With the nursing industry expected to grow at double the rate than the average occupation through 2026, Arizona is among the Top 10 states for prospective nurses, according to a report.
WalletHub ranks Arizona No. 7 in its report. The state is strengthened by its No. 5 showing in “Opportunity and Competition.” The state is No. 21 in “Work Environment,” leaving hospitals and other health facilities in Arizona scrambling to appeal to the next batch of nurses.
“Our state has some of the most amazing care providers and systems,” Carol Cheney, vice president of staffing and workforce planning at Banner Health, stated in an email. “There are many nursing job openings across the state. Arizona is a major metropolis with such a great culture and history, native Arizonans are warm and welcoming, and we love to experience our seasonal visitors from across the globe with our beautiful weather and resort living. There is something for everyone in Arizona. Health care is thriving and health systems here such as Banner are pushing many new and innovative programs and opportunities with constant growth and exploration.”
According to WalletHub’s report, starting nurses in Arizona earn an average of $2,284 each month, 11th best in the U.S. Fortunately, the average annual salary for all nurses in the state is fourth best.
Arizona could rank even higher. Despite 5th in opportunity and competition, the state is near the bottom in share of licensed nursing professional not working in nursing, at 58.5%.
Arizona is 47th in nursing-job openings per capita (71.79), despite nursing job growth being fourth best in the nation. The state is also 39th in healthcare facilities per capita, and 42nd in quality of public hospital system.
Still, Teresa L. Connolly, chief nursing officer at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said she is not surprised by the overall ranking. She said climate, cost of living, quality of life, job opportunity, and family-oriented lifestyles are some of the reasons nurses are choosing Arizona.
“In addition, Mayo Clinic offers a professionally excellent place to work,” she said. “As a Magnet-designated organization we are committed to a professional practice model where nurses have a voice and there is mutual respect among the health care team members. In addition, as part of a nationally-based organization, not only can nurses have a fulfilling career with many opportunities in various practice setting in Arizona, they also have the opportunity to collaborate and possibly work as other Mayo sites across the country.”
Both Mayo Clinic and Banner Health offer resources to nurses like mentoring and residency programs, tuition support, career development programs and support of continuing education.
Jeff Robinson, manager of the operating room at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, grew up in Lake Havasu and worked at the hospital from 2007 to 2011 before moving to California to pursue a leadership career in nursing.
However, the 37-year-old returned to Arizona to raise his family after seeing an announcement for Arizona Forward and a posting for Operating Room Manager.
“He actually took a step back in his leadership career to take this position but felt it was the right thing to do,” Ms. Connolly stated. “He was looking to get out of California due to the cost of living, taxes, traffic and quality of life. In addition, coming to Mayo Clinic will give him the opportunity to advance his career, more than he thought could be done at his current employer.”
While Dr. Edna Cadmus, a clinical professor at Rutgers University, says the outlook for nursing across the country is positive, prospective nurses should also keep in mind that opportunities are available beyond the walls of hospitals.
“As the population is getting older we need new graduates to move into long term care, assisted living and home care,” she said. “The traditional belief is that everyone needs to start out their career in hospitals. This is an old belief that needs to be shattered. The care provided for these populations are complex and challenging. Seek out positions where there is a nurse residency program offered to help support you to transition into practice.”
Registered Nurse Jennifer Kalina recently relocated from Los Angeles to Glendale to continue her nursing career in critical care. In April, she started a new position in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.
She said Arizona’s warmer climate, its lower cost of living, the friendliness of its residents and Banner’s reputation among those in the nursing community convinced her to leave California in August and seek an opportunity in Arizona.
An ICU nurse for the past eight years, Ms. Kalina said she saw an opportunity for further growth in her field by working in an ICU focused on patients struggling with heart disease.
“Coming here had a lot to do with growth opportunities around that,” she said. “Having the opportunity to get the training and to expand my knowledge base was important to me, and this opportunity here at Banner Thunderbird provided that.”
Prior to Arizona, Ms. Kalina spent several years working as a travel nurse, a position that affords nurses the opportunity to work in a specific location for a limited amount of time. During her time as a travel nurse, she worked in several states, including Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Oregon and, most recently, California.
While having the chance to experience life in different states was fun and interesting, Ms. Kalina said she’s looking forward to putting down long-term roots in Arizona.
“We want to make Arizona our home,” she said.