Nurses in Solano County are the highest paid in the United States, according to a new study.
But, at least one former Sutter Solano RN says she finds that hard to believe, and a local nurses union spokeswoman said the findings are misleading. While a local hospital management spokeswoman says the findings don't surprise her.
The 2013 EasyNCLEX study looked at the salaries of Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses in each state as a whole, and in individual metro areas, the report notes. This information was then compared to the cost of living in the state or city to find the top ten of each.
Based on that criteria, "the best Registered Nurse salary is currently in the Vallejo-Fairfield metro area in California," the report says. "If you're an RN there, you're earning on average $119,000, while the cost of living is only around $71,000."
This means that only about 60 percent of a Solano County RN's salary is needed to make ends meet here. This can likely be explained by the area's relatively low housing costs, which is precisely where the study is misleading, California Nurses Association spokeswoman Liz Jacobs said. The study presupposes the nurses who work in Solano County, also live here.
"Studies don't always reflect real life," Jacobs said. "This study also presupposes families of three, and that's not what most families are."The fact that housing costs vary widely in California, while nurses salaries tend to be regional, particularly with health care giants like Kaiser Permanente, also likely helps explains the findings, she said.
"I'm a little surprised (by the study's findings,)," Jacobs said. "I don't dispute them, but I think they're misleading. I would guess nurses in Solano get paid less than nurses in San Francisco, but housing costs are much higher there. And nurses' wages in California are higher than elsewhere in the country, and that's reflective of nurses being organized, making them, along with firefighters, police officers and teachers, among the last bastions of the middle class."
The report says, all top 10 cities for RNs are in California, where the average salary is $94,120 and the cost of living is about $85,534, requiring nearly 91 percent of that income to get by.
Sherry Ramsey, who recently moved to Arizona after more than 12 years as a Sutter Solano Medical Center RN, said she doesn't necessarily buy the study's findings."I know we had huge takeaways and our health care costs quadrupled, and I had enough of them and left in January," Ramsey said. "I now make less, but the cost of living is much less. I love it here."
The study shows seven of the top 10 states for RN salaries are in the West, and Ramsey's moved to one of them. Besides Arizona and California, they're Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico, with the other three --Texas, Minnesota and Illinois --in the Midwest.
Sutter Solano Medical Center spokeswoman Nancy Turner, said the study's findings "reflect what we already know -- that nurses are an important part of our healthcare delivery teams and they are well compensated."
Sutter and its nurses union have been locked for months in contentious contract negotiations.
The story is different for Licensed Practical Nurses, which are not earning top salaries in California, the study reveals.
Though six of the top 10 states for LPNs are in the West, California is not among them. None of the top 10 places for these nurses will completely cover expenses, but some come close.
The best place to work for LPNs is the Reno-Sparks metro area, where the average salary is $54,000 and the cost of living is about $62,000.
Solano County ranked fourth for LPNs which earn an average of $57,850 annually here, so it takes about 123 percent of their income to get by, the study shows.
EasyNCLEX.com is a provider of practice software for the U.S. nursing board exam for nursing students, resources about the NCLEX exam, as well as a blog and student forum, a press release notes.