Nursing leaders’ compensation stays flat

Health care may be changing at a record clip in recent years, but the salaries of nursing leaders aren’t doing the same.

The American Organization of Nurse Executives just released a new study on compensation for RN leaders, the first one to be released since 2013. Overall, the salaries of nurse execs have stayed relatively flat over the past few years, at average earnings of between $90,000 and $150,000.

Maureen Swick, R.N., chief executive of AONE, calls that flat trend line a letdown.

“It was disappointing to learn that salaries have remained flat for the past several years, in spite of the fact that nurse leaders play such a key role in driving performance improvement, which is tied to the financial outcomes of an organization,” says Swick, who is also the chief nursing officer of the American Hospital Association.

The survey of about 2,500 nurse leaders found that the typical exec in these roles works full time in an acute care hospital, with at least six years of nursing leadership experience. They’re typically between the ages of 45 and 64, and that earning power leaps with higher education levels. About 61 percent of RN executives with master’s degrees take in between $100,000 and $180,000, according to the report.

As we’ve discussed previously, ad nauseam, in Nurse Watch, burnout, recruitment and retention are key concerns in the profession. But hiring a bunch of new nurses to help ease burnout isn’t going to work if you’re bringing them into a system with a broken leadership structure. Hiring great nurse leaders and keeping them is critical to relieving the nurse-burnout public health crisis, and to do so, nurse leadership base salaries need to increase, Swick believes.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” she said. “If you’ve got areas where there have been positions open for a year and you just have interim leaders coming and going, that is not creating a healthy environment for nursing or for the patient. To have that kind of a revolving door is not going to help an organization.”

70 years in the nurse profession

Such burnout and retention problems clearly weren’t an issue for 93-year-old Alice Graber, who just retired after 70 years in the profession, 20 of which were at the same facility. (Or maybe she’s just very thick-skinned.) Graber recently called it quits at the Salem Mennonite Home, which is located in Freeman, S.D., according to the Daily Republic. She plans to stay active though, continuing to volunteer with the nursing home while also cooking German food for her granddaughter’s wedding. Graber is an unusual case, as she is the oldest nurse in South Dakota, the newspaper reports, and I’m guessing she is probably one of the select few nonagenarian nurses in the U.S.

Robot helps to solve scheduling

Scheduling can be a thorny and elusive task for a hospital, but researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hope that robots and artificial intelligence can help. A team from the school’s AI laboratory has begun testing the use of such a robot to help with the scheduling of such tasks as where to move patients or who should perform a C-section, according to MIT News. Researchers there tested out the robot on a labor floor to determine whether it would be helpful in decision-support for docs and nurses. Early on, it’s proven useful, with nurses accepting the robot’s suggestions on scheduling about 90 percent of the time. Feedback has been almost “uniformly positive,” according to the site, with RNs suggesting that AI can help to disperse the workload better for nurses.

Rapid fire

Here are a few more nurse-related items of note, in rapid fashion:

  • Workplace violence is an ongoing concern for health care, and to address it, workers must speak up when it occurs, and hospitals must provide training to respond to these situations, according to a new commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • The comment window for the Veterans Affairs proposal to greater utilize nurse practitioners just closed on Monday, following intense lobbying from both sides of the equation, according to The Washington Post.
  • There is an interesting discussion brewing over at the nurse social media site regarding how RNs should respond to doctors who insult them.
  • Finally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering a series of webinars on prescribing opioids for chronic pain, with the second one planned for Wednesday afternoon.