Being a nurse is pretty comparable from state to state. Whether you’re in Idaho or Florida, the same core nursing responsibilities and treatment protocols apply. This is emphasized by the Nurse Compact Licensure that reciprocates licensure across 25 states with little effort. But as is the case with all skilled labor, there are significant differences in how nurses view their jobs from state to state. From average pay to minimum staffing enforcement, there are many factors that impact the quality of life and overall satisfaction for nurses.
I built a matrix of factors that impact nurses’ lives to break down the top five states to work as a nurse. The elements we examined were: average salary, hourly pay, quality of life, staffing protections, employment competition, and demographic health status.
There are several things that make Texas an attractive landing spot for nurses. For starters, TX has the highest annual salary adjusted for cost of living. This high earning trend is partly driven by a need for nurses, as TX ranked third in Opportunity & Competition rank according to a 2016 study1. But, it’s not all about the money! TX has nurse friendly laws in place mandating that hospitals have nurse driven staffing committees responsible for plans and staffing policy.
While TX takes the top spot in average salary, CA has the highest average hourly pay in the US. A heavenly climate with access to some of the most beautiful terrain in the nation gives this state a high quality of life year in year out. One of the most valued elements of nursing in CA is their attention to staffing. It’s the only state that stipulates in law required minimum nurse to patient ratios that must be maintained at all times by nursing units.
It might not be top of mind for most, but OR boasts the seventh highest average salary for nurses. Like TX and CA, OR also requires hospitals to have nurse driven staffing committees to ensure proper nurse-patient ratio management. Looking for a job? You should be able to find a place to work no problem; OR has the most healthcare facilities per capita yet maintains the fifth fewest nurses per capita in the nation.
Between Denver and Colorado Springs, CO vaunts two of the top ten cities to live the in US according to U.S. News & World Report. CO ranks number three in Emotional and Physical Well Being, and like CA has an outdoorsy culture with a healthy and energized populous. The average hourly pay and salary don’t top the charts, but a low poverty rate and high life expectancy make CO a great place to provide care and be cared for!
In a 2016 power ranking, IL ranked 20th in opportunity/competition and fifth in work environment. Like the top three states, IL has staffing laws and mandatory nurse driven staffing committees that monitor staffing policy. IL ranks top 20 in both average salary and hourly pay, and with the 21st lowest cost of living in the US, this Midwest state makes a good place to put on the scrubs.
Nursing in a state not listed above? Don’t sweat it! Nurses across the US consistently report satisfaction with their job, even if parts of it make them unhappy. While there has been little growth in nursing wages in recent years, an aging workforce and an increasing demand for nurses could translate to increased compensation for nurses in the future.