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Counting Down the Best and Worst States for Nurses


Nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions in the U.S. with no shortage of job opportunities; however, not every state offers equal opportunities. Compensation for nurses varies greatly across the country. Some facilities and states also have a reputation for putting nurses through the ringer. If you’re looking to land your first job as a nurse or are considering a change in location, learn about the best and worst states for nursing, so you can find the right setting for your career.

Calculating the Best and Worst

A new study from WalletHub evaluates all 50 states based on what it’s like to work as a nurse. Every state is rated on two main factors, including “Competition and Opportunity” and “Work Environment”. The authors used 22 relevant metrics for each category. Each state then receives a numerical score from 0 to 100.

When it comes to Competition and Opportunity, they looked at annual salaries for nurses, number of healthcare facilities and job openings per capita, quality of nursing schools, cost of living, and projected competition in 2028.

For Work Environment, they looked at the number of positive COVID-19 tests every week, ratio of nurses to hospital beds, mandatory overtime restrictions, friendliness to working moms, and other factors that can affect a person’s quality of life in and out work.

The authors pulled from a variety of reputable sources, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, hiring websites like Glassdoor, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the HRSA Data Warehouse.

Best Places to Work as a Nurse

Without further ado, the top ten states for nurses are:

  • Arizona: Total Score: 59.94
  • Washington: Total Score: 58.31
  • Nevada: Total Score: 57.60
  • Wyoming: Total Score: 57.58
  • New Mexico: Total Score: 56.98
  • Montana: Total Score: 55.51
  • Oregon: Total Score: 54.28
  • Missouri: Total Score: 54.18
  • Alaska: Total Score: 53.87
  • Maine: Total Score: 53.42

If you’re anxious to land your first job, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maine, Kansas, and Rhode Island have the most nurse openings per capita. However, you may not make as much in these states compared to high-paying states like California and New York, so there are usually trade-offs all around.

According to the study, some of these states have low compensation rates, such as Nevada, Alaska, Washington, and Arizona, but you couldn’t ask for better working conditions or more job opportunities.

According to Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for WalletHub, “Some of these states have mandatory overtime restrictions and have implemented a nursing licensure compact law. Among other things, this means that the hospitals and employers of nurses in those states are able to offer competitive salaries and good working conditions.”

Worst Places to Work as a Nurse

  • Kentucky: Total Score: 45.17
  • Mississippi: Total Score: 45.14
  • Oklahoma: Total Score: 43.98
  • Louisiana: Total Score: 43.36
  • Utah: Total Score: 43.29
  • Alabama: Total Score: 42.71
  • New Jersey: Total Score: 40.36
  • Vermont: Total Score: 40.29
  • Delaware: Total Score: 39.64
  • Maryland: Total Score: 39.59

Each of these states has its own flaws. Some states have high compensation, but finding a job can be tough. In other cases, you may make great money for your time, but you may have to put up with some difficult work conditions, such as fewer nurses on the floor or a lack of public health infrastructure.

Visit the link to see the full study.

It’s best to find the best of both worlds when looking for a job. Getting paid is great, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your personal wellbeing or a healthy work-life balance as a result.

According to Deborah L. Hopla, DNP, APRN-BC, FAANP, FAAN, one of the authors of the study, “Recent graduate nurses should consider a work-life balance when looking for that important first job. What type of nursing interests you and what do you enjoy doing in your off-hours? The first year is a big learning curve in the profession of nursing. Taking that medical-surgical floor position may be a great foundation for future areas of interest. Find a place that mentors or has a nurse residency program to give you additional support.”

Keep these stats in mind when looking for work as a nurse. 


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