New report reveals CNO earnings and job satisfaction

Nurse Leader Insider, June 9, 2016

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Originally appeared in Health Leaders Media.

Chief nursing officers and other nurse leaders report high levels of job satisfaction, but are less satisfied with their salaries and benefits, AONE survey data show.

Based on results published in the second edition of the American Organization of Nurse Executives' Salary and Compensation Survey for Nurse Leaders executive summary, the answer varies depending on job title, experience, and geography.

Data from calendar year 2015 was collected from 2,541 AONE members and non-members who responded to an online survey in the winter of 2016. The three most represented titles among the survey respondents were:

  • Director (35%)
  • Manager (22%)
  • CNO/CNE (21%)

The executive summary was released in May 2016. Below is a snapshot of some of the survey's findings:

Job vs. Compensation Satisfaction

On a five-point scale, survey respondents said they were either "5, very satisfied" (40%) or "4, somewhat satisfied" (41%) with their current positions.

Yet only 35% of nurse leaders report being "highly satisfied" with their benefits and only one-quarter are satisfied with compensation.

Salaries Vary Widely

Half of respondents report annual salaries between $90,000 and $149,999. On the low-end of the salary scale, 12% report earning less than $90,000 annually. The remaining 38% of respondents earn $150,000 or more. The $150,000 or more group breaks down into the following categories:

  • 15% earn between $150,000 and $179,999
  • 13% earn between $180,000 and $229,999
  • 10% earn $230,000 or more

Salary Aligns with Experience

As in most other industries, those with leadership experience earn higher wages. 

  • Two-thirds of respondents with 10 years of leadership experience or less report an annual salary lower than $130,000.
  • 60% of those with 11 to 20 years of leadership experience earn $130,000 or more, as do 74% of those with 20 or more years of experience

Bigger Title; Bigger Paycheck

Nurse leaders with senior-level titles earn more than other nurse leaders:

Directors and managers are most likely to earn between $100,000 and $159,999 annually.
More than half (58%) of non-system CNOs earn between $100,000 and $199,999; 23% of them earn between $200,000 and $249,999, and 17 % earn $250,000 or more.
More than half (52%) of system CNOs earn $250,000 or more.

More than half (61%) of those surveyed received bonuses in 2015. Factors that influenced bonuses included:

  • Financial performance of the organization (71%)
  • Clinical performance measures (64%);
  • Patient satisfaction (51%)

Geography Matters

Salaries vary among AONE's nine geographic regions:

  • Region 9 (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) has the greatest percentage of respondents (62%) earning $150,000 or more.
  • In Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) nearly half (45%) of all the nurse leaders earn $150,000 or more.
  • Region 5 (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin) has the lowest percentage (27%) of nurse leaders earning $150,000

Employment Settings are Shifting

Since 2013, the percentage of survey respondents working in acute care hospitals has dropped 37%.

While 42% of respondents said they work at acute care hospitals, the results of AONE's 2013 survey showed that 67% of respondents worked in acute care hospitals.

Another 34% of the 2016 survey respondents work in academic institutions (of this group 26% work in an academic medical center/hospital and 7% work at an academic institution/university/ college) while 8% work in a health care system/corporate office.

The remaining 17% of respondents work in "other" settings.

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