Seattle Culture

Washington Nurses Rank No. 1

During National Nurses Week, it’s time to recognize those who hold our health care system together

By Rob Smith May 7, 2024


Most of us get to know nurses only in professional settings. We’re usually very stressed out.

That was the case with me two-and-a-half years ago when I found myself in the hospital with an unexpected illness. It was, to say the least, an uncertain time. The nurses, serving on the front lines of a tangled health care system, were nothing short of heroic for the care they provided.

National Nurses Week began yesterday, and it turns out that Washington state is the best place to work as a nurse in the United States. A study by personal finance website WalletHub analyzed 20 metrics, including job openings, nurses per capita, salary, and the quality of nursing homes.

The average annual salary of a nurse across the U.S. is $94,000. In Washington state, it’s up to 15% higher. The average monthly starting salary for nurses across the state ranks No. 3. The study found that the quality of the state’s approximately 40 accredited nursing schools is among the best, while regulatory requirements are the toughest. Nurses here work fewer overtime hours than their counterparts in any other state.

We may be better than most, but we’re far from perfect. The state Legislature last year passed a bill to address a nursing shortage crisis in hospitals across the state that mandates certain staffing levels. The nonprofit Washington Center for Nursing recently found that there aren’t enough licensed nurses in the state to fill thousands of vacancies.

My wife’s parents are both retired nurses, though they never worked here. I’ve heard stories of combative patients, sad situations, and everything in-between. It seems like a brutal job.

In my case, the patient advocacy, direct care, and expertise and knowledge of the nurses caring for me meant everything. Those of us who’ve had more “intimate” experiences realize just how vital they are to the entire health care system.

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