Goal 1 Nurse Salary Negotiation: Ask for financial compensation that is worthy of your time and skills
NHS nurses strike: Heroes shouldn't have to use food banks. Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash
When it comes to salary negotiations, you have to know two equally important things:
In your interview, the subject of salary is going to come up. With any luck, you will already know the budgeted salary range from the job posting or the pre-interview information you will have received. But ask again in the interview. Be prepared to lead this conversation by directly asking, “What is the business’s budgeted salary range for this position?”
Listen carefully for a salary range and to learn if union directed pay scales affect the position. If you are only quoted a single starting salary number, you can assume this is the very lowest budgeted amount. Whatever is put on the table, don’t be discouraged. Take the information in and carry on.
How much money do you need to willingly exchange your time to do this work?
Let’s back up to before you ever step foot into the interview though. When you are preparing, please, promise me, that you will do a little soul searching. I know, ugh. But it doesn’t have to be ‘ugh.’ All I mean by this is for you to really think about how much money you need to willingly exchange your time to do this work? This is for your personal benefit only, so ask yourself honestly. Every single one of us is going to have a different answer to this and our answers are going to change throughout our lifetimes too.
When I was a new grad, I had very different goals from now. As a new grad, I was excited to use my new skills and get experience. I was thrilled that I could get a job and that it happened so quickly after university graduation. I was ready to receive my steady and stable paycheck every 2 weeks! I was 22 years old and had been living in near poverty conditions prior to this in a $200 per month shared apartment in Louisville Kentucky, donating plasma a couple times a week for $20 a pop, and eating meal worm infested oatmeal with butter and jam mixed in for flavor and calories because I was so food insecure. My present self wants to tell my past self that this really isn’t necessary - go to a foodbank! My point is that I felt like I hit the jackpot when I graduated nursing school and took my first job as a nurse at the lowest salary I’ve ever received as a nurse: I believe my hourly pay was around $18.
That first year was tough, but not due to the pay. It was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. I know I’m not alone either in how rude of a wake up call the first year of nursing can be as the responsibility and accountability sits crushing down on your shoulders. Through this first year I stayed up all night to work my 7 p.m- 7 a.m. shifts, and I learned first-handed what it was like to de-escalate violent situations, get groped by nasty old men, watch people die while crushing into their chest doing CPR, be sprayed in my face with sputum propelling from trach tubes, spilling urine down my legs when catheters disconnected, wiping people’s butts that were so big my entire arm would get lost in the crack and when it came out to be found again, it was soiled with poop. If anyone dared me to do any one of these things for $18 a pop, I would tell them to fuck off. Yet here I was doing it in a professional capacity multiple times an hour and staying up all night to do it.
My present self thinks about my current job prospects, and can say ‘Sure, there are still jobs that I will do for $18 per hour,’ but I’ll be damned if those jobs are nursing on a hospital floor. Hell, no. Starting my own adventure storytelling business and podcast and living below poverty level for a few years, sign me up! But not floor nursing for a liveable wage - it was liveable back then in Louisville, Kentucky.
I can say with 100% certainty that I’m simply no longer willing to give my personal safety, and all of my emotional and physical energy for a job caring for sick and dying people listening to their worst problems all day long in exchange for a salary that I could make with a simple career shift that doesn’t include shift work, schedule inflexibility, and denial of paid time off. But hey, I’ve been a nurse for 20 years, and I’ve done a lot of jobs in that time and there was a time in my past that I was willing to do all of those things! When I was 22 years old, doing this work for $18 an hour was worthy of my time and skills. Now that I’m 42, and I know what this gig is all about, it’s not. But never, ever do I regret my earlier decisions. My present self is thankful to my past self, because I bravely did that work, got valuable experience, and I don’t have to do any of those things anymore.
We’re all different here. We all have different goals and different experience levels. So ask yourself, ‘For what price am I willing to sell my time given the work duties I will be fulfilling?’ How does this compare to the business’s budgeted salary? Will the budgeted salary meet your expenses? If not, can you in good conscience accept less, and if you answer, ‘Maybe, yes, if…’ then know that you can give it a go with your counter offers which we’ll get to later in this series in Goal 5.
If you answered with a resounding, “Hell no!” and if you find that your time is never going to be compensated in a way that adequately suits your needs, then you’ve recognized that the toll of this specific job is too much for you. The world is not over and neither is your nursing career. Now is the time for you to think about side-hustles and alternate career paths - remember, there’s a nursing pathway out there for everyone! What about research? Tech? School nursing? Teletriage?
No matter how you just answered this question, you will want to get a solid cash savings to cover a good portion of your year’s earnings and you’ll want to do it ASAP, because this my friend, is your negotiating super power. We will work on this in depth in future articles, but first we have 4 more goals of nurse salary negotiation to visit.
In this series, we're working on 5 goals:
Hi! I'm Angel. I am the founder of Nurses Investing For Wealth. I teach nurses simple money tactics that turn them into millionaires. This is where you learn how to use your nursing knowledge to invest your money better than an expert.
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- Valuing Your Time & Skills
- Going Rate
- Your Salary Ask
- Emotionlessly Negotiate