Salary Survey: What OR Nation members make (and how they feel about it)

By Don Sadler

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary Survey

OR Nation members are, for the most part, satisfied with their jobs and compensation, given the current state of healthcare, according to the results of a recent survey. They are most commonly female (80%), in managerial roles, and have many years of experience in the profession. Nearly 70% have been in nursing for more than 20 years.

In March, OR Today conducted a salary survey among the members of the OR Nation. Nearly 200 members answered a wide range of questions, including their current annual salary (base plus bonus, if any), title, number of years in the nursing profession, education level, future salary expectations, and number of hours they are working, among others.

Following is a recap of the highlights of the survey results, as well as a few anonymous comments by some of the respondents. (Note that not all percentages add up to 100, as there were “other” responses in most categories.)

What is your title and specialty?

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary Survey

Nursing Manager was the most common title listed (23%), followed by Nursing Director (14%) and general and specialty OR nurse (9% each). A wide range of different specialties was listed, including ortho/ neuro, oncology, perioperative, ophthalmology, orthopedics and plastics.

23% Nursing Director
14% Nursing Manager
9% General
9% Ortho/neuro
9% Oncology
9% Perioperative
9% Ophthalmology
9% Orthopedics
9% Plastics

What is your education level?

A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree OR Nation members hold. One-third (33%) of respondents said they have a BSN, 18% have an ASN and 12% have a MSN. A wide range of other education levels was also listed, including LPN, CBET, CNOR, MHA, MBA/MS, T-SC and Army training.

37% Other (including LPN, CBET, CNOR, MHA, MBA/MS, T-SC, and Army training)
33% BSN
18% ASN
12% MSN

Where do you live and at what type of facility do you work?

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary SurveyMW 30%
W 11%
NE 25%
SE 23%
SW 10%

OR Nation members hail from all over the country. About a third of respondents (30%) live in the Midwest, and about a quarter live in the Northeast (25%) and Southeast (23%). Eleven percent live in the West, and 10% live in the Southwest.

The vast majority of respondents work at hospitals, with 45% at non-teaching hospitals and 30% at teaching hospitals. About 19% work at ambulatory surgery centers.

What is your current annual salary?

The average salary of OR Nation members is $85,000, while the salary mid-point is $81,000. The highest annual salary reported is $209,000, and the lowest is $24,000. Respondents in the Midwest make significantly less than their counterparts in other regions, with an average annual salary of $69,680. The Southwest is the highest-earning region, with an average annual salary of $87,000.

Experience level equals higher pay for OR Nation members, but only up to a point. Respondents working 11 to 15 years earn significantly more than both their less experienced and their more experienced counterparts. This could be attributed to the preference for a less demanding or part-time role among older OR professionals. Managers, directors and specialty OR nurses were the most common titles of high earners.

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary SurveyAverage salaries by region:
• Southwest: $87,000
• Northeast: $78,000
• Midwest: $69,680
• Southeast: $53,000
• West: $48,000

Average salaries by experience level:
0-4 years: $54,000
• 5-10 years: $105,000
• 11-15 years: $121,000
• 20+ years: $79,000

Average salaries by type of facility:
• Ambulatory surgery center: $106,000
• Non-teaching hospital: $84,000
• Teaching hospital: $80,632

Has your salary increased, decreased or stayed the same over the past year, and what do you expect your salary to do in the year ahead?

The good news is that 60% of respondents said their salary has increased over the past year, while only 5% said it has decreased and 34% said it has stayed the same. Among those who said their salary has increased, though, most of the increases were relatively small — generally, 3% or less.

Looking ahead, approximately half of respondents (51%) expect their salary to increase over the next year and just under half (45%) expect it to stay the same — only 3% expect their salary to decrease. Many respondents said they expect to receive cost-of-living raises only, and several noted that they are at the top of the pay range for their title and responsibilities, so their salaries have been frozen.

Do you believe your salary fairly represents the skills and experience you bring to your job?

Just over half (54%) of respondents answered “yes” to this question, while just under half answered “no.” Respondents offered a wide range of comments to this question — ranging from feeling severely underpaid to being fairly content with their salary — but this comment sums them up best: “We would all like to make more, but based on the current healthcare environment, I am satisfied.”

What factors do you believe affect your salary?

The majority of respondents (77%) said they believe that the financial condition and performance of their healthcare facility is the main determinant of their salary. Several, however, noted that they think healthcare reform will have an impact on their salary, though they weren’t sure if it would be positive or negative.

Are you working more or less than you were a year ago, or about the same? And have you taken on additional responsibilities in the past year?

Just over half of respondents (54%) said they are working about the same number of hours now that they were a year ago, while 39% said they are working more hours. Just 6% said they are working fewer hours now than they were last year. About two-thirds (64%) of respondents say they have taken on additional responsibilities in the past year.

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary Survey

Which employee benefits do you receive?

Most survey respondents are the recipient of at least a basic employee benefits package. The vast majority receive health (87%) and dental (83%) insurance, while 68% also receive vision insurance. Many respondents noted, however, that they must contribute a portion of their salary toward these benefits — in other words, they aren’t “free.”

About three-quarters (78%) have the opportunity to participate in a 401(k) or 403(b) retirement savings plan, and 52% receive tuition reimbursement. Some said their employer matches a percentage of their retirement plan contribution, although the matching percentages were relatively low — generally in the 2-3% range.

Have you considered changing jobs due to dissatisfaction with your salary? if so, do you think it will be relatively easy or difficult to find a higher-paying job in the current climate?

About one-third (32%) of respondents answered “yes” to this question. Just under half of them (43%) think it will be relatively difficult to find a higher-paying job, while about a quarter (27%) think it will be relatively easy.

What is your level of job satisfaction, and how manageable is your workload? And do you receive adequate recognition within your facility?

About two-thirds (67%) of respondents rated their job satisfaction level as either a 4 or a 5 on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest level of satisfaction. The average job satisfaction rating was 3.8. The same percentage of respondents (67%) said their workload is manageable most of the time or always.

ORToday Magazine | Cover - May | OR Salary Survey

One respondent summed up this question well: “I have to make my workload manageable. There is a fine line between making it manageable and neglecting what should get done.” Another echoed: “There are always multiple projects going on at the same time. It’s a matter of setting priorities.”

Meanwhile, 49% of respondents believe they do receive adequate recognition for the work they do, while 46% don’t. Respondents most commonly cited better communication as a way their employer could increase job satisfaction. Many respondents also suggested creating a system in which individuals are recognized and compensated based on performance.

One respondent felt OR nursing no longer receives adequate recognition as a specialty area: “I feel in the setting that I work in there has become a sense that OR nursing is not a speciality anymore. Management does not seem to respect that you don’t learn to work in the OR from a school. It is a critical care area, and I don’t think we are getting that respect. It takes 6 months or more to train an OR nurse.”

What do you like most about your job?

Respondents listed many things that they like about their jobs. The most commonly cited benefits of an OR nursing career included the variety of cases and exciting challenges presented by working in the OR; being part of a cohesive, highly skilled team; teaching younger nurses and staff members; learning the technical aspects of OR nursing; and being able to make a difference for their patients. As one nurse put it: “After 29 years, I am still in awe of the privilege I am allowed to help a patient. I go to work every day thinking what a WONDERFUL career I have to touch a life.”

What are your most pressing concerns about your job and the nursing profession?

A wide range of responses was also given to this question, but the most often-cited concerns had to do with the impact of healthcare reform and electronic medical record (EMR) requirements on hospitals and the delivery of patient care; fewer resources, staff cutbacks and being asked to do more with less; improving communication between members of the OR team; excessive regulations that aren’t in the best interests of patients; and the loss of ability by nurses to make patient care decisions.