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The 5 happiest places you can work as a travel nurse

nurse working in one of the happiest places for travel nurses

Working as a nurse is tiring under the best circumstances, but during a pandemic it can be dangerously exhausting. A recent Mental Health America survey of 1,100 healthcare workers found that nurses had a higher exposure to COVID-19 and were more likely to feel overtired compared to other healthcare providers. Nearly half of nurses surveyed said they didn’t feel they had enough emotional support. If you’re tired and stressed out, a change of pace may help — and a travel nursing job in one of the happiest states in the nation might just be what you need. Here’s why the top five happiest states should top your list of travel nursing destinations.

1. Hawaii


It’s a tropical paradise made up of eight major islands. Smiling tourists on Waikiki Beach are probably the first thing to come to mind when you picture this state, but while the beach is definitely a draw there’s much more to this island state. Rainforests, volcanoes, secluded valleys, and lush green mountains make Hawaii a favorite destination for travelers. The state’s large rural population and remote location present many healthcare delivery challenges, and Hawaii desperately needs more nurses.

NICU travel nurse Kelly Kilcoyne says she loved Hawaii’s close-knit culture when she took an assignment in Oahu. “Auntie is a term of respect and endearment, especially if you were taking care of little kids, so I was Auntie Kelly and all the nurses were Auntie or Uncle,” Kelly says. “The parents know everybody by name. You know the parents and all the family members, and you know what time of day they like to come.”

View travel nursing jobs in Hawaii

2. Utah


Depending on where you work in this western state, you can find high peaks, wide deserts, slot canyons, mountain lakes, and dinosaur fossils. Utah residents (and worldwide visitors) are often happiest enjoying its numerous outdoor attractions, including the “Mighty Five” national parks, the Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell, and many ski resorts.

With several large hospital systems and a rural population outside the Salt Lake City area, Utah often needs travel nurses to step in. Brian Flake, a neonatal nurse, travels with his family on assignment. “We like being in Utah,” he says. “Lots of hiking, tons of outdoor stuff to do. Honestly, Utah’s probably been our favorite place that we’ve traveled to so far.”

View travel nursing jobs in Utah

3. Minnesota


Known as the “Land of 10,000 lakes,” Minnesota is happy to announce that it actually has 11,842 lakes to explore (not that you’d get to all of them during a three-month assignment). While the water does present many relaxing options — residents can rent a houseboat on Leech Lake, fish for bass in Mille Lacs Lake, or cruise on Lake Minnetonka — the state is also a shopper’s paradise, with the Mall of America just minutes south of Minneapolis. Add the famous Walker Art Center, Great Lakes Aquarium, and the SPAM Museum into the mix and you’ve got one of the happiest places for travel nurses.

About 39 percent of Minnesota residents live in rural areas and have less access to healthcare. If you are willing to go where you are needed most, Minnesota offers great opportunities for travel nurses.

View travel nursing jobs in Minnesota

4. New Jersey

New Jersey

With legends like Frank Sinatra, Jon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen hailing from the state and 130 miles of Atlantic coastline, how could you not be happy in New Jersey? History buffs will love New Jersey’s ten lighthouses dotting the coast (some still in operation) and the restored 19th-century Waterloo Village. It’s called the Garden State because long ago, a politician compared it to a barrel filled with good things to eat — and locals swear by the pork roll, panzerotti (deep-fried calzone), and Fat Sandwich at Rutgers University.

Unfortunately, all that delicious food can mean more need for healthcare services. About 20 percent of New Jersey’s adult population is obese, and the state has a high rate of deaths from coronary heart disease. That combined with a New Jersey nursing shortage means travel nurses are sorely needed to help to care for the population.

View travel nursing jobs in New Jersey

5. Maryland


Seafood lovers and water enthusiasts love Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay (the crab cakes are legendary, and love for Old Bay seasoning is unparalleled). However, sailing and fishing are only part of Maryland’s culture. The state’s western border boasts the rolling Appalachian Mountains, and Assateague Island, just south of the Delaware border, is home to many wild horses. You can also explore early U.S. history along the Potomac River and visit Annapolis, home to the United States Naval Academy.

Like many other states, Maryland is facing a severe nursing shortage, so travel nurses are in high demand to care for its patient population.

View travel nursing jobs in Maryland

Go where you want to go

As a travel nurse, you have the opportunity to explore some of the happiest places for travel nurses and enjoy states with beautiful scenery, fascinating history, and welcoming people. Why not make one of these states your next travel nursing destination? Your mental health will thank you.

Where’s the happiest place you’ve ever worked? Share in the comments below!

About the author

Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a communication professional with experience writing for the healthcare and entertainment industries as well as local government. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.

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