Why Do Male Nurses Make More Money? In the News with Jim Murphy

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The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study of nurses’ pay from 1998 to 2013.  In that time, the gap between male nurses (who comprise less than 10 percent of this workforce) and female nurses in compensation did not decrease, unlike the case for most occupations since the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Overall, the difference in favor of men was over $5000 per year, nor did experience or education explain the effect. The pattern varies; for example, the gap is less in hospitals. Different specialties have different disparities, with orthopedic nurses actually having no gap, whereas that in cardiology is the highest.

So what is the reason? Reporters quoted several theories – but all of these were essentially guesses, with no statistical proof to back them.  One explanation offered is that men are better at negotiating salaries.  Another is that women have been longer in nursing then men and thus through seniority may be more likely to be on day shifts, which pay less than evening ones.  Such assertions are testable, but where’s the proof?

Some experts actually opined that gender discrimination may be to blame!  What do you think?

jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Being semi-retired, Jim is willing to provide very reasonably priced consulting, coaching or  project work for organizations aspiring to improvement in organizational culture, effectiveness and employee engagement.

Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as we all consulting and coaching.  www.manage2001.com   jim@manage2001.com


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2 Responses to Why Do Male Nurses Make More Money? In the News with Jim Murphy

  1. Beth Boynton, RN, MS says:

    In reading many threads online re: this issue, with diverse experiences and perspectives, scanning the resources you mention, Jim and reflecting on my own experiences, I surmise that the playing field is more even in some places than others and it is an extremely complex issue. The overall idea that women make less money in nursing doesn’t surprise me though and I believe while there are truths in all and that we have made great progress in equality, that there is still an undervaluing of the work women do and this seeps into the work of nursing. I wonder, why are ED and ICU positions more likely to have men and why is pay higher there than say for Hospice or Home Health? Are they more glamorous? Involve more task-oriented albeit sophisticated skills? And if so, I think our society tends to bias towards valuing these areas more and don’t think that we can extricate that from the notion that ‘we’ value what men do more in general. Another recurrent theme is the idea that women tend to leave their positions for parenting more often than men and that this ‘understandably’ creates a gap for climbing the work ladder, obtaining experience, and keeping skills sharp. But I would counter with a challenge to ask whether we are looking to create opportunities for women to be successful in maintaining and growing their abilities while parenting. I mean, if we can create online programs for nurses to become nurse practitioners then surely we can be creative with this ‘problem’. If we want to. And I don’t doubt that male nurses suffer too when the playing field is not fair…I think we all do.

  2. Thanks for keeping the issue alive and gathering up some great resources, Jim. I glanced through the links and theories and see it as a very complex situation and all of the theories hold some value I suspect. However, I think our underlying root cause is a reflection of the under value and oppression of women in our society and perhaps slower to change in healthcare than some other industries. This includes things that women in general are adept at such as valuing relationship-based phenomenon which needs to be brought up a notch or two in terms of appreciation in healthcare, (in our culture, how we provide care, what we reimburse….everywhere!). I think that there are elements of this issue that contribute to bullying and burnout and that it is an important problem to solve for these reasons too.

    Elizabeth Scala wrote an interesting piece about the issues with some excellent suggestions that individual nurses can use and creative leaders can look for ways to facilitate some of them. Her article can be found:

    Next Wave Connect: http://bit.ly/1C0rzsp
    LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/1NPtYyK

What are your thoughts?