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Nurse Practitioners See Rise in Full-time Salary Rates

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor 

February 10, 2011 - Nurse practitioners (NPs) working full time earned more in 2010 than in the previous year, continuing an upward salary trend, according to the National Salary Survey of Nurse Practitioners conducted by Advance for NPs and PAs.

Marsha Siegel, EdD, FNP-BC
Marsha Siegel, EdD, FNP-BC, immediate past president of the ACNP, credits the rise in NP income to greater awareness of the value they bring to health care.

“Several factors are responsible,” said Marsha Siegel, EdD, FNP-BC, immediate past president of the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP), a rural health/family nurse practitioner in private practice with Babson & Associates Primary Care in Cheyenne, Wyo., and an adjunct faculty at the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences. “People are recognizing the value of the nurse practitioner role.”

She added that nurse practitioners in rural/frontier settings can receive the same reimbursement as a physician, and by proving their worth and generating equal income for the practice, they are able to earn higher salaries.

Thomas Mackey, PhD, FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, president and a past treasurer of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Foundation board of directors and associate dean for practice in the school of nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, agreed, saying he believes the demand by employers—physicians, clinics, hospitals, governmental entities— is driving the increase in salaries.

Thomas Mackey, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP
Thomas Mackey, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP, president of the AANP Foundation board of directors, believes the demand by employers is driving the increase in salaries.

“More employers are realizing the value and worth of NPs to their organizations,” Mackey said. “Worth relates to the tangible financial aspects of what the NP brings to the practice. Value relates to financial worth plus other intangibles such patient education, case management, organizational efforts, time freed up so physicians can see more complicated patients, etc.”

Advance’s online survey of nearly 3,000 nurse practitioners found full-timers were earning on average of $90,770 annually, compared to $89,579 in 2009, $81,397 in 2007 and $63,172 in 2001. However, nurse practitioners working part time reported a 4.5 percent decrease in hourly pay to $43.77 from $45.85 in 2009.

Nurse practitioners working full time in the emergency department earned the most income, averaging $104,549 annually, up only 0.2 percent from $104,369 in 2009. Nurse practitioners working in esthetics/skin care followed with annual incomes averaging $102,547, followed by those working in mental health at $100,914.

Nurse practitioners working in cardiology clinics saw the biggest bump in income—11.9 percent—earning an average of $100,881, up from $90,159.

Male nurse practitioners earned 12.8 percent more than women in the profession.

Comparing the data with a similar salary study of physician assistants (PAs) conducted by Advance, the results indicated that PAs earned an average of $96,876 in 2010, more than $6,000 above the average earned by full-time NPs.

The magazine’s editors, Michelle Perron Pronsati and Michael Gerchufsky, attribute that to practice setting, with PAs more commonly working in higher paying specialties, such as emergency medicine and plastic surgery. More than half of the nurse practitioners deliver primary care, compared to 40 percent of the PAs. Part-time PAs earned an average hourly rate of $51.11 in 2010.

The data obtained from the survey closely matches the average salary for nationwide job postings as determined by Indeed Salary Search, which is based on an index of salary information extracted from more than 50 million job postings from thousands of unique sources during the last 12 months.

As of February 3, 2011, Indeed reported the average annual salary for nurse practitioners as $90,000 and trending up. It also reported an increase in clinical nurse specialist salaries to $78,000. But it indicated that registered nurse salaries were dropping and at that point were $70,000 per year, down from $72,000 in October 2010.

A 2010 Advance for Nurses survey published in March 2010, reported annual RN salaries ranged from $29,350 in Iowa to $86,786 in California.

While nurse practitioners definitely earn more than registered nurses, the career move is not for everyone, Siegel said.

“It takes a nurse to a different level with a different focus than the traditional RN role,” Siegel said. “As a nurse practitioner, you take your level of responsibility upwards in a different focus than in a hospital setting.”

Siegel enjoys her role and autonomous practice. Many of the children she performed newborn checks on shortly after they were born are now teens, coming to her for sports physicals and Pap smears.

“It’s personally very rewarding,” Siegel said. “But you cannot discount the excellent bedside nurses who want to be the best they can be. This is a different route for nurses.”

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