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Highest-paying states for nurses

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Highest-paying states for nurses

If you look up the meaning of a nurse in the dictionary, you will find, “a licensed health-care professional who practices independently or is supervised by a physician, surgeon, or dentist and who is skilled in promoting and maintaining health.” Who would ever imagine that in 2020 it would mean combating a novel coronavirus, putting oneself at extremely-increased risk, and donning protective gear during a pandemic?

Stacker used 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank which states are the highest-paying for registered nurses. The states are ranked by median annual salary and ties are broken by the average annual salary. According to the BLS, there are 2,982,280 nurses employed nationally, who make an average salary of $77,460 and a median of $73,300. COVID-19 statistics come from The COVID Tracking Project, which publishes up-to-date testing data (latest data and data release date: May 22, 2020). All of the information, updated daily by 5 p.m. ET, comes from state, district, and territory public health authorities, official press releases, trusted news reporting, and (infrequently) tweets or Facebook posts from state public health authorities or governors.

We also scanned local news stories to see what each state’s nurses are currently experiencing. There are stories of nurses on the frontlines, students graduating early to join the workforce, nurses crossing state lines to pitch in, and some galvanizing to help out in their communities. Then there are nurses who are being furloughed, laid off, or forced to work in unsafe situations.

Nurses were recently honored during National Nurses Week, but after clicking through our slideshow, you will see that they, and all the frontline workers, should be celebrated every day.

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#51. Mississippi

- Median annual salary: $58,590 ($28.17 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $59,750 ($28.73 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 29,550 (26.2 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 12,222
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,932

As the battle against COVID-19 continues, more nurses in Mississippi are needed. To meet the demand, those who have completed nursing training can now go to work before becoming board certified.

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#50. South Dakota

- Median annual salary: $58,670 ($28.21 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $59,540 ($28.63 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 12,950 (30.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 4,250
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 342

During Nurses Week South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem gave thanks to the more than 10,000 nurses working in the state during these challenging times. She noted that 350 of the nurses are employed by the state government.

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Jim Davis/The Boston Globe // Getty Images

#49. Alabama

- Median annual salary: $58,800 ($28.27 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $60,230 ($28.96 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 49,190 (24.9 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 13,119
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,528

While many nurses are busy with testing patients for the coronavirus and treating those with severe symptoms, another strategy to quell the spread is contact tracing. In Calhoun County, Alabama, the Emergency Management Agency suggests that school nurses take on the job of helping those who have tested positive recount who they have been in proximity to, as well as following up with patients until they are shown to be asymptomatic.

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#48. Iowa

- Median annual salary: $59,490 ($28.60 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $60,590 ($29.13 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 32,980 (21.3 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 16,170
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

The current health crisis puts an unimaginable emotional, physical, and mental strain on health care workers. To help nurses cope, the Iowa Nurses Association created a hotline called Nurse to Nurse to provide necessary support.

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#47. Arkansas

- Median annual salary: $60,340 ($29.01 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $61,330 ($29.49 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 25,210 (20.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 5,458
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 535

While every single U.S. state has felt the impact of the coronavirus, few places have faced the catastrophe to the extent of New York City. To help ease the tremendous strain on New York health workers, four Arkansan nurses spent three weeks in NYC hospitals helping out. On the way back to Little Rock, they were honored with a water cannon salute.

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#46. Kansas

- Median annual salary: $60,800 ($29.23 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $62,450 ($30.02 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 30,370 (21.8 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 8,539
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 760

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced in late April the approval of a machine that would sanitize personal protective equipment for reuse. But it was met with much criticism from the Kansas State Nurses Association, who argued that there is not enough research to prove the machine is safe.

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#45. Tennessee

- Median annual salary: $61,200 ($29.42 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $62,570 ($30.08 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 63,330 (21.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 18,961
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,539

When real-life clinicals were suspended at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing due to the pandemic, faculty found a creative way to solve the problem. The team created a virtual live-streamed learning clinical experience with students that included instructors and Simulation Lab staff interacting with the school’s nursing mannequins to provide patient care.

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Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post // Getty Images

#44. West Virginia

- Median annual salary: $61,450 ($29.55 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $63,220 ($30.39 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 19,830 (28.2 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 1,593
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Part of West Virginia’s nearly 20,000 registered nurses is a large population of school nurses. Despite schools being closed, school nurses are considered essential. In Berkeley County Schools, the team of more than 30 are continuing to support students and staff virtually, as well as conducting health checks of community volunteers who are distributing food.

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#43. Kentucky

- Median annual salary: $62,180 ($29.89 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $63,750 ($30.65 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 43,840 (23.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 8,167
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 2,016

Patti Howard, the 2019 president of the Emergency Nurses Association, says a lot of nurses have been furloughed as hospitals lose revenue due to restrictions on elective and non-urgent medicine. The daily number of patients at her employer, the University of Kentucky Healthcare, was cut in about half, translating to a reduction in revenue for the nurses.

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#42. Missouri

- Median annual salary: $62,470 ($30.03 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $64,160 ($30.85 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 68,840 (24.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 11,340
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Nurses in Missouri are coming out of retirement to help manage the health crisis caused by the coronavirus. The nursing schools for Saint Louis University and the SSM Health system have reduced the time commitment for a joint program that enables retired nurses to return to work from four weeks to two weeks.

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#41. Oklahoma

- Median annual salary: $63,650 ($30.60 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $64,800 ($31.15 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 31,350 (19.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 5,680
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 917

In Oklahoma, rural hospitals, many of which were barely hanging on financially before the crisis, are struggling under higher costs for treating COVID-19 patients, as well as lost revenue resulting from restrictions on elective medicine. At one hospital in the town of Stigler, only eight nurses were left in late April, and to save costs they were doubling as the hospital janitors.

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Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket // Getty Images

#40. Indiana

- Median annual salary: $63,670 ($30.61 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $66,560 ($32.00 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 67,510 (22.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 29,936
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 4,389

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the case count surpassed 28,700 and deaths passed 1,650 as of May 19. Per ABC7 over 3,300 Indiana University Health employees had quarantined following positive tests.

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#39. South Carolina

- Median annual salary: $63,750 ($30.65 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $64,840 ($31.17 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 46,860 (22.2 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 9,175
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,444

Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, praised South Carolina’s response to COVID-19 and its efforts to put measures in place prior to reopening. Nurses working in South Carolina are fortunate to be working in a state where 100% of nursing homes are being tested and measurements like tracking are being put in place.

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#38. Louisiana

- Median annual salary: $64,040 ($30.79 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $65,850 ($31.66 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 40,870 (21.3 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 36,504
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

There is limited information about how many health care workers have been infected or died in the state of Louisiana. A New Orleans nurse estimates that 25% of her unit was out with symptoms of the virus at one point, and one co-worker died. Experts are demanding more research, tracking, and testing.

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#37. North Carolina

- Median annual salary: $64,600 ($31.06 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $66,440 ($31.94 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 99,960 (22.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 20,860
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Just like doctors, nurses have unique specialties and divisions: emergency room nurses, surgical nurses, clinical care nurses, recovery room nurses, etc. In order to prepare nurses for an “all hands on deck” moment, UNC hospitals are training nurses, both in ICUs and online, in COVID-19-specific care.

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Ace Diamond // Shutterstock

#36. North Dakota

- Median annual salary: $64,680 ($31.10 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $66,290 ($31.87 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 9,750 (23.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 2,229
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 144

North Dakota has emerged as a national leader for contact tracing. According to the Bismarck Tribune’s Jack Dura, it is the “only state to meet an estimated need of 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people,” per NPR. Nurses and nursing students have played a major role, as they are “aided by a new database to quicken the process.”

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#35. Nebraska

- Median annual salary: $65,010 ($31.25 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $66,640 ($32.04 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 23,800 (24.2 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 11,122
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

COVID-19 has created novel challenges for nurses on the frontlines. Nurse Breanna Beam, who works in the neonatal ICU and with expectant mothers in Hastings, Nebraska, says added precautions and protective equipment can make communication difficult. In early May, Gov. Pete Ricketts lauded the CHI Health Network for the quick setup of testing labs, and thanked nurses for their vital efforts.

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#34. Utah

- Median annual salary: $65,240 ($31.36 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $67,970 ($32.68 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 21,650 (14.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 7,874
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 647

While the average salary for nurses in Utah is $65,240, there is still a prevalent wage gap. 89% of Utah nurses are women, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, male RNs across the country outearn female RNs across positions and specialties.

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#33. Ohio

- Median annual salary: $65,790 ($31.63 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $68,220 ($32.80 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 125,470 (23.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 30,167
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 5,295

A recent report by WalletHub included Ohio in the worst 10 states for nurses. The study looked at starting salary, nursing job openings, and health care facilities per capita.

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Michael Reaves // Getty Images

#32. Florida

- Median annual salary: $65,830 ($31.65 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $67,610 ($32.50 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 181,670 (20.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 48,675
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 9,200

RN Millicent Bowerbank, who works at a VA hospital in Miami, came forward to discuss some of the labor challenges facing nurses at the most-understaffed hospitals. In addition to long shifts without even a pause to use the bathroom, many Florida nurses face lack of transparency from management and shortages of protective equipment.

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Larry Jacobsen // Flickr

#31. Wyoming

- Median annual salary: $66,290 ($31.87 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $68,690 ($33.03 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 5,120 (18.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 787
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 75

Nationally, there has been a shortage of nurses long before the pandemic started. According to Barb Hespen, Chief Nursing Officer at Sheridan Memorial Hospital in Wyoming, the need has actually decreased during the pandemic because of the cancellation of elective surgeries and restrictions on non-urgent care.

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#30. Vermont

- Median annual salary: $67,370 ($32.39 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $70,240 ($33.77 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 7,020 (22.9 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 950
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Despite the Vermont Senate unanimously passing the bill for hazard pay, some nurses are excluded from the benefit. Chittenden County Sen. Chris Pearson explains that while there are exceptions in place for nurses who work in nursing homes and earn more than $25 an hour, there is no such provision for nurses working in hospitals.

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Pordee_Aomboon // Shutterstock

#29. Montana

- Median annual salary: $67,920 ($32.65 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $69,340 ($33.34 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 10,310 (22.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 479
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 65

Many states are easing restrictions and stay-at-home orders, despite warnings by health officials and nurses that it might be too soon. The Montana Nurses Association says they will only support easing restrictions if cases drop consistently over two weeks, there is an adequate supply of tests and protective equipment, and if the state is able to participate in contact tracing.

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#28. Georgia

- Median annual salary: $68,410 ($32.89 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $69,590 ($33.46 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 75,430 (16.9 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 40,405
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 7,235

Emergency rooms are seeing a decline in visits, as many people are afraid to leave their homes and enter a hospital. Damien Scott, CEO of Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro, Georgia, where ER and and doctors visits fell 80%, says that chronic illnesses pose a higher risk to his patients than COVID-19. In order to continue to provide care, Georgia nurses are making house calls and sometimes even seeing patients on their front lawns.

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Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald // Getty Images

#27. Maine

- Median annual salary: $68,940 ($33.14 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $69,760 ($33.54 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 14,490 (23.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 1,877
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 235

As elective and non-urgent surgeries have been restricted, many operating room nurses have been reassigned to help out with COVID-19 cases. At Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC), more than 60 nurses have been trained to help with coronavirus care, such as how to administer a swab test and how to properly use protective gear.

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#26. Idaho

- Median annual salary: $69,320 ($33.33 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $69,480 ($33.40 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 14,110 (19.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 2,506
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 221

One of the most demanding and anxiety-producing tasks for nurses during the pandemic is administering tests. At St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center in Idaho, where drive-through testing is now being offered, frontline nurses are each swabbing nearly 40 patients a day, many of whom are displaying symptoms or have been exposed to the virus.

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Chip Somodevilla // Getty Images

#25. Virginia

- Median annual salary: $70,230 ($33.77 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $71,870 ($34.56 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 66,040 (17.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 69
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

In late April, Gov. Ralph Northam pleaded for more healthcare workers, as the state’s nursing homes continued to be understaffed. According to the Virginia-Pilot’s Peter Coutu, red tape has prevented aides-in-training from helping out, but the process for licensed out-of-state workers to contribute in Virginia was getting “streamlined” by federal and state officials.

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Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle // Getty Images

#24. Pennsylvania

- Median annual salary: $70,540 ($33.91 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $71,410 ($34.33 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 148,040 (25.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 65,392
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Nurses are being overwhelmed by the health crisis and sometimes need additional help. The National Guard was called in to a nursing home in Beaver County where 71 residents have died due to COVID-19. The team will help out so that nurses can tend to the health needs of the residents.

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#23. Wisconsin

- Median annual salary: $71,560 ($34.40 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $72,610 ($34.91 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 61,930 (21.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 13,885
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 2,218

The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals made a recommendation to make staff a priority by elevating measures for frontline workers, putting safety above costs. The state’s Department of Health Services reported that 11%, or nearly 1,500, health care workers have tested positive for coronavirus.

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#22. Illinois

- Median annual salary: $71,620 ($34.43 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $73,510 ($35.34 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 129,530 (21.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 102,686
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

The pandemic has brought unprecedented stress to the lives of nurses in some communities in Illinois, where cases passed 87,000 as of May 15. A woman was arrested after spitting on a nurse at Mercy Hospital in Aurora. The woman claimed she had COVID-19 and was upset that she had to fill out paperwork to be discharged.

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#21. Michigan

- Median annual salary: $72,260 ($34.74 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $73,200 ($35.19 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 96,900 (22.3 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 53,510
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

A nurse’s union in Michigan alleged that a nurse was fired for speaking in public about safety concerns. According to a story from Michigan Radio, Justin Howe, who served as president of the Michigan Nurses Association’s local affiliate, expressed concerns about lack of protective equipment and a need to improve screening measures at Mercy Health's Hackley Hospital.

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#20. New Hampshire

- Median annual salary: $72,690 ($34.95 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $73,880 ($35.52 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 14,320 (21.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 3,868
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 385

Seventy nursing students from the University of New Hampshire virtually graduated on May 16 and headed to work on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. The college plans to enroll 100 students per year beginning this fall, because of an expansion prior to the pandemic, designed to serve the state’s aging population.

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Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto // Getty Images

#19. Delaware

- Median annual salary: $72,830 ($35.01 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $74,100 ($35.63 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 11,730 (26.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 8,386
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Nurses were among those protesting to close meat plants in Delaware. A story in Plant Based News noted that Karen Smith, RD, CDE, said more than 15,000 workers have coronavirus. She was quoted as saying,"Keeping Delaware meat plants open is harming the health of workers, the surrounding community, and consumers."

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#18. New Mexico

- Median annual salary: $73,180 ($35.18 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $73,300 ($35.24 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 17,350 (21.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 6,317
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,139

Nurses and other health care professionals in New Mexico are pivoting due to the pandemic. Some are going from outpatient to surgery while others are going from surgery to ICU. Due to the uncertain trajectory of the coronavirus, they don’t know when they will return to their prior positions.

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#17. Texas

- Median annual salary: $73,400 ($35.29 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $74,540 ($35.84 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 218,090 (17.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 51,323
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

The University of Texas at Arlington will graduate 365 prelicensure nursing students into the workforce to help battle COVID-19. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that by 2030 there will be a shortage of about 60,000 nurses.

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#16. Colorado

- Median annual salary: $75,100 ($36.10 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $76,230 ($36.65 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 52,510 (19.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 22,797
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 3,990

When nursing students at Metro State University of Denver were in danger of not graduating because their last semester was canceled, community health non-profit STRIDE stepped up to train the students. The students are now on the frontlines in the battle against coronavirus.

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#15. Maryland

- Median annual salary: $76,780 ($36.92 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $77,910 ($37.46 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 53,150 (19.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 43,531
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 7,485

The University of Maryland School of Nursing is helping bolster the nursing workforce by offering 107 nursing students with a 3.3 grade-point average or above an option to graduate early and help combat the coronavirus. The university partnered with major hospital systems in Maryland for employment.

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#14. Arizona

- Median annual salary: $76,820 ($36.93 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $78,330 ($37.66 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 54,590 (19.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 15,315
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,830

Arizona honored the courage of its 85,000 nurses during National Nurses Week for being on the frontline of the pandemic. UA's College of Nursing had to postpone its annual Nurses Week conference due to the coronavirus, as well as pause having their students train alongside healthcare professionals.

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#13. Minnesota

- Median annual salary: $78,560 ($37.77 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $80,130 ($38.52 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 71,000 (24.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 18,200
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 2,380

KSTP-TV reported on May 14 that Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, made a tearful plea for nurses to receive more personal protection equipment. She noted that nurses in Minnesota hospitals are being asked to reuse their masks and gowns.

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#12. Connecticut

- Median annual salary: $81,630 ($39.24 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $83,440 ($40.12 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 34,740 (20.9 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 39,208
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 10,946

The Hearst Connecticut Media Editorial Board wrote an editorial calling for hazard pay for nurses. More than 8,000 people signed a petition for health care workers at Nuvance Health, which includes many hospital systems in Connecticut. Yale New Haven Health System has plans to give health care workers a “COVID-19 Recognition Award” of 5% of their 2020 earnings through May 9.

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#11. Rhode Island

- Median annual salary: $83,140 ($39.97 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $82,310 ($39.57 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 12,630 (26.1 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 13,571
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 1,506

Seven nurses who work in the dialysis unit and helped out with COVID-19 relief efforts at Kent Hospital were laid off in early May. Their positions were outsourced to a for-profit company.

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Karen Ducey // Getty Images

#10. Washington

- Median annual salary: $83,490 ($40.14 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $86,170 ($41.43 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 58,000 (17.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 18,971
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 3,125

A recent study by WalletHub named Washington the second-best place to be a nurse after Oregon. The study also revealed that the nursing field has a plethora of benefits, including being rewarding and lucrative, with a growth trajectory more than double the average job through 2028.

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#9. New Jersey

- Median annual salary: $83,920 ($40.35 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $84,280 ($40.52 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 80,140 (19.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 151,472
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Nurses working in veterans nursing homes in New Jersey are at high risk, as the facilities have high number of deaths in due to COVID-19. On May 11, a nurse's aide became the second death due to coronavirus at a veteran nursing home in New Jersey.

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Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto // Getty Images

#8. New York

- Median annual salary: $87,330 ($41.99 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $87,840 ($42.23 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 178,320 (18.7 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 356,458
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 76,608

A WalletHub study cited in Newsweek noted that New York, the state hit hardest by COVID-19, has some of the lowest nurse salaries. WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez was quoted as saying, "The state also has a small number of nursing job openings per capita, low job growth for nurses, and the projected competition in 2026 is one of the highest, which isn't encouraging for those about to launch into the nursing profession."

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#7. Nevada

- Median annual salary: $87,400 ($42.02 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $88,380 ($42.49 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 22,940 (16.5 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 7,255
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

The University of Nevada, Reno is one of the national examples of nursing students utilizing VR training to adjust to the crisis. The state has also had to rapidly send its graduates to the frontlines—without a graduation ceremony—to help in the fight, as one 2020 UNLV grad told Fox 5.

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#6. Massachusetts

- Median annual salary: $87,540 ($42.09 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $93,160 ($44.79 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 81,020 (22.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 90,084
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 9,040

The Massachusetts Nurses Association called for an advisory group of nurses to be formed to help ensure safe operations as the state reopens. They also want their voices to be heard to help Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic.

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#5. Alaska

- Median annual salary: $90,550 ($43.54 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $90,500 ($43.51 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 6,210 (19.6 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 402
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

Alaska will be welcoming a new cadre of nurses from the University of Alaska Anchorage, that graduated students early to help out during the health crisis.

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Chip Somodevilla // Getty Images

#4. District of Columbia

- Median annual salary: $91,470 ($43.98 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $94,820 ($45.59 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 10,890 (15.0 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 7,788
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

While pay for nurses is high in D.C., some nurses have decided that the risks associated with being on the frontlines outweigh the pay. Safia Samee Ali of NBCNews.com reported that Kelly Stanton, who has worked as a nurse for 28 years, had to leave her position to protect her own health as well as the health of her family.

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#3. Oregon

- Median annual salary: $93,370 ($44.89 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $92,960 ($44.69 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 36,660 (19.2 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 3,817
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 732

While hospitals in Oregon struggling with lost revenues have not laid off nurses, they have cut their offers for optional hours. A spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association said that he anticipates management will cite declining revenues as a reason to ask for concessions as contracts expire.

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#2. California

- Median annual salary: $110,620 ($53.18 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $113,240 ($54.44 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 302,770 (17.4 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 86,197
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: data not available

ABC10 reported on May 11 that non-COVID-19 nurses in California are being laid off amid the pandemic due to billions of dollars of debt. People Magazinereported on May 11 that a 61-year-old nurse who treated a COVID-19 patient without an N95 mask died two weeks later.

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#1. Hawaii

- Median annual salary: $110,700 ($53.22 per hour)
- Average annual salary: $104,060 ($50.03 per hour)
- Registered nurse employment: 11,330 (17.8 per 1,000 jobs)
- COVID-19 case count as of May 22: 643
- COVID-19 cumulative hospitalizations as of May 22: 82

During National Nurses Week, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Tulsi Gabbard presented the Nurse Workforce Protection Act. The goal of the act is to prevent health care providers receiving COVID-19 relief from furloughing nurses. Nursing students in Hawaii received first-hand experience working with COVID-19 patients.

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