Why Idaho May Be The Best Place To Be A Nurse

Sep 16, 2015

When my wife became a nurse I suggested we move to Oregon where RNs make in excess of $20,000 a year more than in Idaho. I was joking (mostly) but that gap is hard to ignore. And it’s not much smaller for Washington or Nevada. Now a new info-graphic from Drexel University says we should ignore those raw salary numbers because Idaho is financially the best place to be a nurse.

Drexel is a private university in Philadelphia. It took RN mean wages among the states and compared those to cost of living. While nurses in many states make more money than their counterparts in Idaho (sometimes a lot more,) Drexel says when cost of living is factored in Idaho and Michigan are the best states to be a nurse.  

According to Drexel’s numbers, the highest paid nurses are in California then Hawaii, Massachusetts, Alaska then Oregon. The top ten highest paying cities for RNs are all in California.

This chart comes from the Idaho Department of Labor's 2015 Idaho Nursing Overview.
Credit Idaho Department of Labor

According to the Idaho Department of Labor about 60 percent of graduates of Idaho nursing schools go to work in the state. That’s a little less than the total demand for new nurses. That means that about 120 Idaho nursing jobs a year must be filled from out of state.

The labor department doesn’t know how many of that 40 percent of new nurses are leaving the state to practice or where they are going, though department researchers expect to learn that when new data sharing agreements with other states become reality. So, we don’t know yet how many Idaho nurses (or their spouses) are tempted by higher salaries in other states.

Susan Tavernier, coordinator of the accelerated nursing program at Idaho State University, says most nurses who leave Idaho after graduation go for opportunities like graduate school or because they are from other states and return home. Tavernier says she doesn’t know of any graduates who have left Idaho because they thought they could make more money in another state.       

“The students that I work with, they don’t approach their employment from that perspective,” Tavernier says. “They feel pretty confident that they will be employed. I just don’t hear them saying ‘I’m going to go over there because I can get more money.’” 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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