Whether the gains hold up after the pandemic remains to be seen.


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Median RN salaries in the United States rose by $5,000 from 2020 to 2021 for an annual salary of $78,000, while median advanced practice RN (APRN) salaries jumped $13,000 for an annual salary of $120,000, according to the http://Nurse.com's2022 Nurse Salary Research Report. Annual LPN salaries also rose by about $3,000 for a median 2021 salary of $48,000. The report was based on the responses of 2,516 nurses to an online survey conducted in November and December of 2021.


Nurses in all regions of the country reported gains except in the region comprising Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC, where the RN median salary dropped to $68,000 from $72,000 in 2020. (The report does not include a breakdown of the number of RNs from each region who responded to the survey.) For nurses who were union members, the median salary across all three licensed groups was $89,590, compared with $75,000 for nonunion nurses. The highest RN median salary reported was $100,000, in California.


Of all respondents, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander nurses reported the highest median salaries. The report noted, however, that there were few LPN/LVN survey respondents in these three groups, which could have skewed median salaries upward. Also, 30% of Asian nurses in this sample worked the night shift, versus 15% of all respondents, and the premium pay for off-shift work would have pushed this group's median salaries upward compared with the overall sample.


Gender differences. The report suggests that a gender pay gap among RNs widened in 2021, with male RNs earning a median salary of $90,000, $14,000 higher than the median salary for female RNs. However, the sample size of male respondents was disproportionately small, and differences in clinical setting, higher acuity specialties, and certification levels-all of which influence pay-were not explored. The report notes that men in the RN sample worked more hours per week than women RNs, and that men were also more likely to work higher-paying night shifts. By contrast, male median salaries in the other two license categories came in lower than female salaries-by $2,000 for APRNs and by $3,000 for LPN/LVNs.


Pandemic effects. Pay increases may be more reflective of the changes in nurse staffing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic than of hospitals rewarding nurses' hard work during this time. Twenty-five percent of all survey respondents reported salary increases during the pandemic. Four percent of respondents, or about 100 people, were travel nurses, and 62% of them said they began travel work in 2020 or 2021. Critical care travel nurses were able to make as much as $10,000 per week during the pandemic, leading some hospitals to offer bonuses in order to retain their regular RN staff.-Betsy Todd, MPH, RN