It’s a phenomenon that is woefully familiar to many part-time workers: the part-time pay penalty.
That’s when someone is paid less per hour than full-time counterparts for doing the same work.
“The wonderful thing about nursing is that it is a highly flexible profession,” explains Corinne Cochran DNP, NNP-BC, core faculty with the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University. “For nurses interested in part-time work, not only can they experience a pay bump, but it can also open doors to advance in the profession.”
Cochran is an example of a part-time nurse who has seen her career grow because of the flexibility afforded by a part-time schedule. In addition to working part-time as a nurse in a level 3 neonatal intensive care unit, she is also a full-time faculty member with Capella.
“You can make a decent living as a part-time nurse working just two days a week, for example,” Cochran says. “Just as importantly, you can meet the other obligations you have in life, whether that is to your family, or perhaps military service, or simply other passions. It’s all about having a well-balanced, happy life.”
Nursing can be a very physically demanding career with nurses on their feet often 12 hours at a time. That can take a toll—particularly on older nurses.
“In a hospital, nurses typically work three 12-hour shifts a week or more, and as you get older, those long shifts can become very, very difficult to endure,” Cochran says. “For the aging nurse workforce, the part-time option is wonderful. It keeps you in the profession. It’s doable. “
Staying in the Game
Nursing is not a career that a person can easily step away from for a number of years and then just jump right back in. The skills and competencies that a nurse must possess are constantly evolving and need to be kept current. Plus, there are licensure requirements that must be maintained. Faced with those realities, having the option to work part-time allows many nurses to stay in the profession. They don’t have to make a choice between working full-time or leaving the field completely. With the ongoing shortage of nurse, keeping as many nurses in the profession as possible is particularly important.
“Nursing is the type of profession where you have to be diligent in maintaining both your technical and critical-thinking skills,” Cochran says. “If you step away from the profession for a while, those skills can wane. That is why having a part-time option is so important. It keeps you in the game.”
Cochran adds that having the option to work part-time allows nurses to take breaks to do things like care for young children or to serve in the military or go back to school.
She adds that Capella’s online degree with the FlexPath format allows students to earn a degree at a pace that fits their specific schedules. That flexibility dovetails nicely with someone working a part-time schedule.
“You can earn a degree at your own pace while still working in the profession,” Cochran says. “To keep your state licensure, for example, a nurse typically needs to remain clinically active. Working part time while going to school allows you to do that.”
With an increase in pay comes compromises, explains Cochran. Many health care organizations no longer pay benefits, such as health insurance, for part-time employees.
“That’s how they can justify paying more per hour—not paying for benefits,” Cochran says. “Nurses need to take that into account before pursuing a part-time schedule. Does the organization you work for pay benefits for part-time workers? And if not, do you have a spouse or a partner who has benefits that will cover you? It’s important to have a definitive answer to those questions before switching to part time.”
Cochran concludes by stating that while every nurse’s situation is different and working part-time must be carefully considered, it can be a godsend at certain times by allowing nurses to balance the demands of family, work, and life.
With Capella University’s online RN-to-BSN degree via FlexPath, you can earn a degree in nursing at a pace that fits your schedule.