Negotiating Nursing Benefits and Salary: A Complete Guide

A nurse smiling with her hands folded over her chest

Negotiating your salary and benefits isn’t something nurses formally learn as they enter the workforce or develop professionally in their career. Along the way, colleagues may help polish a resume or offer some guidance about how to get your first nursing job, but navigating conversations around money can feel too personal or taboo. 

We get it! Talking about salary and other benefits is uncomfortable and awkward, especially with someone you don’t know well. However, you’ve spent a lot of time and energy becoming the nurse you are today, and you owe it to yourself to maximize your worth.

You are hardwired to care for others—why not spend a little time caring for yourself and reinforce the return on your investment? Negotiating nursing benefits can be tricky, and we’ve got the perfect guide on how to get started.

Let’s Talk Salary

The mean hourly wage for a nurse according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is just under $43. That being said, the primary percentiles on the same data show salaries ranging from $29-$62 per hour depending on location and experience. 

The state you’re working in, the type of facility, nursing specialty, level of education, and cost of living are just a few things that will influence how much you take home, and they are all considerations to take into account when deciding where to start the conversation. Also, if you have previous relatable work experience, specialty certification, or advanced skills, sell it! Your professional resume is the foundation of negotiating your nursing salary

However, depending on the organization you’re looking to work for, there’s always a chance that your paycheck will be non-negotiable. If salaries are defined by a collective bargaining agreement, a local government tiered compensation system, or you’re simply a new grad straight out of school, you may not have much wiggle room. 

If that’s the case, don’t be discouraged! Negotiating nursing benefits is about more than just money. 

Benefits

You may not realize it, but one of the benefits of nursing jobs is that many aspects of the contracts can be flexible. Before you sign your agreement, give it a thorough read and clarify anything you don’t understand. Little details add up quickly, so you’ll want to know everything from how much health insurance will be costing to the monthly parking rate. This is especially important when considering more than one job offer.

After you have a good grasp of what’s included in the benefits package there may be some opportunities to improve your position. Great places to start include:

  • Sign-on bonus
  • Employer loan repayment
  • Shift differential
  • Continuing education reimbursement
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Time off
  • Uniform allowance
  • Relocation bonus
  • Travel reimbursement

A few perks here and there can make a big difference for your bottom line, so be thinking about what nursing benefits matters to you most. 

Tips and Tactics for Negotiating

If you plan on negotiating, you need to be thoughtful about it. The last thing you want to do is come off poorly prepared and risk leaving a bad impression. An employer can’t fault you much for asking, but your request needs to be grounded in tangible positives you bring to the table.

Know the Facts

In the eyes of an employer, not all nurses are created equal. The organization’s goal is to find staff that can provide the best possible care to their patients, and they are looking for people who can help them achieve their goals. Special knowledge, skills, and the right attitude can all have a big impact on outcomes, and if you’re going to make a case for adding value to an organization you need to make sure you’re contributing to their mission. 

Explain Your Impact, Not Just Your Resume

When you’re negotiating, you obviously want everyone to know what you bring to the table. However, it’s often better to paint a picture of the impact your skills have instead of simply stating your qualifications. For example, if you’re pursuing a leadership position, tell them about a scenario where you put those skills to use and overcame a challenging situation.

Be Realistic

Part of doing your homework will include knowing the basic salary ranges for the type of position you’re applying for. When negotiating salary or benefits, you need to keep it in a realistic range to be taken seriously.

Money Isn’t Everything

Job satisfaction matters, and you don’t want to give anyone the impression you’re just here to pick up a paycheck. There are lots of things in this world that are worth more than a raise, like flexible hours to pick up children from school or a predictable day off to attend classes. You’re much more likely to be successful if your requests reflect practical needs that would be understandable to any employer. 

Know When to Negotiate

Negotiating your contract is not something that should happen every day, and being effective means picking the right time to open the conversation. Opportunities typically arise when you’re first offered a contract, during a review process such as an annual performance evaluation, following a continuing education event, or after acquiring a new skill set. By picking natural moments to open the conversation, you’ll be in the best position to describe why you’re worth more to your institution. 

Get Comfortable Negotiating Nursing Benefits and Salary

You’ve worked hard to get where you are today, and you should be compensated fairly for your role in supporting the health and wellness of others. While asking for more money or other benefits may feel strange, approaching the conversation skillfully and professionally can give you the confidence you need to be successful. 

Knowing how to negotiate your nursing salary is important in all stages of your career, and continually improving your skills is a big part of getting ahead. Premiere is committed to keeping you moving up the ladder with our Unlimited Nursing CEU Subscription. You’ll have access to all our high-quality continuing education content so you’ll always be a step ahead of the competition.

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