid-fire turnover.

Identifying the key satisfaction issues can help you recruit, develop, and retain a patient and resident-centered workforce who are committed to providing high-quality care.


Read more from the Nurse Engagement Toolkit:


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Building Employee Engagement: How to Improve Employee Retention and Increase Patient Satisfaction


About Meghan Doherty

Meghan Doherty is a content marketing professional based in the Greater Boston area. She has more than five years of experience creating and managing content for SaaS companies in the healthcare and talent management spaces.