2020 Nursing Salary Survey: COVID-19’s Impact

2020 Nursing Salary Survey

The 2020 Nursing Salary Survey gives a closer look at the career-altering pandemic and what it means for the profession

When Elite originally released our 2020 Nursing Salary Survey, we anticipated another year of comparing salaries of LPNs, RNs, NPs, etc. and looking for trends to indicate a direction for the future. 

But in early March, everything changed. 

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is the defining event of the healthcare career for any active professional. While the pandemic will have obvious repercussions for salaries – and we will be covering those impacts – the fallout around the profession is likely to be felt far beyond income. While many professionals got into nursing primarily because they wanted to be on the front lines in times like these, others found themselves taken aback or unprepared for the sheer magnitude of the event, and are second-guessing their career choices.

In the middle of those two groups are nurses who remain steadfast in their commitment to helping patients and continuing to do so for the foreseeable future, but see lasting changes on the horizon even after the COVID-19 crisis is hopefully resolved. Today, we take a look at all of these groups.

General Outlook

As we covered in last week’s introductory article, a majority of nursing professionals are reporting minimal or no career-based changes as a result of COVID-19. 58 percent indicated they’ve seen no change in working hours, and only about a quarter of nurses reported their roles changed in the workplace as a result of the pandemic. Over 80 percent reported no desire to change anything about their careers while the remaining 20 percent indicated that they want to leave healthcare altogether, change their current healthcare profession, or that they simply want to retire earlier than planned as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Only 61 percent responded that they felt their facilities were adequately staffed during the current pandemic and yet many nurses were furloughed as a result of lost revenue-producing procedures. In all, it seems that while there were struggles that caused some people to change their outlook on their healthcare careers, the majority of nursing professionals were either minimally impacted to this point, or took the changes and disruptions in stride. 

When asked the open-ended question “How do you think COVID-19 will impact the future of nursing?” most nurses answered with an eye toward the future. (All answers that appear here are anonymous.)

Future nurses

Many expressed concern that the pandemic could be a detriment toward the future growth of the profession with comments like (“It may deter younger persons from entering the profession,” “I think we’ll see a decrease in the number of people going into nursing,” “Many nurses will leave the profession because the danger that this virus represents to them and their families.”), while others hoped the pandemic would be a motivating factor to inspire the next generation of nursing professionals. (“I hope it encourages more people to enter the field,” “I believe new nurses will learn the skills they need to improve the care they want to give to their patients,” “More nurses will be born!”)

Telehealth is here to stay

Others were more pragmatic in their replies, discussing the increased role of telehealth they’ve seen during the pandemic and their feeling that this will become a permanent fixture in healthcare, with bedside or in-person care decreasing as a result. 

“Telehealth will impact how healthcare services are provided overall,” one professional replied. “Nurses will have to work harder to develop and maintain therapeutic relationships with their patients” noted another.

Over a third of respondents indicated that they are currently participating in telehealth sessions with patients, and almost three-quarters (73.6 percent) of people feel telehealth is a safe and viable alternative for routine patient care. Additionally, the convenience of telehealth can’t be overstated; it seems now that developing a health systems’ capabilities is the last remaining detriment to an even wider expansion of the role telehealth plays in our medical community.

Education and training are needed more than ever

Educational concerns are also at the forefront of many nurses’ minds. “Education is becoming an issue for students during this [pandemic],” one nurse replied. “I wish students had not been taken out of school, especially in the time of telehealth,” added another.

Many people expressed a belief that education will move increasingly toward a virtual platform, while others were more concerned about increased opportunities for education in emergency preparedness. 

There is a belief that nurses will need to “aggressively educate the public regarding the need to follow public health/scientists’ recommendations” and that “there will need to be the inclusion of emerging public health (or just more public health-related issues) in annual CE offerings.”

Conflicting reports exist as to how serious the crisis has been, but most agree that there was considerable and viable concern over a potential lack of supplies at the beginning of the spike in cases and per one response “education going forward will need to include use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and better safety protocols,” while another concluded that “pandemic/emergency training should be added on units, and better protocols within facilities will need to be enacted.”

Other considerations

Some respondents interpreted the question as “how long do you think COVID-19 will impact nursing?” to which responses ranged from 1-5 years with many concerns focused on the potential impact on the nursing shortage.

As can be expected with open-ended questions, the responses predicting upheaval and disruption to the profession were more verbose than those who more or less responded, “we will get through this, and learn from it.” But they were fairly equal in number. 

Conservation of PPE, consideration of hazard pay, increased risk of burnout, concerns around mental health, and the need for greater preparation were also common responses. But the singular, identically worded response we received more often than any other? 

“I don’t know.”

Thank you for joining us for the 2020 Nursing Salary Survey.

Next Week: we start a deeper dive into salary-related responses among different demographics.

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