In many respects, nurses in Maryland have it better than their peers across the country — but not necessarily when it comes to their paychecks.
Overall, Maryland is the 10th-best state for nurses, according to a report released Tuesday by social finance site WalletHub, even though the average annual salary here is well below average and Maryland’s nurses wrestle with the worst commute in the country.
WalletHub’s 2014 report of the “Best & Worst States for Nurses” evaluated both short- and long-term trends related to employment opportunities for nurses in each state and Washington, D.C., as well as the competition for those jobs and the typical workplace environments.
The report’s authors said the goal was to provide recent nursing school graduates with more information about the job prospects in a given state, but some nursing students and recent grads said rankings can only go so far.
The decision about where to practice is usually based on subjective, hard-to-quantify factors, said Kevin Asonglefac, a 29-year-old nursing student at Montgomery College. Asonglefac said he decided to pursue nursing because he wanted a gratifying career and that he wouldn’t decide to work in one state or another based on “what some report says.”
“I’d have to experience each hospital and shadow a nurse there to understand how they approach patient care and what’s important to them,” Asonglefac said. “I’d want to understand the workflow, get a feel for working there.”
“I wouldn’t be doing it for the money,” he added.
Others likely feel differently, said Roxanne Moran, an associate professor of nursing at Notre Dame of Maryland University.
“Absolutely [the difference in pay] plays a role,” Moran said. “Many of my students are either fully supporting a family or are a significant part of their family’s income.”
Starting salaries for Maryland nurses are on par with those in other states, but their wages (adjusted for the cost of living) do not climb as quickly or as high, according to WalletHub’s report.
Some nursing professionals, such as nurse anesthetists, earn higher-than-average salaries. But as a group, nurses in Maryland earn less than they would in 35 states. Nurse practitioners, for example, make an average of $75,505 in Maryland, compared to $107,621 in Mississippi, according to the report.
But Brittany Norton, 26, who’s been a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital for five years, said although it’s easy to get caught up in what looks good on paper, different people need different things to succeed. Norton, for example, said when looking for her first job her priorities were different than some of her peers.
She went to nursing school in Pennsylvania, where she grew up, but relocated to Baltimore “for the sole purpose of working at Hopkins.”
“Hopkins actually pays less than many other hospitals,” she said, “and I had to weigh whether making more money was more important than learning from the No. 1 hospital, having autonomy, being able to grow … But I knew I wanted to go back to school, and it’s important to have all that experience on your resume. I could have worked at a community hospital and made a lot more money, but that won’t make you stand out, and I would not have been able to learn so much.”
Norton said the work environment is “definitely” more important to her than salary. Maryland received high marks for criteria such as the average number of hours worked and policies on mandatory overtime.
Some metrics were given greater weight when calculating each state’s overall rank, said Odysseas Papadimitriou, the CEO of WalletHub’s parent company, Evolution Finance Inc.
Maryland earned the No. 10 spot due in large part to its relatively high number of health care facilities per capita and because a lot of nursing positions are projected to become available over the next decade.