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Nurses Learn How to Negotiate a Raise: 5 Tips from American Sentinel University’s Career Coach

Knowledge and Confidence Keys for Nurses to be in Positive Negotiating Position

AURORA, Colo. – January 19, 2017 – Salary negotiation prospects for nurses are quite good, but many feel uncomfortable asking their employers for a raise and experience stress over how to best approach this delicate discussion.

But according to American Sentinel University’s career coach, Kim Dority, successful negotiations require self-assessment, research and planning, and strong communications skills to earn a raise that matches their experience, educational background, and job skills.

“Asking for a raise is a skill that nurses can master, and one worth working on to increase your ability to create a mutually satisfying agreement between you and your employer,” says Dority, a career expert who’s worked with students, alumni, and career transitions for 20 years.

The five tips Dority suggests will help build a nurse’s knowledge, confidence, and negotiating position:

Be prepared to describe your accomplishments

The basic idea behind asking for a raise is not merely that a nurse wants one, but that they have earned one based on the increased value they’ve provided (and continue to provide) for their employer.

“It’s important that nurses think through all of the ways their efforts have helped improve the organization in the previous months or years if raises have been particularly scarce,” says Dority.

She recommends focusing on increasing revenue or reducing expenses, but this might also include coming up with a process that improved patient response times, volunteering to train fellow nurses on a new technology the hospital’s introducing, or leading a mentoring program that helps new nurses quickly learn their jobs.

“Look for something you can quantify – for example, by how much were patient response times improved? If this isn’t an option, another alternative is to present any positive comments from others about your efforts, whether from patients, coworkers, or even management in other departments,” says Dority.

Also, she suggests making a list of accomplishments. “Then review and talk through them on your own or with a friend until you know you’re comfortable presenting this information verbally to your boss.”

Learn the “going rate” for your position

It’s important for a nurse to know what the general salary range is for their position (within the context of the type of organization a nurse works in and their geographic location).

Dority says that when nurses discover that they’re paid below the going rate, then they have a strong argument for a raise based on the fact that they’re currently underpaid.

On the other hand, “nurses should assume that their boss will either know or find out the average salary for their position and will point out that they’re already at the top of the range if that’s the case.”

She recommends nurses find out their pay ranges through websites such as and

Also, “check to see if the nursing associations you belong to do annual salary surveys; they often have more detailed or localized information that can be helpful,” says Dority.

Identify what you’re going to ask for

Nurses need to decide how much of a salary increase they’re going to ask for and based on the items mentioned above, why they’re going to ask for that amount.

“You want to have confidence in the amount you’re asking for, and be comfortable defending your numbers. You don’t necessarily need to assume your boss will argue with you, but the calmer you are when making your case and having the numbers to back it up, the more likely your boss will be to take your request seriously,” says Dority.

She also notes that if nurses get pushback on their desired raise, it’s important to consider what else their employers could provide that might be the equivalent of a particular percent increase. This might be an additional two weeks of vacation, or professional development support equal to the amount of the actual pay increase requested.

Rehearse the conversation

Asking for a raise can be as anxiety-producing as giving a speech because when asking for a raise a nurse is presenting a very well-prepared, persuasive set of facts, and then asking their “audience,” their boss, to act on that information.

Rehearsing key presentation points with a friend or trusted colleague will help nurses develop a sense of confidence in their delivery, while also giving them an opportunity to brainstorm how they might handle various ways the discussion might play out.

Prepare for multiple outcomes

This is a variation of “if/then” thinking: if my boss says [ABC], then I’ll respond by saying [XYZ]. A nurse’s goal is to figure out as many ways as possible their boss is likely to say “no,” and decide in advance how to handle those responses.

“In fact, as you rehearse the possible ways the discussion might go, it’s wise to assume that your boss will initially say ’no.’ In this case, your goal is to understand what would need to change for the answer to move to ’yes.’ The more feedback you have about why your boss is saying no, the clearer the path will be to getting to yes,” says Dority.

Dority says being prepared to negotiate is a key part of asking for a raise and if a nurse does her homework within the five points presented, then they will be in a strong position.

“And if your boss completely shuts down your request for an increase without offering any good reason or considering alternatives, then you have the information you need to decide whether to start looking for a new job.”

Check out American Sentinel University’s nursing professional series blog for more tips.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online nursing degree programs in nursing, informatics, MBA Health Care, DNP Executive Leadership and DNP Educational Leadership. Its affordable, flexible bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The DNP program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Accrediting Commission of DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.