Salary Survey Uncovers What Benefits Nurses Want But Don’t Have

Knowing what benefits nurses want that they currently don’t have is valuable information for nurse recruiters.

These details are especially important today for recruitment and retention efforts, given the tumultuous environment COVID-19 has caused.

Our Nurse Salary Research Report revealed several benefits nurses desired. The top three on the list? Bonuses, paid continuing education, and tuition reimbursement.


Our survey results found the most sought-after benefits nurses wanted were bonuses. In fact, 32% of RNs, 28% of APRNs, and 31% of LPNs/LVNs surveyed had bonuses on their list of wants.

Deena Gilland, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, National Director and Treasurer of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) and Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for Emory Ambulatory Patient Services Operations at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, said the survey results lined up with her own experience.

In addition to assessing base salaries across the board to remain competitive, Emory is providing bonuses. “We’re offering premium dollars, paying nurses extra money for providing COVID-19 care on top of their regular salary,” said Gilland.

David F. Walz, MBA, BSN, RN, CNN, FACHE, President-Elect of the American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) and Senior Director of Women’s and Newborn Health for CentraCare at St. Cloud (Minn.) Hospital, said CentraCare is using different types of bonuses to remain competitive with other employers and alleviate staffing shortages.

“Before COVID-19, we had enough staff,” he said. “Now with more staff out at any given time due to the pandemic, from either being ill themselves, quarantining due to a possible exposure, or caring for a family member who is ill, we are short staffed. Bonuses increase staffing and reduce shortages.”

Walz said CentraCare offers bonus pay on top of nurses’ regular pay to work extra shifts. “We also pay shift differentials to increase staffing for night shifts,” he said. “We’re also examining ways to provide a shift differential to our APRNs, as they currently don’t receive it.”

Most organizations don’t provide extra pay to exempt employees. However, CentraCare is also paying extra shift bonuses to their exempt staff to help ease staffing shortages. “This is also a cultural and morale booster for staff to see their leaders stepping in to provide bedside care,” he said.

There are different types of bonuses and bonus structures, said John Lidstrom, a seasoned healthcare recruiter in the Portland, Ore., area and President of the Oregon and Southwest Washington Association for Health Care Recruitment (OSWAHCR). “Traditional sign-on bonuses are taxed heavily so they’re not requested as much, in my experience.”

Paid Continuing Education

The second most sought-after benefit nurses wanted that they didn’t have yet was continuing education funding. According to our survey results, 27 % of RNs, 25% of APRNs, and 28% of LPNs/LVNs desire this benefit.

Educational opportunities are essential for professional nurses, said Gilland. “Emory provides multiple avenues for free continuing education for our RNs,” she said.

Walz said his organization offers paid continuing education for some staff — but not across the board.

“When we do send staff for continuing education, we ask they bring back their new knowledge to share with their unit and fellow staffers,” he said.

Tuition Reimbursement

Coming in third as the most sought-after benefit from our survey was tuition reimbursement, with 14% of RNs, 17% of APRNs, and 18% of LPNs/LVNs responding in favor of this benefit.

It’s a benefit Emory finds beneficial for everyone. “As an Academic Medical Center, we have a tripartite mission that includes education, which is fundamental,” said Gilland. “We also want the best and brightest RNs caring for our patients, so providing the mechanisms to gain or enhance their knowledge is key.”

Lidstrom said in his experience with candidates, tuition reimbursement and loan assistance/forgiveness are the benefits nurses want the most. “I’ve spoken with many nurses who have a goal of obtaining more education and others already have a large loan burden,” he said.

These nurses seek assistance on either financing their future educations or paying off their loans, said Lidstrom.

Benefits Nurses Typically Have

Medical, dental, and life insurance, along with long-term and short-term disability insurance are some of the many standard benefits employers offer, and our survey results reflect that.

Since many nurses already have these benefits, the number of survey respondents who said they wanted them came in low. For example, only 4% of RNs, 6% of APRNs, and 9% of LPNs/LVNs responded they wanted medical insurance.

“Nurses do inquire about the details of medical coverage being offered such as what are the premiums and out-of-pocket costs, along with how much paid time off (PTO) is offered, especially now with COVID-19,” said Lidstrom.

Changes with COVID-19

Another benefit that nurses said they wanted but did not currently have was child care. RNs (7%), APRNs (9%), and LPNs/LVNs (5%) responded they desired this benefit.

Gilland said prior to COVID-19, the need for child care was there, but the pandemic brought this benefit more attention.

“When COVID-19 hit, kids were home, schools and day care centers closed, presenting challenges for nurses to come to work,” she said. “We ramped up our assistance for staff regarding child care. Emory developed partnerships with outside organizations such as the YMCA, to help provide child care at affordable rates.”

The valuable contributions of nurses have come into the limelight and are now widely recognized as crucial in the fight against COVID-19 and providing care for all patients, said Gilland. “This could help increase salaries and benefits for nurses not only now — but also later once the crisis ends.”

Download the Nurse Salary Research Report for more helpful data on what nurses want.