Workers aren’t the only ones exhausted as nursing homes enter a third year battling COVID-19. Leaders are weary and wary of the industry’s future, with 58% of respondents telling McKnight’s they’re less optimistic about 2022.

Despite an overall increase in salaries, registered nurses report glaring differences in pay and concerns about equity and overwork that could affect already troubled pandemic-era staffing levels, a new survey finds. queried more than 2,500 nurses about their pay and job satisfaction in late 2021. Although responses revealed a median salary increase of $5,000 when compared to the same period in 2020, notable differences emerged when the responses were broken down by gender, race and ethnicity.

The 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report found that the gender pay gap had nearly doubled since 2019, for example, with male registered nurses making $14,000 more than female RNs in 2021. In addition, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) nurses reported the lowest levels of salary satisfaction.

These latter groups also reported the longest working hours, with the most overtime hours reported by Black and African American nurses.

Burnout, attrition and age

Many studies have documented high rates of nurse burnout, job dissatisfaction and attrition during the pandemic. The survey results appear to support these findings, showing an 18% increase in those considering leaving the profession since 2020. In 2021, 29% of nurses — across all licensures — said they are contemplating doing so. 

New nurses in the 18-to-24 age group and experienced nurses aged 65 years and older were most likely to be eyeing an exit. What’s more, fully 28% of those surveyed reported that they had changed work settings in 2020 and 2021, and 47% said they are “open to new opportunities.”

Travel nursing, an assignment that has drawn many nurses away from their original settings during the pandemic, was an option for some respondents. Among the 4% who said they were travel nurses, fully 62% said that they had joined the ranks of that group recently, in 2020 and 2021.

Education as way to advance

Respondents saw additional education as a route to achieve better pay. Fully 46% said that they plan to increase their salary with additional training, and 34%  plan to pursue a degree.

“Considering long-standing racial pay disparities, I encourage all of my peers, and especially nurses of color, to continue advocating for themselves, negotiating for higher salaries and securing pay equity,” said Trish Richardson, MSN, BSBA, RN, of, which is part of healthcare training company Relias.

Richardson also recommended that healthcare organizations assess their professional development and training opportunities. These may include clinical career pathways and mentor programs “to ensure employees are supported at every stage of their career,” she said.

RNs made up 87% of the survey respondents, including advanced practice registered nurses (5%), and licensed practical nurses or licensed vocational nurses (8%). is a continuing education provider.

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