My husband wrote this for my school's Yahoo group. Your comments are welcomed.
The Case for Practicing Nursing in Las Vegas
Or If You Think You're Helping Your Family By Staying in Kansas, Think Again!
By Lee White
Many readers of this message board will soon make a decision that will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives - where to begin their nursing careers. Most probably decided to study nursing because they want to help people. But let's face it: A nurse can help people for a base salary of $15 an hour or a base salary of $25 an hour. At some point, the nurse has to take care of the nurse. Alas, this article seeks to help Butler nursing students help themselves and their families to a brighter future. Strap in, hang on and, above all, keep an open mind.
During the past year, my wife Sherri, a Butler County (Kansas) Community College nursing student, and I have devoted literally hundreds of hours to researching the best locations to begin her career. While pay was a major consideration, it was certainly not the only one. Other factors included:
* Cost of living - Several locations in northern and central California offer the best hourly pay, but cost of living and taxation make working there unattractive.
* Training opportunities - While there's nothing wrong with working med./surg., some new graduate nurses may want to begin their careers in critical care, NICU or ER. Hospitals in our "new home" had to offer some sort of internship or orientation program that allowed Sherri to transition from school to a specialty.
* Quality of life - Harsh winters were a definite no-no! We also wanted to live in an area with ample recreational opportunities. Not all sunny destinations, however, offered acceptable pay or cost of living. Florida, for example, excelled in every regard except for pay. Ditto for Texas (although new graduate pay in certain metropolitan areas was higher than in Florida).
The conclusion we reached after exploring opportunities locally, regionally and nationally was that Las Vegas offered the best "new grad" opportunities. Because Butler is the closest community college to Wichita, this article will examine how Wichita stacks up against Vegas when one considers the four criteria listed above: pay, cost of living, training opportunities and quality of life.
Without question, new graduate nurses make far more in Las Vegas than they do in Wichita. Base pay for new graduates at Las Vegas hospitals is about $25. That figure doesn't include shift differentials (higher pay for working nights and weekends) and overtime. Wichita hospitals pay new grads only about $15 an hour. That means a new nurse in Vegas working only three 12-hour weekday shifts (36 hours) a week will make $46,800. Shift differentials and overtime will push that amount higher - much higher! The same nurse working the same hours in Wichita would make only $28,080. Find a calculator and start playing around with time and one-half - $22.50 for Wichita and $37.50 for Vegas - and the difference in overtime pay becomes striking, indeed. Benefits are better in Las Vegas, as well. One Vegas hospital pays health coverage for the nurse's entire family.
What does an extra $10 an hour really mean? At straight time - a 40-hour work week - it equates to $400 a week and $20,800 a year. A new nursing graduate who decides to stay in Wichita might as well flush 20 grand down the nearest john. Helpful hint: Flush only about a grand at a time or have a big plunger at the ready! The nurse who has children can take some of the $20,800 and purchase their college education at today's tuition prices (see http://nevadatreasurer.com/College/
). Saving half the money is another excellent idea. At 5.75 percent interest compounded monthly, one could save $373,829.99 in 20 years based on monthly deposits of $833.33. That's a good start toward retirement. For those new nurses who are young enough to think they'll never need money for retirement, an extra $20,800 a year will buy a lot of beer. Of course, if one turns a few hands of video poker in a Las Vegas casino, one can have his beer for the price of a tip to the cocktail waitress! You're not in Kansas (City) anymore, Dorothy!
Of course, extra pay is worthwhile only if it is not eaten up by taxes and an abnormally high cost of living. Great news! Nevada has no state income tax. Expect to cough up as much as six percent each year in Kansas individual income taxes. Las Vegas compares favorably with Wichita in its cost of living. If a renter makes $50,000 a year in Wichita, he would have to make $51,622 in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas amount is slightly higher at $53,337 for a homeowner. Still, the better pay and benefits more than make up for the modest cost of living increase. And there is no way a new grad nurse will make $50,000 a year in Wichita without working many hours of overtime. Sit down with an accountant or financial planner to maximize tax and retirement savings as soon as an employer makes a job offer. Here's a link to a cost of living calculator: http://www.homefair.com/homefair/calc/salcalc.html
There are nine major hospitals in the Las Vegas area and they're expanding rapidly. There are two major hospital systems in Wichita - Via Christi and Wesley. It is not surprising, then, that training and specialty opportunities are more plentiful in Las Vegas than they are in Wichita. Wesley Medical Center recently began advertising new grad training in the NICU, but, other than that, opportunities to start anywhere but med./surg. are almost non-existent in Wichita.
The most subjective factor Sherri and I considered was quality of life. Everyone has likes and dislikes. As mentioned earlier, we dislike winter, so Vegas is a good match for us. True, summers in Vegas are hot and dry. Summers in Wichita are hot and humid. Compare average temperatures and precipitation for the two cities by clicking these links:
New nurses who work in a hospital or nursing home will likely see night and weekend duty. When I worked the graveyard shift at a Wichita radio station, finding interesting and fun pastimes on days off was quite a challenge. After all, I was used to being awake when everyone else was sleeping. That won't happen in Las Vegas. While Sherri and I aren't the world's biggest gamblers, we will undoubtedly enjoy living in a city that truly never sleeps thanks in large part to the gaming industry. First-rate entertainment to please every taste is available 24 hours a day. In addition to casinos, Vegas has every amenity available in Wichita and more. Although Vegas is located in the middle of the desert, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is just 30 miles away. Lake Mead makes El Dorado Lake look like a cattle pond! Did you know skiing is about the same distance from Vegas as Lake Mead? Check out the recreational opportunities here:
Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. The county in which it is located, Clark County, grew 6.4 percent per year between 1990 and 1999. Wichita grew 1.1 percent per year during the same period. Many businesses, individuals and retirees are making Vegas home for the same reasons cited here. With its close proximity to Los Angeles (and the fiscal crisis in California will only serve to drive more people and businesses to Nevada), Las Vegas is uniquely positioned for sustained growth in the coming decades. That, coupled with the overall aging of the U.S. population, means demand for nurses will probably remain stronger in Las Vegas than it will in Wichita.
A move to Las Vegas - indeed, a move to any distant city - means friends and family must be left behind. Much like quality of life issues, each individual must come to grips with this reality in his own way. Our family lives in the Wichita and Kansas City areas. Sherri and I lived in Portland, Oregon, for three years and learned a thing or two about staying in touch. Many long distance and local phone companies offer unlimited long distance plans. Get one! Talk to your friends and family by phone each day if you want (and if THEY want). We did this when we lived in Portland and our relationship was, in some ways, closer than it is now that we're back in the Midwest. Use e-mail, digital cameras and web cams to stay in touch, too. Shop around for the best shipping rates for gifts and such. FedEx Ground offers good service at a competitive price.
One advantage to living in Las Vegas is that airfares from Wichita and practically everywhere else are much lower than fares to other cities. There's also no problem finding flights home if an emergency arises. Las Vegas hospitals offer new nurses great vacation and holiday benefits (20 days or more of vacation is not uncommon), so use that time to fly home or to welcome friends and family to the most exciting city in the world. On your salary, you'll be able to afford to buy their tickets if money is tight for them. Buy airline tickets 21 days in advance to get the lowest fares. Another good idea is to get a credit card that offers frequent flyer miles. Pay as many household bills as possible with that credit card then write one check to the credit card company each month. That way, you'll fly for next to nothing! Just make sure to pay that balance in full each month so debt doesn't pile up.
Bottom line: One can help his family a heck of a lot more with a fat paycheck than with sympathy and a smile. Las Vegas offers the best combination of circumstances Sherri and I have found to make that fat paycheck a reality for new and experienced nurses. If you decide to join us in Las Vegas in 2005, drop us an e-mail at lee.white@mailNOSPAM.com
. Take out the NOSPAM before sending. Feel free to e-mail with any ideas or opinions related to this article.
-- Nevada Nurses Association
-- State Board of Nursing
-- JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
- The Chamber of Commerce
- The daily newspaper
- Great deals, show information, etc.
-- Cheap air/hotel packages from Wichita
-- Big Air Force base just north of Vegas