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The top five highest-paying states for nurses

California - one of the highest-paying states for nurses

It’s a well-known fact that nurses are in demand from coast to coast in the United States. That demand has driven up pay for all types of nurses, with a consistent increase in salary each year as the need for healthcare providers continue to skyrocket. But if you’re looking to earn as much as possible and just want to go where the money is, here are the top five highest-paying states for nurses.

5. Alaska

Alaska northern lights

Alaska is one of the highest-paying states for nurses, but the reason may surprise you. While other states are struggling to develop a pipeline of nurses, Alaska has a shortage of nursing educators. That means that plenty of Alaskans want to be nurses, but the state doesn’t have enough educational facilities to train them. So, the shortage continues, which drives up compensation for nurses.

Mike Brown worked as a travel nurse in Alaska, with three months each in Fairbanks and Juno. He explained that his patient population was very different from other states. Alaska’s local population is younger than average, so his work there involved a lot of broken bones. However, Juno is a popular stop for cruise ships, so he also took care of the typically older folks who needed medical attention during their cruise stop.

Search for travel nursing opportunities in Alaska.                                            

4. District of Columbia

Washington DC monument

More than 95% of surveyed nurses in Washington D.C. said that they were experiencing staffing shortages. Area hospitals and clinics have increasing compensation to retain nurses, but it’s clear there’s more work to be done. In fact, the mayor of Washington D.C. has even established a taskforce to address the shortage of healthcare workers. Its initiatives include training potential nurses and retaining current nurses.

In the meantime, Washington D.C. is a place that’s perfect for travel nursing, no matter how long the assignment. Outside of work, nurses will have plenty of time to explore museums and historical sites, as well as experience Washington D.C’s excellent food scene.

Search for travel nursing opportunities in the District of Columbia.

3. Oregon

Oregon mountains

The need for nurses in Oregon is great. Though the state has the second fewest hospital beds per 1,000 people in the country, there still aren’t enough nurses to staff Oregon’s hospitals and clinics. This leads to nurses working long hours and caring for too many patients. But there’s good news: the high demand for healthcare workers has increased wages to the extent that it’s now one of the highest-paying states for nurses. 

Wesline Roberty worked a travel nursing assignment in a small town in Oregon. She loved the quieter environment, but her work was no less challenging than it had been in larger cities.

“One of my friends jokingly said that I worked at a clinic because they assumed that the acuity at such a small hospital would be less than that of a larger hospital,” said Wesline. “Initially, I was under the same impression, but working for a smaller hospital brings on a greater measure of accountability and autonomy. Because there are not as many resources available, you really have to make do with what you do have.”

Search for travel nursing opportunities in Oregon.

2. Hawaii

Hawaii has the second-highest hourly rate for nurses, albeit with a big caveat. If you factor in the cost of living in Hawaii, it actually has the lowest nursing wages in the country. But here’s the great news: travel nursing is a great way to ease the cost of living while enjoying all that Hawaii has to offer.

Kelly Kilcoyne worked in Oahu for three months as a NICU travel nurse, and she loved the work. “Everything had a family feel to it,” said Kelly. “You know the parents and all the family members, and you know what time of day they like to come. You’re excited to tell them, ‘Oh, he took his first bottle today.’”

Kelly also got to take trips to visit other islands, go snorkeling with sea turtles, and watch surfers. But she said the moments at the beach just five minutes away from her apartment were the most relaxing. “Some of my favorite days were just unwinding because I could walk to the beach,” said Kelly.

Search for travel nursing opportunities in Hawaii.

1. California

Redwoods National Park

California tops the list of the highest-paying states for nurses, with an average hourly wage of $59.62. And remember that adjustment for the cost of living in Hawaii? In California, you’ll still come out on top if you adjust this rate for the cost of living. So, you can take advantage of California’s big cities, pristine beaches, and excellent food without breaking the bank.

California has had a nursing shortage for nearly a decade, and that shortage only got worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the state’s almost 40 million people still require medical care. These shortages are particularly prevalent in rural areas of California, which poses a unique opportunity for travel nurses.

Search for travel nursing opportunities in California.

Interested in learning about travel nursing opportunities in these states? Give us a call at 800.866.0407 or view today’s travel nursing jobs.

About the author

Kathleen Stone

Kathleen Stone is a writer for RNnetwork from Salt Lake City, Utah. In her spare time, she loves going to the desert, trying new foods and being with family.


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