What’s the difference between a male and female nurse?

Male and female nurse

The main difference is that registered male nurses earn about $11,000 more a year than their female counterparts, even though the latter outnumber the former 9 to 1. There are other differences, such as experience, education, work hours, clinical specialty, and marital and parental status. However, even after accounting for these factors, there is still a pay gap of $5,148 that has been constant for the last 25 years, according to a study published in JAMA. “Given the large numbers of women employed in nursing, gender pay differences affect a sizable part of the population,” study leader and nurse practitioner at UCSF Ulrike Muench, PhD said in a statement. “Nursing is the largest female dominated profession so you would think that if any profession could have women achieve equal pay, it would be nursing. We hope that our results will bring awareness to this important topic and can start a discussion about what additional steps could be taken to achieve equal pay.”

The researchers used the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses and the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to draw their conclusions. The former compiled data every four years between 1988 and 2008 from over 30,000 registered nurses across the United States; the latter collected responses from close 206,000 nurses from 2001 to 2013. In one survey the gap was $10.243-$11,306, and in the other it was $9,163-$9,961; both databases showed that male nurses carry more money in their nurse bags than females do in all specialties with the exception of orthopedics. Male nurses in chronic care out-earned women by $3,792, while male anesthetists earned $17,290 more than female anesthetists.  Women who held senior academic posts did receive a slightly higher pay, but the difference was negligible. The nurse gender salary gap was traced back to 1998; it seemed to diminish in the mid and late 90’s but broadened again in 2000.

Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, Maryland Patricia Davidson suggested that men may be more skilled at negotiating raises and promotions, as well as less likely to go on prolonged leaves of absence to care for children or aging parents, to account for the disparity. “It's a real indictment that this issue of gender disparity is prevalent in nursing where it's predominantly female,” Davidson, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters. “In Wall Street or Silicon Valley people can dismiss it because it's a culture that's not known to be accommodating – a male-dominated work environment where it's stacked against them – but when you see this inequity in nursing it speaks to a larger problem.” According to Davidson, nursing – with its flexibility, shift work, and nontraditional hours – is not as favorable for balancing a successful career with a family life as it should be.

On the other hand, nursing and health policy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Linda Aiken – who wasn’t involved in the study either – entertained the possibility that the study didn’t expose inequality in pay as much as it did a gender difference in work choices. “Men may be more likely to work full time and even to work more hours per week than other full time nurses,” Aiken wrote in an e-mail to Reuters. The results call for “more analysis before we can conclude that there is an actual gender gap in pay for equal work and how a gender gap might best be addressed.” She added that “if the observed gender gap in nurses' incomes is a product of female nurses being more likely to elect specialties that are in great need like primary care (for which Medicare pays nurses 85% of the rates it pays physicians for the same service), long-term care, home care, and public health, it would not be in the public's interest to encourage more women to follow in the footsteps of men to elect higher paying specialties or practice settings.”

Related Read:

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- Even in nursing, no equal pay for women

- Is a male nurse worth $5,148 more than a female nurse?