opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Susan Estrich
20 Mar 2015
The Ryan Giroux Problem

What was Ryan Giroux doing free on the streets of a Phoenix suburb — free, that is, to go on a shooting … Read More.

18 Mar 2015
What Congress Can't Do

Here's the short answer: Anything. If you can't even move a bill creating a fund for the victims of sex trafficking,… Read More.

13 Mar 2015
Who Trusts Government?

Almost no one, it turns out, according to the latest survey results released by the highly respected NORC, an … Read More.

The Value of Nurses


I never quite understood what "nursing" really meant until the past six months, when the supposed superstar doctor who operated on me in Phoenix (One of the smartest male doctors I know told me she was the best, a woman, how wonderful; beware gender bias.) made a mess of my intestines, leaving me rather critically ill with peritonitis and unbearable pain while she went to Maui. Some very fine physicians, in California and in Arizona, tried to clean up the mess she left, but it was the nurses who took care of me.

Nursing, I came to understand, means far more than doling out shots and pills, although keeping track of all the different medicines I was on was a challenge, and a mistake on a transfusion can kill you. Nursing was about taking the grab bag of medicines (many of them over-the-counter, not strong enough, the product of extremist attitudes toward pain killers, with some doctors prescribing more than I could possibly need (BAD) and some nothing at all (ALSO BAD), and leaving it to the nurses to improvise) and working to keep me safe and as pain free as they could. Nursing meant sitting with me when I was scared and sick and reassuring both my children and me that the pain would pass, that I would be OK. It meant finding food I could hold down, brushing my matted hair and insisting on clean pajamas and clean sheets. The first two times I came home from the hospital, I thought I could take care of myself, or that untrained "caretakers" could nurse me. The third time I came home with registered nurses, and they nursed me back toward health.

All of my nurses, as it happened, were women.

So why don't they make as much as men?

Dr. Ulrike Muench, a nurse practitioner with a Ph.D from Yale, and her colleagues at University of California San Francisco examined two decades of data from some 80,000 RN's and concluded that, in this female-dominated profession, the minority of male nurses earn almost $11,000 per year more than their female counterparts.

Controlling for all the obvious factors — advanced degrees, clinical specialties and experience — explained away only half of the difference.

The rest? A pay gap of $5,148 per year that costs women and their families, over the course of a career, more than $150,000.


The researchers were able to point to fields in which the gap was greatest — e.g., nurse anesthetists were paid $17,290 more if they were men than if they were women; male cardiac nurses earn just over $6,000 more; and orthopedics, where women came closest to parity). Still, over the course of the multi-year study, which included responses from more than 80,000 RN's, women never achieved parity.

According to the study's authors, more than two million women and their families are being "shortchanged," and while the authors "hope that our results will bring awareness to this important topic," more than awareness is needed.

When I first started in politics, we used to wear buttons that said "69 percent," which was the average pay gap between men and women at the time. You got all kinds of responses in those days: that it was just the market, or that women chose (or were chosen) to work in lower-paying female-dominated positions like nursing and teaching. But none of the old bromides explains why within a profession like nursing, where, if anything, the stereotypes of women as more caring should actually produce higher pay, the pay gap has endured.

But I do know this. My doctor easily could have killed me. My nurses, among the smartest, most talented, most compassionate women I have met in my life, with meticulous care nursed me back to life. They are worth far more than they are paid

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



4 Comments | Post Comment
Having been married to an RN, I can attest to the value of nurses. However, I don't understand what the point of this article. Apparently male nurses earn more than female nurses ( ~$5500/year when all the factors are accounted for). Yet, Ms. Estrich fails to identify either a cause for this difference or a solution to this 'problem'.

Since there are over 5600 hospitals in the US (and probably a comparable number of non-hospitals) employing nurses, this would have to be a mighty large anti-woman conspiracy if it is deliberate. Where do all these employers meet to have their byzantine planning sessions for their 'disrespect female nurses' jihad?

One natural explanation that comes to mind for this discrepency is that the "squeeky wheel gets the grease". Perhaps males are a bit more aggressive than females and agitate a bit harder on their own behalf where pay and working conditions are concerned? How will the vaunted 'big government' fix that? Force male nurses to take low doses of sedatives to counter their 'unfair' advantage in aggressiveness? Make the males take pacifism training? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Seriously, if you want to solve a problem, you need to do more than describe it. You need understand the cause and have hard evidence to show you truly understand why things are the way they are. Statistics are nice, but correlation is NOT causation. Right now, you seem to be demanding pay raises for female RNs simply because they are female. I'm a Physicist, not a lawyer. However, I suspect Civil Rights law may have something to say about such a Draconian solution.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Old Navy
Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:20 AM
I have learned the value of nurses after meeting Jody five years ago. She was very caring and irreplaceable. I know I'll never meet anyone who would take as good of care of me as she did.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Daphne
Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:04 PM
Glad you are doing better. I think the real reason for the pay discrepancy is that men almost always counter the first salary offer and women almost never do. Keep doing this over time and ultimately you will be making $5000 less than you male colleagues.
Comment: #3
Posted by: City Fool
Thu Mar 26, 2015 1:21 PM
Ms. Estrich is all wet with her political views and constant protecting Obama and Hillary .
However, she is right on about nurse care and I wish her well.
Comment: #4
Posted by: dual brained
Fri Mar 27, 2015 12:06 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Susan Estrich
Mar. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 30 Mar 2015
Deb Saunders
Debra J. SaundersUpdated 29 Mar 2015
Steve Chapman
Steve ChapmanUpdated 29 Mar 2015

22 Oct 2010 Politically Correct Radio

29 Aug 2007 The Distinguished Gentleman From Idaho

16 May 2007 Blame The Woman