I totally agree with lalaxton. I am down here, without a union, and yes, I am making really great money working for a staffing agency. The drawback is that my employers health insurance benefits are really bad, and I elected to insure myself and my kids through a private plan which I pay $289 a month for. The benefits I get from this plan are NOTHING compared to what you currently have. The working conditions here are no better, I promise you.
If you work full time for a hospital here, you're salary is around the $20/hr mark, and don't forget that if you want healthcare benefits, you'll pay in the neighbourhood of $110-120 a paycheque to cover yourself and any kids you have , it doesn't matter if you have 6 kids, you pay the same rate which kind of makes me mad as you'd think that it'd make a difference but it doesn't. And despite paying that insurance premium there is still a deductible, and the drug benefits are a joke compared to up there! Taxes are lower, but when you deduct the benefits from your cheque and you go to the doctor and still end up paying a bill because you haven't met your deductible yet, and then to the pharmacy to pick up your medication and pay through the nose for it you'll realize exactly what you left behind for THIS?! I have laughingly called the benefits here "Benefits that aren't really of benefit" by comparison to there. And the holiday pay and sick time, workmens comp, maternity leave, UIC? Forget it! It doesn't even come close to what you have there.
I also agree with lalaxton's suggestion that you do a stint as a travelling nurse for awhile and check out the working conditions for yourself before you commit to anything more permanent.
On the plus side, many hospitals do pay for continuing education, even paying you to attend these courses. Your potential new co-workers will be happy to see you too because they are tired and overworked and you're a fresh warm body.
Think it over carefully before you do anything radical though. Had I been able to walk into a full time job in Ontario (gee for that matter, ANY nursing job cause there were none) I wouldn't have left. Now that I am here, I have made a life for myself, incurred debt in US dollars that if I were to move home I'd be buried by due to the exchange rate, so I stay. If I were in your shoes, working full time, I'd share your frustrations but knowing what I know about the conditions here, I'd stay put up there.