I think it depends a lot on where you're starting from. I was a carpenter for many years before I went into healthcare. The hourly rates for carpenters and nurses are comparable--nursing is a little higher than the going rate around here--but the huge difference is in annual income. In a sluggish market, carpentry is a tough way to make a living, and while our local market is hot, now, it won't always be. Nursing is a lot more secure.
Before I started nursing school, I made just over 17K working 32 hrs/wk, plus extra time, as an orderly. That's as much as I ever made as a carpenter, although 17K was pretty decent money in the late 70's. In more recent dollars, I did about as well pushing beds as I did pounding nails, and got a check every other week, instead of feast or famine.
As a nurse, my hourly wage is double what it was as a UAP, and since I can work full time, I'm making triple what I did while I was in school. So 43-44 thousand seems like pretty good money, especially with a 2 yr degree. More to the point, I'm loving my job. There are things I miss about carpentry. Seeing tangible results of my effort is a big one. You do see patients improve, sometimes, but stays are so short that you rarely get to see a patient fully recovered. On my unit, they often leave by ambulance for rehab or LTC. What one of the clerks I work with calls "back-door discharges" (via the morgue) are not that uncommon, either, and while I haven't yet had one of those that I've taken too personally, they all have an impact. The first time a patient under my care expired, it was during report, before I'd ever seen him, and he was on palliative care. It wasn't unexpected, and I wasn't personally invested, but still...
On the other hand, I worked an extra shift, last night. There had been some call offs, and I like to be a team player, and time-and-a-half is not too shabby. I was a little tired when I got there, but the nurse who reported to me said that the patient I'd admitted the night before was really pleased to hear I would be her nurse again last night. You don't get that kind of boost all the time, but even occassionally is pretty darned nice.
In short (too late!), the money ain't bad, if you are used to living modestly. The work is hard, can be frustrating, and is guaranteed to scare you from time to time, but it can also be supremely satisfying, and is nearly always worth doing. Charting sure sucks, though.