Nursing & Healthcare News

Why Nurses are Coming to California

Staffing ratio mandates and high salaries lead the nation

Nurse in hospital room opening the curtains while elderly patient in bed smiles.

While living in California can have its downsides (gas prices, for one!), nurses in the Golden State enjoy advantages no other state can match.

California Dreamin’

It’s no secret that California’s cost of living is high. On the other hand, when it comes to salaries, California has a commanding edge over every other state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California RNs’ average wage in 2022 was $64.10 an hour, and nurses in some areas averaged almost $80 an hour.

Those figures are much higher than the national average — in fact, nurses in some other states make less than half what their California counterparts do. Average wages for Arkansas and South Dakota nurses, for example, were less than $32 an hour in 2022.

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Wages for other types of work are also higher in California, which can make a big difference for nurses in multi-income households. (California’s minimum wage is now twice the federal level.)

Nurse-Patient Ratios a Big Draw

Another advantage for California RNs is the state’s minimum nurse staffing law. While other states have tried to pass similar laws, only Oregon’s new hospital staffing law approaches the California requirements, and the Oregon law hasn’t yet taken effect.

Nursing Education

Nurses who’ve seen what it’s like to practice without staffing requirements are loath to give them up. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center ER nurses Leo Perez, RN, and Marlene Perez, RN, said the staffing “horror stories” they hear from their daughter, a nurse in Arizona, have dissuaded them from moving.

California’s staffing requirements and higher pay also entice nurses from other states to relocate. The BRN’s most recent nursing workforce report estimates that more than 13,000 nurses have moved to California each year since 2020.


AARON SEVERSON is the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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