blue graphic design with text overlay best states to work as a nurse practitioner

These Are the Best States to Work As a Nurse Practitioner

Staff Writer
Apr 22, 2022

Nurse practitioners are gaining a lot of authority in the U.S.

In 2010, the IOM released The Future of Nursing Report, which included a lot of recommendations for nurses. Notably, it encouraged most RNs to pursue a BSN-degree completion program, and it called for more nurses to consider graduate-level education once they earned their BSN. The reason: There’s a growing need for primary care nurses, and nurse practitioners can meet it.

At Joyce, we’re proud to see many of our BSN graduates go on to pursue a Masters degree and become nurse practitioners. Healthcare is changing throughout the country, and recent laws have given NPs more autonomy in their practice. If you plan to earn your BSN and go on to become a primary care nurse, these are the best states to work as a nurse practitioner.

1. Washington and Oregon

The Pacific Northwest is renowned for fostering independent thinking. Its healthcare laws are really no different. Washington State has some of the loosest scope of practice laws for NPs, recognizing them as “qualified to assume primary responsibility and accountability for the care of patients.” Like in just about every nursing specialty, there are some continuing education requirements, but even so: If you want the most autonomy after you earn your BSN and MSN degrees, you should head to the Evergreen State.

Don’t want to go that far? Stopping in Oregon isn’t a bad alternative. Nurse practitioners have been allowed to prescribe controlled substances there since 1979. The one hitch is that, unlike some states, Oregon requires NPs to have 384 hours of registered nursing experience beyond school before they can earn their license. If you’ve already worked for awhile in a clinic or hospital with your ADN or BSN degree, that shouldn’t be an issue, but still something to consider before you decide to work in Oregon.

Related Resource: 9 Facts About Our RN to BSN Completion Program

2. New Mexico and Arizona

Shortly behind Washington is New Mexico among the best states to work as a nurse practitioner. Laws there are so favorable that many nurses migrate to New Mexico just for the increase autonomy in their nursing practices. Arizona similarly gives nurse practitioners a lot of authority to prescribe medicine—just with the caveat to stay within the limits of their advanced practice specialty. Both of these southwest states have a reason to love NPs: There’s a lot of uninhabited land in between cities, and a lot of small towns that need at least one primary care physician if not a few. Giving nurses with their masters degree the legal authority to provide that care benefits communities, and lawmakers know that.

3. Alaska

If you think about it, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Alaska has the smallest population per square mile in the country, and historically it’s so hard to keep citizens there that the government offers money to long-term residents. Attracting enough primary care physicians anywhere can be tough, but especially for a state that’s hard to get to—and hard to live in. For that reason, Alaska has given a lot of power to nurse practitioners since the 1980s, even allowing new MSN graduates to begin working immediately while waiting for their certification. It does have some restrictions, including a prescription license that must be renewed every two years, but even so: If you’re on the fast-track to work as an NP, and you love the wilderness, Alaska might be the best state to work as a nurse practitioner.

Related Resource: Why Nurses Should Consider Non-Direct Patient Care Positions

4. Utah

Here’s some good news for everyone already attending nursing school in Utah: Its healthcare laws give nurse practitioners a lot of medical authority in the state. According to this chart that aggregates NP scope of practice laws, in Utah nurse practitioners can independently diagnose and treat patients without an attending MD; they can prescribe medicine and physical therapy; and they can sign death certificates, handicap permits, and workers comp claims. In other words, they can do everything they’re trained to do, legally. This means you can who earn your BSN in Utah, go on to pursue a Masters degree, and work in the same state with a lot of medical rights and authority.

Related Resource: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Jobs

We care about the future of nursing, and we’re proud of the online degree program we’ve created to make the BSN more available to nurses all over the country. If you’re interested in preparing for the future as a nurse, learn more about our RN to BSN program.


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