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Negotiating 101: Four Tips to Navigate Nurse Compensation

Whether you are a new nursing graduate or an experienced nurse, there are many ways to tailor a job offer and promotion options to your personal needs—all you have to do is ask.

The professional healthcare landscape is constantly evolving—from emerging technologies to new definitions of what the workplace looks like to greater degrees and certification options. However, one thing that is still stuck in the past is how we talk about money. Or don’t talk about it, as it were. Negotiating salary remains an uncomfortable topic for many—, according to a Pew Research study, 60% of U.S. workers said that they did not ask for higher pay than what was initially offered when they were last hired. Why? Many respondents said they did not feel comfortable. But of those who did ask for higher pay, 28% said they were granted the higher rate. That just goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to ask. But what’s the right route to ask the uncomfortable question? 

Whether you are a new nursing graduate looking for your first job, or experienced and looking to pivot to new career options in the field, there are many ways to tailor a job offer and promotion options to better fit your personal needs—all you have to do is ask. Read on for the top things to consider when navigating a salary negotiation. 

Know Your Worth 

At every stage of your professional career, there is power in knowing the value of your work, and that value can be discovered by doing your research. Start by searching reputable sources, such as Herzing University’s Career Market Insights tool, for compensation ranges, various job descriptions, and areas of living. Consider where you currently fall on the spectrum of compensation packages and benefits and where you want to be. When you are ready to begin the conversation about salary, you will be prepared and confident to assert your case with plenty of reliable data to back it up. Having ample supporting data keeps the conversation objective and open to finding creative solutions. For example, if you are new to the field, you may not be in the average or median pay range yet, but you can discuss with your supervisor how to get there and above over time.   

Remember, it’s not just technical proficiency and certified skills that have quantifiable value. Studies show that being able to communicate, work with others, and problem-solve—often called soft skills or human skills—are equally (if not more) valuable in a healthcare environment. 

Make Your Case with Confidence

It is easy to tell yourself you deserve a raise; it’s a lot harder to say it to your boss, especially when they are staring back at you. Remember, negotiation is a conversation, and each side should be looking to find ways to meet in a comfortable middle. Be prepared with your talking points, highlight your strengths, and have answers ready for any questions you might be asked. Negotiating doesn’t have to feel confrontational or combative; it is about being confident in your work, your strengths, and the value you bring to the workplace. Practice with a friend or in the mirror until you feel comfortable stating the facts of your case and feel good about showcasing your true value to the organization and the patients you care for.

Help Make Their Decision Easy

When talking to hiring managers and bosses, remember they must consider the bigger picture of their staff, scheduling, budget, and workplace environment. You can make the decision more clear-cut for them if you provide data and objective reasons for why you are an invaluable member of the team. To help be your best advocate, document any praise or recommendations you have received, positive reviews, proven ways you have supported or improved the workplace, and any other items you are proud to note. Even a thank you card from a patient will show that you are doing good work that supports the broader mission of your workplace. 

Also, plan to discuss at an agreeable time—when your boss isn’t too busy or distracted, or when there isn’t a workplace crisis underway. A yearly review is an optimal time, but you could also suggest a quarterly review or biannual meeting. If your workplace has distinctive patterns, such as slower summers before a back-to-school rush, consider scheduling your discussion when the office environment is most predictably calm. The discussion doesn’t have to be dramatic if you are prepared and confident in your worth to the company. By keeping the conversation open and collaborative, you allow both sides to see all possible ideas and solutions. Just as you advocate for providing your patients with the best care, you also must advocate for yourself to bolster your career satisfaction and ensure a strong career trajectory. 

Consider All the Added Perks and Benefits

One way to think about negotiating a job offer is to consider the big picture. Yes, money is important but there are other ways to feel adequately compensated that factor into your quality of life. To maximize your overall enjoyment and job satisfaction in both the long-term and in the day-to-day environment, consider additional benefits, such as:

  • Adjusted or flexible scheduling 
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement plans
  • Shift length hours
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Vacation days
  • Wellness stipends 

Ask your supervisor about whether or not these added benefits exist or if there are new skills or clinical experiences that would benefit your workplace while bolstering your own skill set. Most leaders with a growth mindset will take note of team members who seek out expanded responsibilities.

Your value to the company, whether private practice or part of a larger healthcare system, is more than what they pay you. How you support the mission, help streamline processes, collaborate with others, and perform your tasks above the expectations all fold into your worth to the company and a supportive employer will recognize that.

Herzing University’s Career Development Services team provides a variety of resources for current and prospective students as well as recent and returning graduates, including job boards, networking advice, and career support. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career journey, the Herzing team is here to help.

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* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2022. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

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