Scrubs is a nursing magazine with an on-line blog that posted the “Top U.S. States to be a Nurse in 2012” by Linda Lampert. Linda, using salary data from a 2012 staff survey published by Physician’s Practice, includes New York as one of the top three states to be a nurse. I agree that the numbers might look good to an outsider, but the reality is that most nurses in New York State work in Manhattan hospitals and compared to the cost of living, nurses don’t make as much money as you think.
I was recently offered a critical care position at a major New York City hospital while I was working as a contract employee. The hospital is unionized and the salary is non-negotiable. Here is the breakdown:
. Base pay: $68,812
. BSN pay: $1,600
. 7 years experience: $2,831.13
. TOTAL (gross) $73,243.13 per year (equivalent to $37.56 per hour)
In order to be approved for an apartment in Manhattan, rental applicants must provide tax returns that indicate their gross income is FORTY times the cost of one month’s rent. According to a June 2012 Bloomberg report, the median cost for a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3100/month. In a March 2012 article by the NY Post, $54.46 per square foot (annually) is average. MNS reports that the current mean rental rate of a one bedroom apartment (no doorman, no elevator) is $2986/month. NY Habitat reports the range for a midtown one bedroom (no doorman, no elevator) is between $2200-$3000/month. From personal experience, a one bedroom for $2500 (no doorman, no elevator) is reasonable.
Let’s do the math:
. $2500/month X 40 = $100,000 minimum annual income. Application DENIED.
. $1825/month X 40 = $73,000 minimum annual income. Application APPROVED.
After a $1825 broker’s fee and a $1825 deposit, $1825 per month will afford a tiny 402 square foot studio (no doorman, no elevator) in Manhattan. Now let’s consider all annual expenses combined using conservative estimates.
. Rent $21,600
. Utilities $960 (electric)
. Groceries $7000
. Transportation $3648 ($200/month taxi fare, $104/month unlimited MetroCard)
. Cell Phone $1200 (Verizon smart phone service)
. Laundry $850
. TOTAL $35,258
Remember, New York City residents pay some of the highest city, state and federal taxes in the country. On average, one-third of gross pay will be deducted.
. $73,243.13 – 1/3 ($24,170.23) = $49,072.90 annual net income
. $49,072.90 annual net income – $35,258 basic living expenses = $13,814.90 remaining
The remaining $13,814.90 must be used to make student loan or credit card payments, join a gym, budget entertainment or hobbies, purchase household incidentals (extra roach spray and mouse traps), pay for medical costs, buy uniforms, clothes/shoes, gifts, pets, and possibly a vacation. One word: Impossible.
According to the Scrubs article, the magazine conducted a poll to rate nurse’s happiness levels. Only 4% of local respondents indicated that they were happy or extremely happy. Lynda Lampert writes, “I think we can all guess that this number is a low ball figure, right? I mean, really, what self-respecting New Yorker admits to being ‘extremely happy’?”
I can assure you that 4% is not “a low ball figure.” The lives of New York City hospital nurses are compromised by the high cost of living. Living with roommates, moving to an outer borough, and getting a second job can alleviate financial stress but will make for a stressful life. Seeking employment at a non-union hospital (New York Presbyterian Cornell, Hospital for Special Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering) can allow some negotiation in salary. But in general, nurses choosing to live and work in Manhattan must truly enjoy New Yorkers, the city and nursing because there is nothing to love about the pay.
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Originally published September 9, 2012