Alabama nurses some of lowest paid in the country

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – 2020 was the year of the nurse. A time that should have been set aside to celebrate their contribution to healthcare and society.

But after more than a year in the COVID-19 pandemic, the message from nurses at UAB nurses is clear: They’re overworked, underpaid, and understaffed.

Lindsey Harris, president of the Alabama Nurses Association, said Monday night there’s not much incentive for nurses to stay in the state.

“I’d love to see for nurses in the state of Alabama, first of all, to come up to the average 8 percent of what the surrounding states pay. It’s easy for a nurse to go across state lines and still come back home to their families, and make that 8 percent difference.”

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics registered nurses in Alabama on average make just over $60,000 each year. However, the national average salary for an RN is just over $80,000.

The nurses who refused to clock in at UAB, a leading medical research hospital, said that patient care was not compromised and their shifts were covered.

The Alabama Department of Public Health assistant state health officer says she feels for the nurses.

“The message here is that these nurses care about these patients, they care about the quality of care to the patient they care about the individual patient’s outcome,” said Dr. Karen Landers. “They want to do their very best to ensure that the patient is able to get out of the hospital, and certainly go on to completely recover. So I think we have to look at this really as a marker of how stressed and how frustrated our healthcare workers are in this pandemic.”

Harris said the nurses want to keep others healthy, but also stay safe in their work environments.

“This is definitely a cry for help,” she said. “It’s very important for nurses that we have that we maintain that safe and that quality of care that we’ve always done.”

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