Before walking into any negotiation or interview, you must know what the going rate for your position is. Be familiar with the salary range of your nursing role and that of colleagues. Not sure? Ask them! That's the very best way to know and will have the strongest social proof when you bring it up with your boss or interviewer. You should also do some more general research. When you visit the the Vitals Kit you will find excellent resources that I recommend you use to help you with your research. In the Financial Vitals Kit you’ll find transparent information that’s reported by your colleagues around the world so that you know exactly what similarly experienced nurses in your specialty area and geographic location are getting paid.
If this is a unionized nurse position, look up the salary steps/wage structure. Find these on the organization’s bargaining agreement – that’s usually publicly available through the union website or by a quick internet search. For example, put into an internet search engine “[the organization’s name], state, bargaining agreement, nurses.” Pull up the bargaining agreement and browse to the wage structure then analyze the steps. Think about how you might fit into this structure. Can you justify a higher step? How might you include your nurse aid or other professional experience to move up in steps. Highlight your certification status and degree level. Now’s a very good time to highlight all your experience because once you get assigned a step, your salary advancement as long as you stay in this job is always going to be based on this initial agreement you make.
Know whether your organization hires a lot of travel nurses, locums, or temporary health care providers. If so, this means they are chronically short staffed and your value as a permanent employee will be higher to them. Use this as a negotiation point if you’re applying to a permanent position. And remember, you can always be a travel nurse yourself. Never forget your powers.
Be cautious when looking at base rates since they do not ever take into account what the benefits or perks of a position are. They also don’t factor in hidden costs. Get all the data including expense reimbursements, information about benefits like health insurance, and retirement plan perks. If you’re driving an hour to work each day, that’s an hour of your time that’s unpaid and you will have associated gas and car maintenance costs. These things can really add up! Make sure to factor all of them in!
I once was in negotiations for a nurse practitioner locums position that was offering me a $65 base rate along with a rental car, and free accommodation since the position was away from my hometown. I wouldn’t receive a retirement plan or any health insurance which in the USA is easily $500 a month when purchasing out of pocket. I was required to drive 3 hours to the clinic location which meant 6 hours of unpaid commute time each week so long as there was no traffic and fuel costs were my responsibility. Sound good?
I already had a car of my own, and I’ve never been one of those people who enjoys driving. I had a primary home where I enjoyed living, so accommodation wasn’t a draw either and especially not this accommodation: it was in an assisted living - yes, an old folks home where they offered to have me stay! I passed on the offer.
I ended up taking a similarly paying position with health insurance (valued at $700+ per month), and a retirement plan. Commute time was minimal, but my car and accommodation weren’t covered. In a 2.5 year period, I socked away $25,000 of my own pre-tax income from my paychecks into my retirement plan. My employer matched 50% of up to 4% of my elective contribution in addition to funding a defined contribution account equal to 6.3% of my gross earnings. Would you believe that my $25,000 pre-tax investment turned into $137,000? I had invested it effectively and I will show you how in this book in a later chapter, but my employer contributions helped me along. For me and my life goals, this second option was the better option and paid me more than any accommodation or car benefit on offer. I know this in retrospect, but when making the decision, it wasn't made with great certainty. So take some time and really consider what's important to you and what you hope to achieve from your pay and benefits.
It’s hard to make direct comparisons in these scenarios, but it’s important to review your Goal 1 so you’re clear on how you value your skills and your time. Does one position fit your values better? Will one make you richer? How will you choose? Whatever thoughts you have about this, just make sure you take into account the various ways you will receive pay beyond your base rate and use those to help you make a decision that’s best for you.
Word to the wise: I know you would never do this, but do not ever make an argument against your own best interests to help an organization justify bringing you onboard at a lower rate of pay or pay step. For example, you’ve been a nurse for 5 years, took a year off, and are offering to come onboard at the 4th year pay step. NEVER EVER do this! This is the time to conflate (not lie) your experience and do it proudly! All life experience matters. Include all your information in your CV and don’t cover anything up when interviewing. If your organization wants to pay attention to this, let them take the initiative and use that in your negotiations which we’re getting to soon in Goal 4. Do not ever volunteer a lower step.
In this series, we're working on 5 goals:
In this series, I am helping you create a bulletproof plan using these 5 goals of Salary Negotiation for Nurses - go here to start from the beginning. Make sure to subscribe so you can get notification for all future series focused on helping nurses achieve financial independence, security, by investing for wealth. For even more benefit join our private and supportive group of Nurses Investing for Wealth on Facebook and follow for regular musings on Instagram.
Essential writings helping nurses to grow their fortunes in their careers and investments.
Join the Nurse Investing Challenge!
- Valuing Your Time & Skills
- Going Rate
- Your Salary Ask
- Emotionlessly Negotiate