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What options are there for a new, disappointed CNM working twice the hours for half the pay?

Tuesday April 1, 2014
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Question:

Dear Donna,

I just wanted to comment on the article encouraging nurses to continue their pursuit of higher education. After completing grad school and earning my MSN, passing midwifery boards and becoming an ARNP, CNM, I work twice the hours for half the pay. My salary plummeted and I now earn $10,000 less than I did as a 36 hour per week staff nurse. I also am saddled with more than $100,000 in student loans.

I love being a certified nurse midwife, however, for me, going back to school was the biggest financial mistake of my life and at my age, I won't live long enough to pay it back, nor reap a financial benefit from my new position. My family and I have had to adjust to a lower standard of living and the hours I work keep me isolated from friends and social/religious activities. I would gladly undo the years I spent away from my kids while I was studying and hoping to enrich the quality of our lives. I did follow my dream, though in my case it led to financial ruin and loneliness. I think this is an important perspective as employers are requiring continuing education without tuition reimbursement or positions with loan repayment.

Disappointed With Education

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Disappointed With Education,

I'm sorry to hear about your current work situation. Working in an unsatisfying job as you describe is not healthy physically, emotionally or spiritually. Even if you like the work, long hours, substandard pay and isolation are not a good tradeoff.

I don't know where you live or work but I would suggest that if you want to improve your situation, which it sounds like you need to do, you should read “New credentials, new role” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/New-Credentials). I do hope that you belong to and are active in the American College of Nurse-Midwives (www.midwife.org) or other professional nursing associations. The support, community and information pipeline that these associations provide are vital for success in any specialty and any role. Networking is a great way to find and get better jobs. You don't even have to join an association initially to attend local meetings. The more involved you get, the more you will get out of it. In addition, your dues and related expenses may be deductible on your income taxes. Check with your tax preparer.

You are never stuck in a job. Many CNMs and other advanced practice nurses have well-paying positions that offer them flexibility and autonomy. Seek those CNMS out through professional associations and word of mouth and ask for their advice and help to get the type of position you want. It is not always easy to take proactive steps to improve your situation but it is worth the effort. You may want to read “Nursing: A new paradigm” ( www.nurse.com/Cardillo/Nursing-A-New-Paradigm) to see how the healthcare delivery model is changing and where you might fit in better going forward.

Average salaries for CNMs across the country are in the $90,000 range. So if you're not making anything close to that, you need to keep looking.

When you started this journey, perhaps you weren't aware of all the scholarship money available to nurses for higher education, including scholarships for CNM students from ACNM. If you know anyone else contemplating higher education, you might refer them to other scholarship and loan repayment programs such as those referenced in the article “Master the scholarship game” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Scholarship-Game).

Best wishes,
Donna


Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://www. Nurse.com/Events.