Survey: Georgia one of the worst states for health care, but highest paying state for nurses

According to a report released by Becker’s Hospital Review in early June, Georgia offers nurses the highest salary among all 50 states in 2023. Paired with Georgia’s lower than average cost of living, these health care heroes could stand to earn a comparatively pretty penny in the U.S. Southeast.

However, the report — which considered data from WalletHub’s latest rankings on the best states for nurses, U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of best states for health care, and data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — also revealed that Georgia is one of the worst state’s in the country when it comes to health care.

Consistently, the states ranked the worst for health care within the report were also found to be the highest paying for nurses. Georgia came in as the highest paying state with a standard-of-living adjusted hourly rate of $45.54.

The Peach State, however, also ranked #41 over all for health care. Six of the worst states for health care ranked within the top 50% of U.S. states for nurse pay.

The top five best states for health care were Hawaii, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut — none of which ranked within the top 67% for nurse pay. The five worst states for health care, however, each ranked within the top 44% for nurse pay. The states were West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kentucky.

According to the American Nursing Association, the nurse staffing crisis negatively affects hospital mortality rates, the length of patient stays and increases the number of preventable events (falls, infections, etc.).

“As the largest staffing group — at almost 40% of operating costs –— nurses have been an easy target for reduced hours and other cutbacks,” according to the association’s website. “But those cuts come at the expense of patient well-being and nurses’ safety. Nurse staffing levels are critical to optimizing quality of patient care, improving care outcomes, and long-term cost containment.”