Experienced Atrium nurses upset after entry-level pay raise

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An Atrium Health nurse, who did not want to be identified, said her current pay does not reflect her experience.

“Experience is value, especially in the nursing field,” the nurse said.

Atrium Health recently raised its entry-level wage for nurses to $26 an hour.

“I've wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl,” the nurse said.

[Some doctors leaving Atrium Health amid new compensation contract]

Several nurses with more experience told Channel 9 they're barely making that much.

“It's very hard to maintain a positive attitude when you feel like your skills and value as a nurse are being undervalued,” the nurse said.

Atrium Health officials said the pay increase could help them recruit and retain talent in a field that's already competitive, which is a move that should help improve the quality of care for Atrium Health patients.

“If you're going to bump the new grad pay over 15 percent because of the market, then we're all living in this market,” the nurse said.

“Our experienced nurses are now being expected to also train them and making no more money than they are,” she said.

She and others took their concerns directly to their supervisor.

“We went and attempted to express our concerns about this issue and were steamrolled,” the nurse said.

They were referred to a forum this week to address the issue.

“That was our one opportunity,” she said. “We thought we were going to be heard and nothing came of it.”

Atrium Health Statement:

"At Atrium Health, we believe that nurses are one of our most valuable assets and are vital members of our care teams. Because of the expertise and care they bring to work every day, we are able to fulfill our mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all.

"Over the past 18 months, Atrium Health has shown our commitment to our nurses through compensation increases as well as bonus and incentive payments. In 2018, nearly all Atrium Health teammates received some form of performance-based incentive payment, wage increase, or market pay adjustment, totaling more than $107 million dollars' worth of additional income to our teammates. This included an industry-leading minimum wage increase to $12.50 in June 2018, as well as nursing and nursing support team increases, totaling more than $36 million, implemented in July 2018 and March 2019. Atrium Health also provides multiple professional development opportunities to assist nurses in advancing their careers. 

"We know that compensation is extremely personal to each teammate and understand the concern from our nurses, which is why Atrium Health leaders are currently working with them to address their concerns. 

"We care about our teammates and creating a best place to work, and are proud of the bold steps we have made to increase pay for more than 10,000 of our nurses. We believe that these increases allow us to recruit and retain talented nurses in a competitive field – ensuring that we can fulfill our mission and provide the very best nursing care to our patients."