Emily Bryant MSN, RN
Emily Bryant MSN, RN
January 12, 2023 - 6 min read

Travel Nursing in Washington | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2023

Nothing screams travel nursing quite like living in the Pacific Northwest. As a matter of fact, Washington state seems to be a hub for travel nurses as it provides so many of the necessary factors that nurses look for when booking a new contract, which we’ll discuss shortly.

It has the allure of providing a completely different landscape and climate than you can find in almost any other state in America, which brings with it the promise of new adventures. Washington has such a diverse landscape, from the ocean to the mountains to vineyards, all in one state. Plus, when you add in the big city of Seattle, you get the ease of accessibility, events to attend, and rich culture that seeps through the streets.

Days off in Washington state provide hundreds of activities and sightseeing opportunities for travel nurses. With 3 National Parks and more than 140 State Parks, there is an endless number of trails and viewpoints to fill your days enjoying the sights.

If you time your contracts right, you can take a tour and watch the whale migration off the coast. You can book a weekend and take the ferries to one of the many islands just off the shores. A short road trip can lead you to the “American Alps” where you can enjoy the most charming Bavarian-style village in the heart of the Cascades. In the southern part of the state, you can crawl through lava tunnels that were formed after the eruption of Mount St. Helens or drive up the Columbia Gorge. In the eastern part of the state, Spokane provides a unique and more remote city environment to experience a new culture. At the heart of the state, Seattle lends endless activities, incredible eateries, and the quintessential PNW experience.

Looking for open travel nurse assignments? Speak with a recruiter today!

Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing in Washington

Pros of Travel Nursing in Washington

Washington state always seems to have a need for travel nurses, so there should never be a lack of opportunity or options when choosing your contract. There are also many different cities to choose between, and many of them are in close proximity to one another, or within a short drive of Seattle.

From personal experience, the travel nurse community within this state was also deeper and more connected than in other areas I’ve experienced. This is likely due to a large number of travelers in the area. There are endless areas to explore throughout the state, and even through numerous contract extensions, you are sure to want more from the beautiful scenery. Washington also has much stricter regulations surrounding nursing ratios. And the working conditions, along with the pay, are much more enjoyable and safe than in most other places in America.

Cons of Travel Nursing in Washington

Washington and the PNW have a stereotype for a reason. If grey skies get you down, don’t plan on traveling here in the winter or springtime. The rain and dreariness of the land throughout the winter can be enough to dissuade nurses from wanting to sign a contract in Washington. Since it is located in the far corner of the country, it might also be too remote for some people’s taste. Traveling home to see family might be a full-day process with layovers, so the distance away from “home” might dissuade people from coming here.

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make in Washington State?

As with any nursing pay, it is always important to look at the specialty, hourly requirements, and city when comparing pay. For this specific comparison, the rates quoted will all be for a traditional 36-hour-a-week rate. Rates also are highly dependent on the company, and they all choose their payouts using different formulas.

Taking a standard medical/surgical travel contract, for example, there are currently more than 1,220 jobs posted by the largest travel companies alone. The highest pay in the state is in Seattle proper, and the current quote is for $3,654 per week. The average pay for this same job outside of the city seems to be closer to $3,000 per week. Most of the jobs listed in the state of Washington are within a 200-mile radius of Seattle, which includes the Olympic Peninsula, Tacoma, Olympia, and other Seattle suburbs.

Another huge bonus to working in Washington state is that there is no state income tax. The average rate quoted for the state is around $3,000 per week which amounts to $12,000 a month. Over the course of a typical travel contract, that will yield $39,000 in a 12-week contract and could amount to $153,000 annually if a traveler decided to extend to the full length of their allowed time.

Highest Paying Cities and Specialties in Washington for Travel Nurses

When looking at the highest-paying contracts in a region, it’s always important to remember how specialties impact the results. Many of the highest-paying jobs in Washington are in Seattle’s surrounding towns, but the highest-paying jobs are for cardiac specialties in more rural areas of the state, due to demand. The other highest-paid travel contracts in Washington are these four:

  1. Operating Room nurses
  2. Labor and Delivery Nurses
  3. Cardiac Cath Lab Nurses
  4. Cardiac Intensive Care Nurses

Here are the highest-paying cities and specialties around the Evergreen state:

City and SpecialtyWeekly WageMonthly Wage13-Weeks

Seattle is a phenomenal place for travelers to start. There are many options for just about any nurse looking to get their feet wet in the travel industry. Seattle provides competitive pay for almost any nursing specialty you could imagine. Below is a quick list of some of the current job rates for different specialties in Seattle. But there are plenty more where that came from.

  • OR – $4,425/Week
  • L&D – $4,400/Week
  • PACU – $4,228/Week
  • PICU – $4,132/Week
  • CVICU – $4,094/Week
  • ED – $3,955/Week
  • Med/Surg – $3,654/Week
  • ICU – $3,417/Week
  • Peds – $3,745/Week
  • NICU – $3,200/Week
  • Oncology – $3,338/Week
  • Peds ED – $3,244/Week
  • Behavioral Health – $3,102/Week

Find travel nursing assignments in Washington by speaking with a recruiter today! 

Is Washington Affordable for Travel Nurses?

Washington provides some of the most competitive pay for travel nurses, but it can cost you in other ways. In a recent study, Washington was rated the 8th most expensive city to live in in the U.S. The hard-earned money nurses are making taking these travel contracts is going to be mostly spent on costly housing, increased gas prices, and inflated food prices when compared to 80% of the country.

Finding housing has never been easier thanks to new apps like Furnished Finder and many of the well-developed Facebook pages catered to travelers. However, if you are looking to be cost-efficient yet live in the heart of the city, finding housing that checks all of your boxes can be challenging. A furnished studio apartment could cost upwards of $3,500 near downtown Seattle. However, if you are willing to live in the suburbs in more basic accommodations, your rent will be much more reasonable – in the $1,500 range.

Some of the more affordable cities in Washington include Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia, Vancouver, and Bellingham. All of these places have their own charm and charisma and provide decent travel pay without sacrificing the basic amenities. Below are some rates for these cities with lower costs of living.

  • Friday Harbor, WA – ED RN – $3,3133/week
  • Spokane, WA – Med/Surg RN – $2,997/week
  • Olympia, WA – ED RN – $3,669/week
  • Tacoma, WA – ED RN – $3,669 /week
  • Vancouver, WA – ICU RN – $2,353/week

Best Hospitals in Washington

Washington also provides the opportunity to work at a variety of great hospitals. And, many of them are highly rated, too!

  1. Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle – The largest dedicated pediatric hospital in the state. This hospital services children’s specialties throughout the whole state and provides unique care for kids all over the United States.
  2. University of Washington – Harborview, Seattle – Nationally known for cardiac and neurology services.
  3. Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle – Well-known heart center with all the cardiac specialties.
  4. Evergreen Health, Kirkland – Ranked highly in their orthopedic care as well as their Neuro and Neuro-Surg care.
  5. Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, Spokane – The region’s largest hospital that carries all specialties with a children’s hospital associated with it.
  6. Providence Regional Medical Center, Everett – Ranked number five in the state, this hospital provides care to the outer regions of Seattle.

Why Washington?

Washington is the kind of state where just about anyone can find their niche. From the outdoor enthusiast to the artistic creative, the ocean lover to the mountaineer, Washington has something that can interest anyone. Nurses love the working conditions that the state provides, and there is no income tax taken out on all of the money they earn while working. From large cities like Seattle and Tacoma, to smaller more rural areas in the north or hidden in the mountains, there are opportunities for both work and play all throughout the state. Nurses love going to Washington, and it should be high on the priority list for any traveler.

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