What Are You Worth? 2017 Salary Survey Top Takeaways

Publish Date: December 13, 2017

Good news: Base compensation pay is up from 2016, according to findings from AORN’s latest salary survey.

Staff periop nurses are earning an average annual salary of $70,300, up $1,200 from 2016, and periop nursing leaders are taking home an average $117,000, which is $3,400 more than they were earning last year.

While nurses on the East and West coasts show a higher rate of base compensation, cost of living factors appear to make a big difference. For example, California nurses are benefiting from higher base pay with lower costs of living when compared to Massachusetts nurses.

It looks like perioperative nurses in Texas are in the best financial position, according to survey findings, with nurses earning an average $8,500 more and paying lower costs of living when compared to the national average.

Bad news: Some benefit compensations are down.

Perhaps reflecting tighter operating margins as health care continues to adapt to value-based care, long-standing benefits for periop nurses tied to future financial planning are down in 2017. For example, 401(k) contributions decreased for 20% of respondents, 13% said tax shelter annuity plans went down, and 11% reported a decrease with pension plans.

A considerable number of respondents want improved health insurance benefits, with most suggesting lower overall insurance costs offset by increased employer contributions to premiums or lowered deductibles.

Seeing the Big Picture

AORN CEO and Executive Director Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN, says nurses can use the salary survey results to evaluate how their pay and other compensation benefits rank with colleagues in their region and across the country.

For nursing leaders, Groah suggests survey results and respondent input on the “softer” compensation categories can be valuable to reflect on.

“We know nurses are seeking ways to maintain work/life balance and the survey results seem to reflect this,” Groah explains. For example, surveyed nurses suggested greater focus on leaders supporting paid time off.

“Ask yourself if you give your staff advance notice about taking call or consult them in decisions that impact their practice,” she suggests, also noting that some survey respondents are seeking greater acknowledgment for the work they do.

Here are three other interesting compensation changes from 2016 that may impact your practice:

  1. Certain Educational Degrees Are Linked to Higher Compensation

    Overall, 29% of survey respondents said that their facility pays nurses more for having a degree in nursing, including bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, which is 1% higher than reported in 2014–2016.By degree compared to nurses with only diplomas, nurses with a bachelor of science degree in nursing made $6,600 more, and nurses with a master’s degree or higher in any field earned $13,900 more.

  2. Retention Bonuses Are In Demand

    Nurse respondents agree by a notable margin that incentives for established nurses to remain in their jobs is needed. The most frequently suggested motivator for retention would be retention bonuses. Survey results found that retention bonuses increased by 1% last year, incentive bonuses were up by 2%, and employee referral bonuses led in this category, up 4%.

  3. Men Earn More Than Women

    The survey authors have followed a pattern of men earning more than women in five of the past seven years for the survey and the 2017 results affirm this trend. This year men in periop nursing roles out-earned their female colleagues by a statistically significant gap of $3,700.

Where do you rank?

Perioperative nurses can discover their paycheck potential by entering job title, facility type, location and other data into AORN’s Salary Calculator, which includes 2017 data.

Groah says keeping current with the latest compensation trends can be a form of networking to understand trends by region. “Even if you aren’t interested in moving, the survey results provide an interesting look at compensation statistics and strategies across the country.”


Read the complete results for AORN’s 2017 salary survey in the December issue of AORN Journal.


Looking for opportunities to network with nursing leaders? Register to attend AORN’s 2018 Executive Leadership Summit in New Orleans, March 25–27.