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5 Takeaways from the 2020 Salary Survey

Publish Date: December 9, 2020


Each year in June AORN surveys both members and non-members about their compensation, benefits and current work environments to understand the current salary situation for perioperative nurses.

The good news is that the average staff nurse earned about $3,000 more in 2020, however, perioperative nurses in leadership roles earned about $1,900 less than they made in 2019. Still, both frontline nurses and leaders saw a bump in salary above inflation in 2020.

Here are five other takeaways from the salary survey results:

  1. Geographic Location Matters
    Nurses working in rural hospitals earned about $7,000 less per year than those working in urban hospitals, as compared to earning $5,800 less in 2019. Regionally, working on the East Coast or West Coast still pays the highest, with the West Coast (Pacific Region) paying $22,900 higher than the average base compensation for nurses, while nurses working in Mid-Atlantic states (New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, District of Columbia) made $18,600 above more in base compensation, and nurses in New England made $1,200 more in base compensation. Those working in Mountain States (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico) also saw a modest $7,400 bump to base compensation. However, these regional increases do seem to trend with higher cost of living. 
  1. ASC Nurses Made Slightly Less
    Nurses working in freestanding surgery centers made $5,600 less in base compensation, when compared to nurses working in acute care hospitals or hospital outpatient departments.

    In other facility type comparisons, nurses working in academic or specialty hospitals earned $3,800 more annually in base compensation, when compared to nurses working in general/community hospitals.
  1. For leaders, number of ORs and Staff Makes a Difference
    When broken down by how many ORs a leader oversees, the average manager earns $200 more per year per OR in the facility. Meanwhile, high-level leaders in VP, director, CNO and facility administrator positions made more depending on number of staff they oversee, with $100 more for each non‐RN staff member and $127 more for each RN staff member. 
  1. Raise Amounts Are Up, Slightly
    The mean pay raise amount for staff nurses showed a small bump at 2.7% versus 2.5% in 2019. However, less nurses received a raise in 2020, down to 69% receiving raises this year versus 78% in 2019. Nine percent of respondents noted receiving COVID-19 incentive pay.

  2. Nursing Shortage Persists, Burnout and High Turnover are Factors
    While down two percentage points (9% in 2019 to 7% in 2020), the ongoing nursing shortage is impacting facility operations—42% of respondents noted that staff shortages have led to surgery cancellations and delays. When looking at reasons for the nursing shortage, the top five reasons include (in order): facility budget constraints, staff changing employers, job compensation and benefits, nurses retiring, and burnout—this is the first AORN salary survey that has included burnout as a top five reason for the nursing shortage.

    Burnout outweighed compensation as a factor for considering leaving the profession, according to several respondents who noted they were satisfied with their compensation, but questioned their work/life balance, with one nurse saying, “I just need some downtime to de‐stress.”

    Another respondent questioned a lack of focus on retention, saying “there is little‐to‐no compensation to retain nurses even though overall responsibilities seem to increase.”

Get the Numbers for Your Paycheck Potential

AORN members have free access to the AORN Salary Calculator, which has been updated based on these 2020 salary survey results. Using the salary calculator can be a valuable way to negotiate your pay. In fact, one survey respondent was able to negotiate a raise based on numbers from AORN’s Salary Calculator. 

Access the Salary Calculator and read the complete 2020 salary survey results in the December issue of AORN Journal.