Travel Nursing in Colorado | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2022
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, BA, RN, CBC
The Rocky Mountains are calling all travel nurses. Colorado, with its vivid and dynamic landscapes, offers endless possibilities for outdoor adventures on your days off. Colorado has mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert lands. Colorado is especially popular for its ski slopes – ideal for those wintertime travel assignments.
But even if you are not into the great outdoors, Colorado also is known for being home to more than 400 established microbreweries producing some of the best craft beers in the country.
If you are ready for an adventure – Colorado might be the state for you. Keep reading to find out more!
How Much Do Travel Nurses Make in Colorado?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses in Colorado earn an average annual salary of $80,670 which is higher than the national average of $77,600. The compensation for travel nurses is directly reflective of this as well as the ongoing need for nurses. Therefore, it is one of the highest-paying states for travel nurses.
Indeed.com reports an average base salary of $2,156 per week, with top locations in Pueblo, Wheat Ridge, Denver, Aurora, and Englewood.
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Highest Paying Nursing Specialties in Colorado
The highest-paid travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location within the state, demand, and urgency of needs. The demand for travel nurses in Colorado has always been high, causing the pay to be above average. Furthermore, Colorado has a high influx of visitors during the summer due to its breathtaking national parks and during the winter due to the winter ski season in the mountains.
As a result of the increased demand for nurses, wages that are being offered are steadily increasing. Unfortunately, this is not being seen across all disciplines of nursing.
Medical surgical nurses, long-term care nurses, and clinic nurses will see significantly lower rates than other specialties, but this is generally the case even for staff nurses. Increased certifications, credentials, and skills will command higher pay.
Historically speaking, the top-paying travel nurse specialties are:
- Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
- Labor & Delivery
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
- Operating Room (OR)
- Post-anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)
According to Vivian.com, the top-paying specialties for travel nurses in Colorado are:
- Registered Nurse First Assist – $4,543 per week
- OR Circulate – $3.445 per week
- Perioperative – $3,390 per week
- Cardiovascular OR – $3,358 per week
- OR Scrub RN – $3,336 per week
- Pediatrics PACU – $3,331 per week
Top 5 Hospitals in Colorado
Colorado has 105 hospitals. Twelve meet the high U.S. News standards. According to U.S. World News and Report, these hospitals were evaluated and ranked. The top five hospitals in Colorado for 2022 were as follows:
- Location: Aurora
- Nationally Ranked: 5 Specialities
- High Performing: 5 Specialties & 16 Procedures/Conditions
- Location: Loveland
- Nationally Ranked: 1 Speciality
- High Performing: 2 Specialities & 14 Procedures/Conditions
- Location: Denver
- High Performing: 2 Specialities & 15 Procedures/Conditions
- Location: Colorado Springs
- High Performing: 10 Procedures/Conditions
- Location: Littleton
- High Performing: 2 Specialities & 7 Procedures/Conditions
Cost of Living for Travel Nurses in Colorado
As the national cost of living continues to rise, Colorado is also seeing a significant rise in the cost of living. In fact, an ongoing issue for travel nurses is finding affordable housing during contracts. There have been many reports of travel nurses not being able to find housing until days before or even days after a contract starts.
Despite all travel nurse companies providing a stipend for housing, at times it is not enough. Furthermore, depending on the location, hotels may not be a viable long-term solution. Travel nurses have resorted to utilizing alternative websites such as Airbnb and Furnished Finders to find housing while traveling.
Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare. According to Bestplaces.net, Colorado’s overall cost of living is 20.5% higher than the U.S. average. Let’s take a look at some of Colorado’s top cities:
A great resource to calculate your current salary and town versus a city in Colorado is CNN’s Cost of Living Calculator.
Pros & Cons of Travel Nursing in Colorado
With any career, there are pros and cons to the job. Travel nursing is no different. It’s important to take into consideration your own personal circumstances, family obligations, and reasons for wanting to be a travel nurse. Reasons that some nurses might see as a con may in fact be a positive for you.
1. Increased earning potential
Travel nurses have the ability to earn significantly more money than staff nurses. Furthermore, they can make more due to reimbursements and incentives, which can be earned tax-free. Most travel nurses receive free housing or have a hefty monthly allowance to put toward housing expenses.
One of the main reasons travel nurses start this adventure is to experience different cities and states they may not otherwise get to experience. It also is great for nurses that are not sure where they ultimately want to settle down.
You have the ability to take a contract when you want to and where you want. If you really want to travel to Colorado, you have the ability to find a nursing contract that fits your needs. It is also easier to get a permanent staff position if there is a hospital that you eventually want to work at.
Most don’t consider this a huge pro of travel nursing, but it is! With an increase in the number of nurses that go on for an advanced degree, making connections with different hospitals, providers, and nurses can be very important when trying to find preceptors for graduate-level clinical rotations.
5. Avoid hospital and unit politics
Most don’t like to admit it, but bedside nursing comes with drama and politics. It can be as simple as a hierarchy based on seniority or something more serious. Being a travel nurse allows you to avoid all of this by not being fully invested in the unit but instead helping out for a very specific amount of time.
1. Always the new person
Being new to a unit can be exciting but can also be frustrating or even lonely. Not knowing anyone on the unit can affect the type of help you will get in your work environment.
2. Not the best assignments
Some hospitals will assign travel nurses patients just like any other nurse on the unit. Others will assign them the easiest patients, the hardest patients, or the ones that no one wants to deal with.
3. First to float to another unit
Despite being contracted to a specific unit, most travel nurses will have to float to other parts of the hospital within their skill set. This again will make you the new person which can affect how others perceive you as well as assist you throughout the shift
4. Finding a place to live
All travel nurse companies offer their nurses places to live during each contract. However, it is not always in the location that you want, has the amenities you desire, and/or fits your needs. Additionally, if the agency places you in housing, you won’t be offered the housing stipend. Contracts that offer a housing stipend instead, which most travel nurses take, leave the responsibility of finding appropriate housing to you.
5. Changing health insurance policies
With each contract may come a new health insurance policy. This will be dependent on the agency that you work with. If you switch between multiple agencies, then there will most likely be a lapse in your health insurance. However, nurses can opt for private insurance and pay out of pocket. That way, when the assignment ends, you won’t lose your insurance.
The are countless reasons why you should find a travel nursing position in Colorado. First, Colorado is part of the eNLC (Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact). The eNLC allows nurses to hold one license to practice in participating states without having to pay additional licensing fees. For those nurses that hold primary residence in an eNLC state, traveling to Colorado can be simple. As a non-resident of an eNLC state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement but will only be issued a single-state license instead of the compact license. Nurses can hold multiple single-state licenses.
Colorado continues to see growth in the travel nursing market. A 2021 study found that while Colorado currently has a nursing gap of around 2,600 nurses, that number will grow to a projected gap of more than 10,000 nurses by 2026. Beyond the needs at the bedside, travel nurses in Colorado can expect adventure in both the summer and winter.