Why a Well-Paid Nurse is a Better Nurse

Julie A. Nelson; Nancy Folbre


Nurs Econ. 2006;24(3):127-130. 

In This Article


In a recent article titled "The Economics of Vocation or 'Why Is a Badly Paid Nurse a Good Nurse?'" economist Anthony Heyes (2005) argues that a willingness to accept a lower wage, all else equal, distinguishes a "good" nurse from the "wrong sort." Therefore, he argues, raising nurses' pay would reduce the proportion of nurses who have a vocation for it and result in a decrease in the quality of care. Lest such work be taken seriously — or tarnish the reputation of all economists in the eyes of serious scholars of health care — this article, written by two economists who have studied the economics of occupations with a "care" component (Folbre & Nelson, 2000), rebuts Heyes' argument.

Heyes' result is based on fallacious reasoning and a disregard for considerable literature on quality of care, worker motivation, and morale as will be discussed in this article. It also ignores actual nursing shortages emerging in the United Kingdom and many other advanced industrial countries. There are many reasons to believe that higher salaries for nursing would increase both the quantity and quality of nursing care.


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