2020 Nursing Salary Survey: A First Glance 

COVID-19 reaction, fallout dominates this year’s questionnaire

The results of Elite’s 2020 Salary Survey are in, and approximately 12,000 nursing professionals have shared their thoughts, opinions, and experiences within the profession amidst the greatest health crisis of their careers.

When survey preparation started late last winter, we had no way of knowing that COVID-19 would become the biggest healthcare story in several generations with the potential of becoming a defining event in all of our lifetimes. Fortunately, we were able to make a quick adjustment and give greater emphasis to coronavirus-related questions and COVID-19’s impact on nursing salaries, hours, and the overall meaning for the future of the profession. The lasting impacts of the pandemic remain to be seen, of course, but this year’s Salary Survey results serve as an interesting ‘first look’ at the fallout.

First, some simpler statistics: just over half (52.3 percent) of our responses came from registered nurses (RNs), with nurse practitioners (NPs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) next on the list. 

Experienced professionals dominated this year’s responses, with just over 79 percent of responses coming from the 41-50, 51-60, or 61 and over age brackets. Over 93 percent of our responses came from women, while about 75 percent identified as White or Caucasian. 

With 11 percent of responses, California garnered the most responses, followed by Pennsylvania and Florida each with over 7.5 percent of total responses. About 70 percent of our answers came from full-time workers.


At this point, we’re probably hoping that the pandemic is the defining moment of our healthcare careers, as the thought of a larger-scale crisis is quite daunting. But the question that remains is to what extent will the pandemic serve as an industry-changing moment? 

Will it be the event that inspires the next generation to make nursing their career path of choice, creating an unexpected solution to the oft-discussed impending nursing shortage with the looming retirements of the Baby Boomer generation? 

Or will the virus send scores of nurses running from the profession in search of greater safety and security both personally and professionally? 

We asked a series of questions related to COVID-19, and at this relatively early stage of the pandemic, the answers provide mixed messages. While 58 percent of respondents indicated the virus has done nothing to change their hours or work schedules, of those who have experienced changes, 68 percent said their hours have actually been cut as a result, a testament to the toll the virus took on non-emergency or critical care operations in many hospitals. Just this week, Tower Health of Eastern Pennsylvania announced over 1,000 layoffs as a direct result of pandemic-related cost-cutting, and they’re far from the only health system forced to take such measures.

On a more positive note, a large number of people who saw their hours increase said they were offered related incentives as a result. Those nurses who put themselves at risk both physically and professionally seem to have been rewarded in many cases, which hopefully will quell any lasting resentment.

What does it all mean? At this point, 4.3 percent of our 12,000 respondents replied that they wish to leave the healthcare profession altogether as a direct result of their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 15 percent wish to remain in healthcare, but change their roles to another position.  

While the past few months have taught us some lessons about overreliance on percentages or statistics in general, the fact that almost 20 percent of nursing professionals in our Survey are considering some type of career change as a result of the pandemic is eye-opening, to say the least. We’ll have much more on this throughout our Salary Survey coverage.

The Future and Looking Beyond COVID-19

There are two ways of looking at the answers to our next two pandemic-related questions:

Do you feel that your facility is now adequately equipped to handle a future pandemic? (just over 59 percent replied yes.)

Do you feel that your facility is adequately staffed to handle the current pandemic? (just over 61 percent replied yes.)

One way is to be alarmed at the number of people saying no, but that requires overlooking the sheer number of nurses who reported minimal or no impact on their work from COVID-19. On the other hand, if almost 60 percent of nurses believe their facilities are currently equipped for any future pandemic, the hope would be that the next decade or so would see a huge step forward in those unprepared facilities towards future preparations. 

Next Week: Nurses answer the question “how will COVID-19 impact the future of nursing?”


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