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Pricing the Top Paying Nursing Skills

From obstetrics to physical therapy to neurosurgery, few jobs have as diverse a set of responsibilities as nurses, and it’s up to HR professionals to make sure that they are all paid competitively. In such a varied role, skills have an enormous impact on pay. How does an HR professional know that their nurses are being paid fairly for their skills?

We know that skills impact pay. But how does being able to administer anesthesia compare with being able to navigate the complexities of medicaid/medicare regulation? How can HR professionals accurately price nursing jobs that seem to have little in common other than the word “nurse” at the end? More perplexingly, how can HR professionals price nurses in similar roles that require different skills? Without broad, high-quality data the answer is simple: they can’t.

Which Skills Give the Biggest Pay Boost?

PayScale’s crowd-sourced salary data provides the depth and breadth needed to analyze nursing skills. Combining that data with our compensation model allows us to isolate the effect of individual skills on pay. The model accounts for a list of compensable factors including years of experience, location and certifications. By using the model, we are able to get precise answers to questions like “By what percentage does surgical training increase a nurses pay?”

For this analysis, we identified more than 60,000 people in nursing roles1 who responded to the PayScale salary survey between May 2014 and May 2018 and listed at least one skill. We ran this information through our compensation model once with their skills, and once without their skills to estimate the effect those skills have on pay. Restricting only to skills with substantial sample sizes, we ended up with a final list of 49 skills that increased pay for nurses.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Highest Paying Nursing Skills

Nurses Pay Boost
Obstetrical Anesthesia 9.1%
Trauma Intensive Care Unit (TICU) 6.0%
Team Leadership 4.7%
Quality Assurance / Quality Control 4.4%
Interventional Radiology 3.3%
Medicaid & Medicare Regulation 3.2%
General Surgery 3.1%
Utilization Review (UR) 3.0%
Anesthesia 2.6%
Pulmonology 2.2%

Obstetrics and Nonclinical Skills Pay Big for Nurses

Obstetrical anesthesia tops the list of top paying skills for nurses by a large margin (3.1 percentage points above the second place skill).This likely reflects its level of specialization and its importance to obstetrics. Unsurprisingly, nearly all (92 percent) of the nurses who listed obstetrical anesthesia as a skill indicated that they were Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs). However, because the model controls for certifications, it is already accounting for the pay boost attributable to the CRNA certification. That means that the pay boost we found for obstetrical anesthesia is in addition to the already-substantial pay boost associated with being a CRNA.

Another important trend: many of the top 10 skills are non-clinical and unrelated to patient care. Nursing has so many facets that, although most nurses’ primary responsibilities relate to directly to patients, what differentiates a great  nurse from a good nurse might come down to intangible skills like team leadership. As high healthcare costs continue to increase, American healthcare systems will continue to ask more and more of their nurses. The high value of these administrative and interpersonal skills reflects that increasing dependence.

So Many Skills, so Little Time

We have observed striking differences between pay for nurses in similar roles but with different skills.This is merely one of the many insights the PayScale dataset can provide on the subject of healthcare skills. In the next installment, we will be looking at skills among people in some of the most underappreciated roles in a hospital: non-clinical staff.

Notes

1. We defined “nursing roles” by grouping together the following job groups:

  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Nurse Midwives
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

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