2002 Salary Survey Results: Family planning providers hold the line on salaries in 2002

Slight increases reported, especially for nurse practitioners

Take a look at your paycheck; chances are if you are in the family planning field, it shows a slight increase from 2001.

The results reflect a continued trend of increases, particularly for nurse practitioners (NPs), who comprised the majority of survey responses. (See "What is your salary level?" below.) The survey was mailed in July 2002 to 1,236 readers and had a response of 131, for a response rate of 10.6%.

Average salary for NPs moved up to $55,710, rising from $53,043 in 2001. Median salary also increased: The 2002 figure was $55,313, compared to $48,333 in 2001.

"My initial impression is that salaries appear to be going up, and I think that is terrific," observes Susan Wysocki, RNC, NP, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, DC-based National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. "It is an improvement, but it is way below what we should be seeing for some of those people who are in the $30,000-$40,000 category."

While average salary for administrators/coordinators dipped slightly from 2001’s $53,571 to $49,230 in 2002, their median salary rose from $47,857 in 2001 to $52,778 in 2002. The group represented 31.46% of 2002’s total responses. (See "In the Past 12 Months, How Has Your Salary Changed?", below)

Look at national scene

While other national surveys of physicians show pay increases in the past year, industry analysts note that physicians are having to work smarter, harder, and longer to maintain compensation levels.1 Obstetricians/gynecologists (OB/GYN), who are among the hardest-hit by skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums, saw their salaries dip in six of the nine surveys monitored by Modern Healthcare, a national health care magazine.2 Decreases as high as 8% have been reported; industry analysts point to a possible willingness by these specialists to accept lower salaries if their employers contribute to insurance costs.2

Malpractice issues are major ones for OB/GYNs: the Washington, DC-based American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a national "Red Alert" in May 2002 on the condition of obstetrical care, warning that without federal and state reforms, chronic problems in the nation’s medical liability system could severely jeopardize the availability of physicians to deliver babies in the United States.

Salaries continue to trend upward for physician assistants, according to information from the American Academy of Physician Assistants in Alexandria, VA. Results of its 2002 salary survey show a median salary of $69,567; the median salary reported in 2001 was $65,177.

RN salaries going up

The demand for RNs in the hospital setting is impacting salary levels for such health professionals; according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings of registered nurses were $44,840 in 2000, up from $40,690 in 1998.3 The middle 50% earned between $37,870 and $54,000. The lowest 10% earned less than $31,890, and the highest 10% earned more than $64,360.

The United States is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is projected to intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows, according to the Washington, DC-based American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). While a 2001 AACN survey shows enrollment in generic (entry-level) baccalaureate programs in nursing increasing by 3.7% nationwide over 2000, enrollments in all programs were down 17% or 21,126 students from 1995. On average over the last five years, the number of enrollees and graduates from generic programs declined by 1,567 and 1,420 each year, respectively, according to the AACN. (See "What is Your Highest Academic Degree?")

What does it mean for you?

Challenges for one group of health professionals may translate into advantages for another. Pay may need to be increased for nurse practitioners in family planning facilities in some parts of the country if employers want to retain staff against the rising pay being offered to hospital-based RNs, notes Wysocki. (See "How Many Hours a Week Do You Work?")

Marion McCartney, CNM, director of professional services for the Washington, DC-based American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), says, "Things look promising, and with this physician malpractice crunch, I think nurse midwives, at least in some areas, will find even more places that are looking for someone to work in to supply the needs of the community. (See "How Long Have You Worked in Positions with the Same or Similar Responsibilities as Your Current Position?")

The shortage in RNs has not yet translated into the fields of advanced practice nurses, but problems may be looming down the road, forecast Wysocki and McCartney.

NPs to be hit by shortage

Wysocki predicts that the nursing shortage will catch up with nurse practitioners in the next five or 10 years. The dearth of RNs in the pipeline will start to show then in terms of shortages among NPs, she believes.

"We don’t see the graduate nurses for at least five years, until they apply to ACNM," says McCartney. "So we don’t see a shortage right away, but we will probably see it in about five years, unless the situation is turned around."

A shortage could cause problems, since more patients are coming to rely on the value of advanced practice providers, notes McCartney.

"It is much more common for people to know someone or to have used a nurse-midwife themselves," says McCartney. "More and more people are aware that nurse-midwives work in hospitals, although still for a lot of people, that is out of their grasp. (See "How Many People Do You Supervise, Directly or Indirectly?")

Make your move

How can you make circumstances and professional expertise increase the numbers on your paycheck? The No. 1 recommendation is to ask for more money, because no one is going to give it to you until you do, says Wysocki.

"Ask how you might be able to participate in ways to increase your salary," notes Wysocki. "I think that it is important to recognize that salary and what is brought out into a clinical practice are related."

If you are an advanced practice provider, consider using the following questions, suggested by health care employment expert Carolyn Buppert, JD, of Annapolis, MD:

  • What is the practice’s collections rate?
  • What is the average lag time between submission of claim and payment?
  • Who negotiates the fee schedules with commercial insurers? Can I see the fee schedules?
  • How many patients do you expect me to see per day?
  • What is the average charge billed per visit by the physicians in the practice?
  • What profit do you expect me to generate for the practice?
  • What profit do you expect employee physicians to generate for the practice?4

Look at your productivity figures, and also analyze what goes into the formula for figuring your salary, suggests Wysocki. If your potential increase is based on your categorization, perhaps negotiate for a different and more lucrative, one, she states. Look at your options and the current job market, because opportunities do exist.

"There are a lot of jobs out there for nurse-midwives, but not always in the communities they want to work," says McCartney. "As many times as I hear of practices that are closing for nurse-midwives, I seem to get an equal amount of calls into this office with requests to fill positions."


  1. Medical Group Management Association. Physicians Saw Slight Increase in Compensation in 2001, but Gains to Disappear in 2002. Press release. Denver; Aug. 5, 2002.
  2. Romano M. Another good year. Modern Healthcare 2002; 32:29-31.
  3. US Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2001-02 ed.
  4. Buppert C. What’s in a number? Green Sheet 2001; 3. Accessed at www.medscape.com/viewarticle/407069.