Personal Finance / Cost of Being a Nurse. This means nurses are in high demand.
It’s common knowledge that nurses graduate from school with a lot of debt. The average student loan debt for each nursing degree is:
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN): $19,928
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): $23,711
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): $47,321
However, these are not the only costs associated with being a nurse. Nurses face several out-of-pocket costs required at their place of work—and we aren’t just talking about buying scrubs and shoes.
Nurses have to pay on-site, off-site, and mental health costs associated with the profession. Some of these costs include:
- Shoes & Socks
- Sleep aids
- Mental health support
- Continuing education
- Loan repayments
We totaled these costs together and found that nurses pay around $13,700 to practice nursing per year while the average registered nurse makes approximately $82,750. That’s almost 17% of a nurse’s salary. This article will tabulate the individual costs and provide alternative ways for hospitals and facilities to help offset these costs for nurses.
This article will be split up into the following sections:
Nurses must spend a good amount of money simply to attend their jobs. The on-site costs for supplies include shoes, socks, scrubs, pens, and stethoscopes.
Shoes and socks
The typical nurse walks a 5K every shift. They are on their feet a lot! So they need durable compression socks for extra relief and support and specific types of shoes to perform their job effectively. Nurses we surveyed said they replace shoes and socks every six months. We calculated they spend $284 a year on shoes and socks.
Running annual total: $284
This is the official nurse uniform. Nurses need to purchase high-quality scrubs so that they don’t go through them as often. The average nurse buys scrubs every six months. The price for a durable pair of scrubs is around $85. If nurses buy three pairs every six months, they will spend $510 per year on scrubs.
Running annual total: $794
While you might think that hospitals or facilities provide their nurses with stethoscopes, this is not always the case. Nurses have to pay out of pocket for their equipment, and they tend to purchase them every two years for a total of $93.
Running annual total: $887
Along with the tangible costs associated with being on the job, nurses have to handle off-site costs when they aren’t working. These include childcare, mental health, and sleep aids.
Many nurses have children, and paying for childcare is a significant piece of off-site costs. Even if the nurse is from a two-parent household, it can be challenging to coordinate schedules and provide time to watch children. Therefore, nurses with kids need to calculate childcare costs into the equation.
While childcare is not exclusive to nurses, the fact that they often work odd hours makes it hard for them to find adequate childcare. Accordingly, childcare costs may be even higher for nurses.
The national monthly average for childcare costs for $700 for kids four and up, or $8,400 per year
Running annual total: $9,287
Mental health support
Nurse burnout is a real thing. Nurses face a challenging job and need all the support they can get. Sometimes they need mental health support. Insurance carriers typically cover mental health services and some hospitals provide nurses with a certain amount of free visits.
Still, nurses often have to pay co-pays. The typical mental health co-pay amount is between $20-50 and successful treatment usually requires 15 to 20 treatments. This amounts to $1,000 annually, assuming 20 treatments at $50 each.
Running annual total: $10,287
Since nurses often work 12-hour shifts, they must get proper sleep. Sometimes nurses need to sleep during the day because of their shifts. They may need sleep aids such as masks and black-out curtains to help them. Masks tend to run at about $15 and curtains at $40.
Running annual total: $10,342
The nursing field provides individuals with a great opportunity to advance their careers. This section will highlight the price of license renewal, conferences, continuing education, loan repayment, and certifications.
To practice, registered nurses need licenses. Every state has a different renewal period for when the nurse has to have their license renewed. We took the renewal cost for each state and created a yearly average from that number. After that, we added all the state’s combined annual costs and came up with an average. On average, it costs registered nurses $50 per year to renew their license.
Running annual total: $10,392
Nurses often attend conferences to develop their skills and network with other nurses and healthcare professionals. We calculated that the average cost to participate in a conference is about $350 and we estimated that a typical nurse goes to one conference a year.
Running annual total: $10,742
As part of the license renewal process, nurses often have to take continuing education units (CEUs) to stay current with care practices and protocol. Here at Incredible Health, we provide free continuing education units. However, not all sites do. Most sites require a yearly subscription to have access to their classes, and they often cost $50 a year.
Running annual total: $10,792
One of the clearest paths to advancing your career as a nurse is to pursue an advanced degree. Most registered nurses need at least an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) to work in the field. However, many registered nurses have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN), and some have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). As such, nurses who take this route leave with a lot of debt.
According to NerdWallet, the following breakdown for monthly loan repayments are:
- $196 per month for ADN
- $235 per month for BSN
- $544 per month for MSN
We chose to take the $235 per month number to represent the average registered nurse monthly loan repayment for this study. Given that amount, it would cost a nurse $2,820 a year to make student loan repayments.
Running annual total: $13,612
Registered nurses often specialize in a particular field. For example, there’s an ICU nurse role or the Cath Lab nurse position. Most positions require certification. The average certificate expires after five years and costs $395 to renew or $79 per year.
Running annual total: $13,691
What this means for employers
To conclude, it’s pretty expensive to practice nursing. There are on-site, off-site, and career advancement costs associated with the profession. In total, it costs approximately $13,700 per year to practice as a registered nurse. That’s a significant amount and puts a lot of pressure on nurses. This amount constricts nurses’ finances and puts them in a vulnerable position, especially students just entering the field.
“Most schools do not educate or prepare students for the costs they may face once they are fully in the nursing world,” said Sierra Lucas, a registered nurse who works at Incredible Health. “It can come as a shock and be slightly overwhelming. Providing the proper education and resources beforehand could prove to be helpful for many.”
Hospitals could try paying for at least some of the career advancement requirements like conferences, certifications, and student loan repayments to mitigate these costs. Some hospitals or programs provide student loan forgiveness. Still, hospitals taking the initiative to help offset these costs would be helpful.
Moreover, nurses can save money at several retailers simply by being a nurse. These savings can help nurses recoup some losses.
Last, several community colleges and websites, including Incredible Health, offer free CEUs to nurses as well.
To retain and recruit more nurses, it’s important to keep their costs low. This will help boost morale and decrease burnout, among other things. Several nursing unions, such as the National Nurses United and the National Union of Healthcare Workers are fighting to reduce some of the costs associated with nursing and increase wages.
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