Top U.S. states to be a nurse in 2012


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Either you’re reading this article with a smug grin on your face (you just know you’re going to find your state listed here) or you’re suffering from a bit of “Grass Is Always Greener” Syndrome.

Whatever the case may be, we took a look at the data from all over the country about where nurses are faring best. From the highest salaries to most favorable nurse-to-patient ratios, we found out which of your neighbors are living the good nursing life. In fact, we’ve been conducting an informal poll on the Code Happy app to gauge where nurses are happiest! So far, we’ve heard from 941 “happy” and “extremely happy” nurses. Find out where they work and live!

Surf’s up! First of all, the salary can’t be beat for nurses in this sun-kissed state. According to Physician’s Practice, the average salary for registered nurses at all levels of experience is $61,283 per year. In addition, California is ranked number one in the nation for hourly nurse wages. California is also among the top five states expected to see job growth in the profession through 2020.

That’s all great, but what’s it like to work there? According to our Code Happy app, 14 percent of all nurses who reported to be happy are working in California. Part of the reason for the overwhelmingly happy results may have to do with the low nurse-to-patient ratios that have been in effect since 2004. In fact, Via Palo Alto near San Francisco is rated one of the best hospitals in the country for these favorable regulations. Oh yeah, and the weather is kind of incredible here.

Everything is bigger in Texas…including the smile on a nurse’s face. We chose Texas as one of the top three destinations for nurses in the U.S. for the educational diversity, variety of job opportunities and the higher-than-average nurse wages.

Some other reasons to put on your cowgirl hat? Texas hospitals rank above the national average for patient satisfaction. Happy patients equal happy nurses, right? Of the nurses who participated in our happiness poll, 86 of them (9 percent of total respondents) were from Texas.

New York
The salaries in the Northeast are nuthin’ to sneeze at. The average salary for a nurse in this region is $59,329 per year. Nurses in New York, in fact, have the fourth highest hourly salary in the country, and LPNs have the second highest hourly wage in the U.S. It’s also third in the country for CNA wages.

New York boasts several facilities that are ranked high for excellent nurse-to-patient ratios. St. Mary’s Center, Inc., Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center and Robert Mapplethorpe Residential Treatment Facility are all highly coveted facilities to work for because of this factor. If you’re a psychiatric nurse, this specialty is in high demand in The Big Apple. Did we mention that NY is among the top five states for projected job growth in the country?

Although in our Code Happy poll, just 41 nurses (4 percent of total respondents) reported in that they were happy or extremely happy, I think we can all guess that this number is a low ball figure, right? I mean, really, what self-respecting New Yorker admits to being “extremely happy”? Yeah.

More top states where nurses are whistlin’ while they work:

Top happy status update: “I love my job!”

Top happy status update: “No work today. ALL PLAY.”

New Jersey
Top happy status update: “I can’t wait to start my new job!”

North Carolina
Top happy status update: “I love my workplace!”

Find out what nurses in your area are saying this week! Download Scrubs’ Code Happy app to your Android or iPhone. You’ll also get a daily dose of humor, inspiration and more information about salary, benefits and more reasons why nurses are loving their workplace. Don’t forget to upload your status update to enter our happiness poll!

Where do you work as a nurse? Should your state be on our short list?

Physician’s Practice, 2012 Staff Salary Survey, April 2012
Scrubs Magazine’s Code Happy App

Lynda Lampert
Lynda Lampert is a registered nurse and a certified third shift worker. She has worked with many different patient populations, including post-op open heart, post-op gastric bypass, active chest pain, congestive heart failure, poorly controlled diabetics and telemetry 'wonders'. She now focuses all of her effort on educating the populace -- both the nursing world and the normal folk -- through her web writing. She hopes one day to publish another romance novel, travel to England and become a web rock star. She feels she is on her way . . . mostly. You can learn more about Lynda and her work at

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