Stressful Nursing Careers That are Worth the Salary


Nursing is stressful. Does the profession adequately compensate the people who dedicate their lives to it? The answer to that question, of course, is subjective. Nurses do make more money than the national average. They also save lives.

It’s hard—maybe impossible—to put a monetary value on the work they do. And yet, one is assigned. While many believe that nurses aren’t paid what they are worth, some careers feature better salaries than others. In this article, we take a look at nursing careers that are worth their salary.

Traveling Nurses

Traveling nurse positions are probably the most accessible way to increase your salary in that they do not usually require you to obtain advanced certifications or degrees. Travel positions are available to any experienced nurse who is willing to fill in at understaffed hospitals.

Traditionally, this has required a willingness to routinely relocate, doing temporary stints at hospitals all over the country— usually, though not exclusively in rural areas.

The number of “high-need,” hospitals has gone up considerably over the last five years. During the pandemic, many “traveling nurses,” were able to find high-need positions within driving distance from their homes.

The likelihood of those opportunities has gone down somewhat, but it remains true that there is no shortage of hospitals that need extra help. Challenges to keep in mind? Social isolation is the biggest concern that most traveling nurses face. Because the job requires you to move often, it isn’t always easy to make workplace relationships—nor is it always easy to keep up with your friends and family back home.

If you’re willing to give this challenging position a shot, the corresponding salary will be well worth it. Travel nurses can make up to $128,000 per year.

Flight Nurses

Take the stresses and responsibilities of an ordinary nurse. Now stick them hundreds of feet in the air. That’s flight nursing in a nutshell. Patients who need to be transported by plane or helicopter are often very unstable. That’s why they can’t travel by car—their condition can’t afford any delays in treatment.

However, that instability makes treating them a significant challenge. Flight nurses are there to monitor their vitals and cater to any and all care requirements that the patient requires.
It’s hard work. It can also be dangerous.

Flight nurses are sometimes sent out under adverse weather conditions. Medical transport can’t always wait for a storm to clear up. The flight nurse needs to be prepared to fully commit to their care administration responsibilities no matter what the conditions.

And because their patients are typically in poor condition, they may experience the emotional burden of bad outcomes more often than other RNs.

If you can handle the stress, you will be paid well for it. Flight nurses make around $120,000 a year.

To become a flight nurse, you will need to get certified. Some states time lock this certification, requiring you to work in the hospital setting for at least a year before seeking certification.

Training requirements beyond getting the standard core requirements for becoming an RN are relatively straightforward. Some states require you to take a two-day class while others will allow you to achieve certification by taking a test.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Psychiatric nursing is widely considered one of the most difficult career paths available to RNs. Psychiatric patients have difficult lives and often, little to no potential for recovery. This isn’t always the case, of course. Psychiatric treatment can be administered for depression, anxiety, addiction, and other more common mental health disorders.

Unfortunately, some patients do not improve.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are more likely than any other medical professional to experience violence at the hands of a patient. This is particularly notable when you consider that most nurses (81%) report having experienced some type of violence while at work within the last year. This statistic reflects incidents of physical and verbal abuse.

For psychiatric nurse practitioners, the number is higher than 90%.

Personal risk is considerable. Progress can often feel slow, or non-existent. The settings are highly controlled and regulated for patient safety. Body fluids are commonly dealt with—not new territory for a nurse, granted, but not something that improves the aforementioned atmosphere either.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners are well-compensated for their willingness to do difficult work. They make an average of $140,000 per year.

To become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you will first need to get your MSN in psychiatric nursing. This typically takes three years.

Gerontological Nursing

Nurses administering gerontological care work with older adults in the final stage of their lives. These patients are no longer receiving preventative treatment. The goal is to improve their quality of life. Sometimes this takes place within patient homes. Other times it occurs in the hospital setting.

Gerontological nurses deal with death and the infirmities of age every day. They also have heightened contact with patient family members— which any RN will tell you can be a challenge in its own right.

Gerontology nurses are generally required to hold a master’s in gerontological care. They make $73,000 per year, but that number can exceed $100,000 per year for nurse practitioners.

Forensic Nurses

Forensic Nurses work with patients who have been the victim of a crime. Sexual assault victims are often treated by forensic nurses, both so that the RN can collect evidence and administer specialized care. Naturally, the sensitive nature of the work is very difficult for many people to handle.

Forensic nurses deal daily with human cruelty and violence.

In addition to administering care, they are often called to testify in court. Forensic nurses need to be registered RNs. They must acquire 2000 hours working in the field. They then must take a certification exam.

Top earners make just over $100,000.

How Can You Boost Your Salary as a Nurse?

The most dependable way to boost your salary as a nurse is to seek an advanced certification or degree. Most of the jobs featured on this list require additional certification beyond merely getting your BSN and passing the NCLEX.

Graduate school is expensive, but the ROI in this case can be considerable. Many nurses with MSNs make more than $100,000 a year.

Of course, nurses, like many professionals, also get scheduled raises. What this means is that their salary increases are not necessarily performance-based as they would be in a competitive business field, but related to how much time they have spent on the job.

Eventually, nurses who stay in the profession long enough will usually earn in the upper five figures even without pursuing additional credentials.

Naturally, nursing is not a profession you enter because you want to get rich. You do it because you care about helping people and want to do work that you find fulfilling.

These considerations should remain foundational even as you consider ways to improve your earning potential. Remember that the burnout rate in nursing is hiring than that of almost any other profession. It’s important to make professional development choices that you find not just lucrative but also emotionally fulfilling.


With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.


Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

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