The median pay for registered nurses sits around $71,000, but there are a few unique obstacles and common challenges nurses face that can significantly impact their earnings.1 In this financial check-up, we’ll discuss the common challenges nurses face today as well as a few ways in which they can work to overcome these obstacles.
Challenge #1: Lack of Financial Education
While this may not be an especially unique challenge to nurses, it certainly is one that puts them in a tough financial spot. Nursing programs typically do not offer any type of financial literacy, economics or personal finance classes. That means that while nurses graduate ready to head into the workforce, they’re left to learn everything they need to know about their finances on their own. Adding to this is the fact that many nurses have taken out student loans to cover the cost of their education, and understanding how to manage your debt and create a a financial plan becomes even more imperative.
If you’re still in nursing school or preparing to graduate soon, take a look at available courses at your local community college or online that can provide more information on personal finance planning. If you have the opportunity to speak with nurses who are already employed, ask them about what they wish they knew beforehand and what particular financial challenges they’ve faced. Understanding what you’re getting into can be a useful tool in preparing for your future financial concerns.
Challenge #2: Long Shifts & Odd Hours
Nurses don’t tend to work the typical 9 to 5. In a recent study done by the Health Affairs Journal, nurses were found to be working longer than their expected shifts and more than 40 hours a week, with about 31.5 percent of their scheduled shifts exceeding 12 hours.2 So when nurses do get a little time to themselves, it could likely be at odd hours - early morning, late night, etc. And when they are done with a long, stressful shift, the last thing they want to do is think about something else stressful - like their personal finances.
One option is to find a financial advisor who understands your need for meeting at odd hours or for short periods of time. Alternatively, dig a bit deeper into what resources your hospital or place of employment offers. Some may have financial advisors or other professionals available to you who may already be familiar with your schedule and unique concerns - saving you money and the time spent searching on your own.
Challenge #3: Student Loan Debt
In a study done by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in 2017, 50% of nursing graduates said their number one concern was their ability to pay their loans back. Nurses graduate college with an average of $40,000 to $50,000 in student loan debt. If they go back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner or CRNA, they could be racking up much more in student loans. The type of degree you obtain and where you go to school can have a significant impact on the amount you owe, but having any amount of student loan debt hanging over your head when you are trying to launch your career and possibly achieve other goals like starting a family and buying a house can be stressful.
Come up with a concrete plan for paying off your debt either by educating yourself on the available repayment options and forgiveness programs or working with a professional. If you have federal loan debt you may be able to reduce your monthly payments by enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. These types of loans may be forgiven after 20 to 25 years. If you don't want your debt hanging over your head for that long you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) which forgives your remaining debt after 120 qualifying payments. If you have private student loans which don't qualify for PSLF, it's important to determine if you qualify for state loan forgiveness programs. For example my wife is enrolled in Florida's Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program (NSLFP) which makes loan repayments on her behalf of up to $4,000 per year for up to 4 years. And unlike PSLF, her private loans which she previously refinanced, qualify for the program. The programs available vary by state so make sure to do your research based on where you live.
Pursuing your passion and caring for others makes nursing a rewarding and fulfilling career for many. But as you spend your days looking after patients, it’s important to remember that there’s a need to address your own financial health as well. Work with your employer to discover solutions and resources you may not have known were available to help address your biggest challenges when it comes to your personal finances.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.