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AORN’s 2012 periop nurse salary survey results are in

Publish Date: 11/28/2012

Annual study measures facts and stats with a look at personal views


AORN conducted its 10th annual salary and compensation survey for perioperative nurses in June with a survey of members and some nonmembers to identify factors that influence pay and benefits. In addition to factual analysis of base pay, overtime, and education, this year’s survey invited respondents to give their personal feedback, anonymously, on their compensation. The full report, presented in the December issue of AORN Journal, is online now.

The survey’s participants were staff nurses, managers, (ie, nurse managers / supervisors / coordinators / team leaders / business managers) high-level managers (VPs / directors / assistant directors and hospital/facility administrators), educators, RN first assistants (RNFAs), and clinical nurse specialists. Because the focus of the survey is perioperative nursing compensation, respondents who did not answer any compensation-related questions were excluded. In all, the usable sample of 2,415 individuals examines how a number of variables, including job title, education level, certification, experience, and geographic region, affect nurse compensation.

It was the staff nurses who responded at the highest rate -- at 41% of all respondents. In facilities with fewer than 10 ORs, considered “small”, they report they’re earning $65,100, and spending 87.6 % of their time in direct patient care. For the staff nurses working in facilities with more than 10 ORs, reported as “large”, staff nurses are earning $67,800 annually. On the other end of the compensation scale, the high level managers in small facilities earn $99,100 and, in large facilities, $128,900. They spend, on average, 13.7% of their time in direct patient care.

Other highlights of the results include:

  • The pay in university/academic ASCs was more than in any other facility type, though the author noted there was a small sample size for this group
  • Nurses generally receive more compensation in larger facilities
  • Salaried employees earn $3,200 more per year than do hourly employees
  • Nurses with a master’s degree in nursing earn an additional $3,400 in annual base

The survey results are reported by Donald Bacon, PhD, a professor of marketing at the University of Denver, CO, and a research associate at Rocky Mountain Research, Denver. According to Bacon, “The challenge in understanding perioperative nursing compensation is in estimating the number of variables that can affect compensation.”

The complete survey report addresses other forms of compensation including on-call, overtime, hiring bonuses, shift and other differentials. The effect of the economic downturn that started in the fall of 2008 has had widespread effects on the perioperative nursing environment, but the negative effects continue to lessen according to the latest survey.

Open questions, open answers

The survey asked for comments about compensation or other workplace aspects. More than 300 nurses offered an opinion and 57% of the 300 expressed dissatisfaction with their compensation, and 93% were dissatisfied with their pay. Many said their pay did not reflect the amount of responsibility, physical work, stress, increasing knowledge requirements, and specialty nature of their jobs.

Some nurses expressed frustration with the “do more with less” pressures of their workplace. There were also positive comments about the effects of unions on compensation benefits. Although the large majority of comments stated concerns about compensation, benefits, and the present nursing environment, a number of nurses expressed satisfaction with their pay and jobs.

Guidelines for Perioperative Practice


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