"Nurses Make the Big Bucks, Right?"

Maybe I'm the only one that feels this way but sometimes when I tell people I'm a nurse, the next thing out of their mouth is "Wow, you must be loaded."  I find this a tad irritating, and I'm wondering if I'm alone in my irritation, or do other nurses feel this way?

The thing that annoys me the most is that the people who usually have this opinion about nurses are not physicians or attorneys, they are usually people in entry-level position making very low wages. They must believe that nurses have no education and are just rolling in the dough for doing an easy job. 

Before I became a nurse, I worked in retail and was paid a very low salary.  I also tried the fast-food gig for little pay. Yes, I thought that nurses made a great salary, but it's not the reason I became a nurse. Everything is relative.  When you're making a pittance, it's easy to believe that $75,000 a year is "making a killing."  But when you factor in the amount of work a nursing student puts in to earn a degree in nursing, not to mention how hard it is to care for patients day in and day out, then no, it's not a lot of money and we are NOT "loaded."


I've had discussions with multiple nursing assistants that are also under the impression that nurses are rich. But when you break it down and factor in all the benefits a nursing assistant may be entitled to because of her low income, it appears that it may be a better idea to remain a CNA, if all you care about is the financial rewards of becoming a nurse. 

A low-income mom with a couple of kids may earn around $12.00 per hour. But with Section 8, low-income housing, food stamps, Medicaid and Large tax refunds, you do the math. 

Now, let's say this low-income mother decides to return to school and earn an RN degree. She now makes about $30.00 per hour. Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, now she pays her rent out of her own pocket for about $1000.00 per month. She no longer qualifies for Section 8 anymore. She pays about $600.00 a month for groceries because there's no more food stamps or WIC. She pays for her own child care because she doesn't qualify for assistance and no longer qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit. But, she is told she makes "the big bucks." Hmmm, slightly irritating, huh?

People who make these statements about nurses making a ton of money are completely discounting the fact that a nurse goes to college for several years, and nursing school is tough. Out of 89 people in my nursing class, 38 actually graduated. Nurses deserve to make a decent wage because they've earned it.  Many of them deal with life and death situations every day, and this can be very stressful at times. 

Now, I'm not trying to talk anyone our of becoming a nurse. Nor am I trying to say that staying on government assistance is a great goal.  
What I am saying is that most people don't go to nursing school to make lots of money. They go because they want to combine their love for caring for others with a secure career, it's called passion. If you're interested in becoming a nurse, don't do it for the money because your heart will never be happy. 
Do it because you want to help people. Give of yourself and you'll receive the reward you seek, but I guarantee you it won't be "lots of money." 

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