If the decline in full-time labor force participation by registered nurses in hospitals is to be reversed, the issue of equal pay for comparable work must be addressed. Under pressure for cost containment, policies tend to focus on labor force economics rather than on limitations of services. While the two are interrelated, wage policies must be considered independently.
This article describes the network which determines how nurse salaries are set: the relationship between the private sector, the general schedule and the Veterans' Administration. The effects of this system are documented, using testimony from a case in the tenth circuit, as well as comparisons with other reference groups: policemen, teachers, laborers, and VA career fields. The evidence suggests that there is a need for policy intervention. Prime areas for action are the comparability practices by governments, particularly in the areas of classification standards and pay setting. Hospital personnel practices which continue past effects of occupational segregation also should be changed.