Nurses in physicians’ offices see salary hike

(Healthcare Finance News) Nurses and nurse managers employed in physicians’ offices have begun receiving salary increases even as most other clinical and administrative support staff have seen their pay stagnate or decline, according to a recent survey by communications consulting firm UBM Medica US.

In its recently released “2012 Staff Salary Survey,” the firm reports that nurses and nurse managers in physicians’ offices saw average salary increases of 4 percent and 12 percent, respectively, over the previous year.

The survey includes data from 1,268 medical practices around the country and results were published in Physicians Practice in early May. 

“The overall nursing shortage is certainly putting upward pressure on nursing income,” said Bob Keaveney, editorial director of Physicians Practice. “I’d also speculate – and it is just speculation, as our survey doesn’t really try to parse out the reasons – that another factor is probably the high number of work-setting options that nurses have, from private practices (the focus of our survey) to hospitals to insurance companies to other kinds of healthcare companies, as well as public and private institutions of many kinds.”

“Our data suggest that private practice-based nursing salaries are actually a bit below the overall averages for nurses, which means practices are likely to continue to have to fight hard to attract and retain them,” added Keaveney. “So it wouldn’t surprise me to see some continued growth, although perhaps at more modest levels.”

To compensate for the lower average wages, Keaveney says physicians’ practices should promote the benefits of working in an office setting.

“(Their) best bet with recruiting is to emphasize the other advantages that they can offer, such as, for example, ordinary scheduling instead of long hospital shifts,” he said.

Susan Reese, chief nursing officer at Chelmsford, Mass.-based workforce management company Kronos, said the nursing shortage is forcing physicians’ practices to reconsider nurse wages.

“With dramatic nursing shortages on the horizon as large numbers of registered nurses retire or leave the workforce as the economy recovers, the pressure on all healthcare settings to attract and retain nurses will be great,” said Reese. “The physician practice setting will be challenged in this regard because of their notoriously lower salary scales and often restrictive practice environments limiting what nurses do.”

“Nurses in demand will be drawn to more lucrative sources of employment and settings that will support their practicing to the limits of their licensure,” she added. “Physician practices will need to increase salaries to compete for nursing resources, as well as make the positions more attractive by redesigning the roles and increasing the scope of practice.”

Christine Ricci, vice president, marketing, PR & strategic alliances at Lenexa, Kan.-based healthcare recruiting firm B.E. Smith, is not surprised by the report of a wage hike for nurses in medical office settings.

“The responsibilities and accountabilities for these nurses continue to increase, which is reflected in the wage increase,” she said. “More and more healthcare systems and hospitals are moving care out into the community, increasing the pressure on physician practices and, therefore, nursing within those practices. Also, these nurses are oftentimes now accountable for coordination of care across many care delivery venues and accountability for larger cohorts of nurses/assistants.”

Ricci believes the upward movement in salaries will continue “… as long as the community-based care delivery trend continues. There is an increased focus on decreasing readmissions due to the reimbursement impact on hospitals, which will also drive this shift in responsibility and accountability to the physician practices and nursing within those practices.”