The Non-Financial Rewards of Nursing: Why Nursing Is Worth More Than Its Salary
April 15, 2015
When you think about the reasons for choosing a profession, you probably think about salary, work-life balance, perks, and more. However, aspiring nurses choose their occupation without necessarily giving much consideration to these factors. “Nurses,” as Susan Larson (PhD, RN) reveals, “tend to choose nursing for reasons other than money.”
Interestingly, however, earning a relatively low salary doesn’t seem to impact nurses’ job satisfaction or the amount of meaning they get from their professions. In fact, nursing is consistently ranked as a high satisfaction, and a highly meaningful profession: 73% of nurses report high job satisfaction, and 80% report high job meaning. Compare that to lawyers (67% high job satisfaction, 40% high job meaning) or accountants and auditors (72% high job satisfaction, 40% high job meaning), and it’s clear that salary isn’t the root of happiness with one’s chosen profession.
Why is job satisfaction so high among nurses? It’s simple, says Sarah Miller (EdD, MSN, RN): “In nursing, we care for others-there is great satisfaction in knowing you have helped someone else to feel better.” Nurses feel rewarded because they have the ability to make a true difference in a person’s life, making nursing more of a vocation or calling than a typical 9-5 job.
Viewing nursing as “more than a job” and directly impacting patients are only two of the reasons for high job satisfaction and high job meaning among nurses. Nurses also appreciate the variety of fields and specializations available to work in and the scientific nature of the work. There are also several perks to nursing, such as the healthcare benefits and relatively flexible scheduling. Finally, many nurses thrive in the work environment, enjoying the fast-paced, meaningful work and the critical thinking that’s involved.
In order to touch their patients’ lives, nurses must have unique qualities that go beyond strong time management skills, a thorough nursing education, or the ability to build the perfect spreadsheet. When asked what qualities made a great nurse, nurses and nurse educators overwhelmingly responded with “compassion,” along with empathy, caring, the ability to connect with others, and being a strong critical thinker who’s able to think on her feet.
Of course, nursing isn’t a dream career all the time. When asked about the cons of nursing, nurses tend to point towards “burnout,” or feeling exhausted due to long work shifts and the emotional toll of caring for sick and dying patients. However, Victoria Haynes (DNP, APRN, FNP-C) suggests that at the first signs of burnout, nurses try another role or work at furthering their nursing education: “The wonderful thing about nursing is that the possibilities are endless. You can always try another role, like travel nursing, case management, OB, or even call centers. It’s hard to get bored with so many possibilities, and if you get burned out in one, try another.”
At the end of the day, it’s not just the nurses who benefit from high job satisfaction and low rates of burnout; the patients benefit as well. Research shows that when nurses experience adequate staffing, strong administrative support for nursing, and strong relationships with doctors, their patients report an over 100% improvement in satisfaction with their nursing care.
To nurses, their job isn’t just a job; it’s a privilege. As Miller says, “We are blessed with the opportunity to see someone go from feeling miserable to feeling better in a short amount of time- and we are able to see how our role in their care helped to make that happen.”