The median pay for registered nurses sits around $71,000, but there are a few unique obstacles and common challenges nurses face that can significantly impact their earnings.1 In this financial check-up, we’ll discuss the common challenges nurses face today as well as a few ways in which they can work to overcome these obstacles.
Challenge #1: Lack of Financial Education
While this may not be an especially unique challenge to nurses, it certainly is one that puts them in a tough financial spot. Nursing programs typically do not offer any type of financial literacy, economics or personal finance classes. That means that while nurses graduate ready to head into the workforce, they’re left to learn everything they need to know about their finances on their own. Adding to this is the fact that many nurses have taken out student loans to cover the cost of their education, and understanding how to manage your debt and create a a financial plan becomes even more imperative.
If you’re still in nursing school or preparing to graduate soon, take a look at available courses at your local community college or online that can provide more information on personal finance planning. If you have the opportunity to speak with nurses who are already employed, ask them about what they wish they knew beforehand and what particular financial challenges they’ve faced. Understanding what you’re getting into can be a useful tool in preparing for your future financial concerns.
Challenge #2: Long Shifts & Odd Hours
Nurses don’t tend to work the typical 9 to 5. In a recent study done by the Health Affairs Journal, nurses were found to be working longer than their expected shifts and more than 40 hours a week, with about 31.5 percent of their scheduled shifts exceeding 12 hours.2 So when nurses do get a little time to themselves, it could likely be at odd hours - early morning, late night, etc. And when they are done with a long, stressful shift, the last thing they want to do is think about something else stressful - like their personal finances.
One option is to find a financial advisor who understands your need for meeting at odd hours or for short periods of time. Alternatively, dig a bit deeper into what resources your hospital or place of employment offers. Some may have financial advisors or other professionals available to you who may already be familiar with your schedule and unique concerns - saving you money and the time spent searching on your own.
Challenge #3: Work Expenses
In many places, nurses are actually expected to pay for a number of things including their uniforms (which need to be replaced often), shoes, equipment (such as stethoscopes) and even parking at the hospital or care facility. Over the years these expenses can add up, taking a big chunk out of nurse's earnings and/or savings.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done in regards to eliminating these expenses. However, being aware of how much you’ll be expected to spend means you can accommodate for these expenses in your personal budget. Additionally, it’s important to keep these considerations in mind when negotiating your salary and benefits with employers. For example, negotiating more pay per hour could help offset the cost of your equipment.
Pursuing your passion and caring for others makes nursing a rewarding and fulfilling career for many. But as you spend your days looking after patients, it’s important to remember that there’s a need to address your own financial health as well. Work with your employer to discover solutions and resources you may not have known were available to help address your biggest challenges when it comes to your personal finances.