Registered Nurses won’t make newspaper headlines, but your local sports pro will

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With Ontario’s Nursing Week approaching, May 7 – 13, posters for the Ontario Nurse’s Association (ONA, our union) campaign on supporting nurses the same way pro-athletes are have been put up around Acme Regional.

The conversation often arises among my colleagues about how a baseball player can make over 20 million dollars a year where 3 or 4 nurses’ lifetime salaries combined will never compare to that. I often feel bitter when I think of those in the business world who receive all sorts of financial and personal incentives for their work. People who go on all expense paid trips because they have sold the most insurance (selling you safety nets in case you fall, but you likely won’t, however you have to have it…) for example that year, meanwhile in that same year I may have resuscitated a child, held the hand of a dying man during his last breath and treated a father of 4 for a heart attack among caring for other incredible people. I received my same pay as always and more importantly, do not expect an incentive. I don’t feel bitter that I’m not getting a trip, I feel bitter that in this society, a pro-athlete or businessman is more supported than nurses. On the other side of the coin, it makes me wonder what sort of nursing culture would be bred if nurses were provided incentives for life saving measures or actions/treatment/education. And what treatments or care would be deemed “more important” than others, garnering a higher incentive? In the emergency department health teaching is imperative; to prevent illness and disease so one could argue that is as important as treating the patient having a stroke. If incentives in nursing existed would the wrong sort of people be attracted to the nursing profession? Some say it’s a calling, the art of the practice; only certain people can and will do the job and do it well have you. It would be worrisome to think that an individual would only want to save a life or teach parents about how to appropriately treat fevers if it meant they would get a financial bonus.

And yet, despite all of this, I still struggle with the fact that people who sell the most cars, buy the most stock in a company, etc… are seemingly more valued and appreciated then those that save lives, give people more time on earth and genuinely (most of us at least) care about humanity. I have a hard time finding the balance in it all. Emergency nursing is in the “business of life saving” is it not? With more and more facilities receiving incentives for improved and rapid physician to patient initial assessment times, where does appreciation for the nurses fall in to all of this?

(See also ONA’s website here and RNAO’s website for nursing week.)

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  1. #1 by Jenn Parsonage GN on Sunday 29 April 2012 - 1845

    I’ve often thought the same thing. Hockey players get played to play a game, and while I’ve had arguments that it’s “hard” to play hockey at that level, I’ve never heard a solid argument as to why they should receive millions of dollars to play, where nurses, firefighters, police officers, etc make pennies in comparison. I often get the comment “yeah, but you get paid A LOT for what you do”. Do I? As a brand new nurse I make a heck of a lot less than what people think I get paid. Someone thought I made >$150,000 a year!!! (I wish!)

    I’ve never been a fan of sports icons & movie stars making a ridiculous amount of money. But I guess that’s what happens when society values entertainment over essential services.

    • #2 by jeanhill on Sunday 29 April 2012 - 2340

      I couldn’t agree more with you. The value of celebrities, pro athletes and some other (in)famous “non-contributing zeros” as I call them, seems to be the large focus in society. And while I’m sure what a Kardashian wore to some event supporting a person who did nothing is important to someone out there, why can’t front line health care workers and there every day contributions to society be held in higher merit?

  2. #3 by torontoemerg on Sunday 29 April 2012 - 2050

    When I was in school in the mid-nineties, during the endless upheaval in the system and massive nursing lay-offs, I remember seeing an editorial in the local paper to the effect that nurses had priced themselves out of the system and were over-paid. (The top salary for nurses then was maybe $50K, if that.) Compared to what?I asked myself at them time. Funny how people still make the same argument. Funny how no one, in contrast would suggest the same thing about firefighters, paramedics, police etc, then or now.

    We’re paid fairly well paid, it’s true. Whether we’re paid what we’re worth is another question.

    • #4 by jeanhill on Sunday 29 April 2012 - 2345

      I think until someone truly needs a nurse they express these thoughts of nurses being overpaid.
      Do you ever wonder if no one questions the other services because they are predominantly male? And nursing, despite more and more men, still remains a majority female profession?

  3. #5 by Lynda M O on Sunday 29 April 2012 - 2337

    Nurses are paid nowhere near what they are worth. Neither are teachers, home health care workers, child care providers, teachers’ aides, orderlies, paramedics, firefighters, cops.

    Overpaid: Lawyers, stockbrokers, financial advisers, pro athletes…

    Will the world ever be fair ?~!

  4. #6 by TheNerdyNurse on Monday 30 April 2012 - 2310

    It’s unfortunate, but it seems to be just the way it is. This is not true just of the nursing profession either. Police officers are paid roughly $30k a year starting salary where I live.$30k a year to risk your lives to protect others. And military aren’t compensated much more.
    It’s the nature of a service profession and it’s very unfortunate.

    • #7 by jeanhill on Wednesday 02 May 2012 - 1738

      What’s more is you hear comments along the lines of “you can’t put a price tag on a life…” which in my mind, you cannot. However you can seemingly put a price tag on the work of the individual saving that life.

  5. #8 by Pedestrienne on Tuesday 01 May 2012 - 1914

    As a student nurse in Australia, the most common misconception I come across is that people think we get paid a wage. Every time I’m on a placement my grandparents ask how much I’m being paid and every time I have to remind them: zero.

    Most Australians have no idea that a student nurse simply gets the same student benefit entitlements as any other student of any other health or non-health discipline of study. We pay for our own books, uniforms, shoes, stethoscopes, transport & accommodation if undertaking prac away from home (some small repayments of amounts like $50 available if you meet the criteria), and the cost of all those things are not in any way taken into consideration for how much student benefit we get – it’s only weighed against whether you work and what your living situation is. You can ‘claim’ them on tax return, but the only outcome of that I’ve ever seen is that I don’t get taxed on my $0 income – very generous, indeed!

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