Travel Guides

Arizona: Healthcare Employment Location Guide

Arizona is best known for being home to the Grand Canyon, one of the nation’s most iconic national landmarks, hence its nickname of the Grand Canyon State. However, it’s also known for its perfect winter weather and stunning geography. This spectacular state features breathtaking desert vistas in the south, fabulous forests and mountain ranges in the north, and some of the most vibrant sunsets in the country. Nurses love Arizona’s diversity, reasonable cost of living, abundant hiking and biking trails, eclectic culinary scene, exciting nightlife, and all the little things that make it a great place to live, work as a travel nurse, and play.

Top Locations to Live in Arizona

With a population of over 7 million people, Arizona doesn’t make the top 10 list of states with the largest population, but it ranked second for the fastest growing. Phoenix has a population of nearly 1.7 million, the only state capital with over a million residents. Ranked the 8th best place to visit in Arizona, Phoenix offers a warm year-round climate, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of outdoor activities. It, along with Tucson, made the 2020-2021 list of best places to live in the U.S., Scottsdale is one of the top Phoenix suburbs and Sedona was previously dubbed one of the most beautiful places in America.

Phoenix: Nicknamed the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is noted for having more sunny days than any other city, besides Yuma. It also boasts a relatively low cost of living, a thriving job market, a burgeoning nightclub scene, and plenty of ways to take advantage of the splendid weather. Great shopping and dining abound with flourishing restaurants featuring everything from traditional American fare to varied International cuisine, plus signature Southwestern dishes.

Culture hounds enjoy Phoenix’s live theatre, opera, ballet, symphony, and museums like the renowned Heard Museum and Phoenix Museum of Art. Sports fans see plenty of play with teams from all four major sports leagues in the Greater Phoenix area, including the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, and NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.

Phoenix also lures adventurous, outdoorsy nurses with its vibrant red mountains and cacti-lined landscapes crisscrossed with abundant hiking trails of varying skill and endurance levels. Located in central Arizona, Phoenix is surrounded by mountains, including the White Tank, Sierra Estrella, South, and McDowell mountains. The Phoenix Mountains rise within the city itself with Camelback Mountain and the Piestewa Peak offering excellent urban hiking opportunities. Within all this majestic beauty, Phoenix offers a diverse array of neighborhoods to call home, including:

  • Downtown Phoenix is popular for nurses wanting to live in the heart of the city, where there’s an active nightlife, concerts, sporting events, abundant shopping and dining, arts and cultural institutions, and the 1,364-seat Orpheum Theatre. Getting around is easy on the transit bus or light rail, but the area is also highly walkable. Housing, which is primarily lofts, high-rise apartments, townhouses, and condos, is pricey with the average monthly rent at $1,686.
  • Ahwatukee Foothills in the southernmost portion of Phoenix is the #1 best neighborhood to live in Phoenix, according to Niche. This desirable neighborhood is ideal for singles and young professionals and has spacious Hacienda-style and Mediterranean Revival homes, single-story apartments, and multi-story luxury apartment complexes. Ahwatukee Foothills falls about mid-range on rental costs at $1,341 per month, about 12.5% higher than the statewide average of $1,191 but nearly 20.5% lower than Downtown. Nurses have access to great restaurants, tourist attractions, beautiful parks, and nearby hiking at Dobbins Lookout.
  • North Mountain Village offers some of the best scenery in Phoenix and some fantastic hiking at North Mountain Park and Shaw Butte and Lookout Mountain Preserve and Shadow Mountain, plus direct access to nearby Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Nurses also have numerous city amenities, including unique boutiques and vintage shops at the Melrose District, popular nightclubs and pubs, and casual restaurants. North Mountain has some of the lowest rental rates in Phoenix at an average of $1,059 and offers various Southwestern-style housing and lots of apartment homes.

Scottsdale: As one of Phoenix’s more expensive suburbs, Scottsdale offers a lush Sonoran Desert landscape with technicolor sunsets and nearly limitless outdoor adventures. From hot air ballooning to horseback riding to hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the largest urban park in the nation. Watch the San Francisco Giants during spring training at Scottsdale Stadium, hit the links at the Boulders Resort & Spa, or visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece and desert laboratory, Taliesin West.

Scottsdale is also noted for its high-energy nightlife and acclaimed shopping and dining. Its food and wine scenes are booming with tons of independent restaurants and local wines. For culture lovers, Scottsdale is filled with art galleries, including the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art downtown and throughout the Marshall Way Arts District. One of the best places to visit is Old Town, a quirky, Western-style area primarily aimed at tourists but also has lots to offer fun-seeking Scottsdale nurses.

Old Town contains some of the state’s top-rated chef-driven restaurants, award-winning craft breweries and wine-tasting rooms, sophisticated lounges, and trendy destinations for a night out on the dance floor. You’ll also find the popular Fifth Avenue Shopping District, which is filled with high-end boutiques and Southwestern-inspired gift shops. Old Town is easily walkable, but you can also opt for fun ways to travel like the free trolley or on rented Segways, golf carts, or mobile bars.

Tucson: Nicknamed Old Pueblo, Tucson is deeply rooted in Hispanic heritage and a mecca for spicy Mexican cuisine. It’s also home to 1000’s of Native Americans, making it a melting pot of cultures. Although Tucson is continually expanding, drawing new residents with its low cost of living, the city has managed to hang onto its small-town feel.

Ranked the fifth-best place to visit in Arizona, nurses are drawn to Tucson’s unpretentious vibe, warm year-round temperature, and many cultural venues, historic sites, and natural areas like the cacti-filled Saguaro National Park. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum combines a natural history museum, art gallery, botanical garden, zoo, and aquarium in one magnificent venue. Nature lovers enjoy hiking trails around the city and winter skiing at nearby Mount Lemmon. Tucson also offers various nightlife hot spots, including high-energy dance clubs, quiet wine bars, sports bars, country-western saloons, LGBT clubs, comedy shows, and casinos. Nurses looking for the best Tucson community to call home have 130 distinct neighborhoods to consider, including:

  • Armory Park, adjacent to Downtown Tucson, offers a unique blend of Barrio-style homes, craftsman-style bungalows, and multi-storied houses in a historic neighborhood boasting quaint brick sidewalks and mature trees. Considered one of Tucson’s most desirable neighborhoods, Armory Park is on the National Register of Historic Places. Architectural styles span over 150 years, so there’s also Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Victorian, and Anglo-Territorial home styles.
  • El Presidio was Tucson’s first, and previously most affluent, neighborhood, so it features several large, historic homes. Its long history reflects on the various home styles, which include late Victorian-style with ornate gables to California Mission-style homes. The El Presidio neighborhood makes up a small piece of the northern portion of Downtown Tucson, so it’s near a wide array of shopping, dining, and cultural venues.
  • Dunbar Springs is a small, historic neighborhood north of Downtown Tucson that’s culturally diverse and offers an eclectic blend of art and environmentalism. Nurses enjoy a historic outdoor shopping center, public parks, and concerts, plays, and ballet at the Leo Rich Theater. Home styles include Craftsman bungalows, Victorians, and Territorial.

Sedona: Located in central Arizona, north of Phoenix in the Upper Sonoran Desert and northern Verde Valley Region, Sedona offers breathtaking views of the red rock formations and is regularly described as one of the most beautiful places in America. Ranked the second best place to visit in Arizona after the Grand Canyon and #25 on the list of the best places to visit in the nation, outdoor enthusiasts love Sedona. Its comfortable year-round climate doesn’t get as hot as it does in southern Arizona and the many hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in Red Rock State Park are a major draw. Additionally, Oak Creek Canyon offers multiple chilly swimming hole spots that are perfect on those hot Arizona days. Check out Slide Rock State Park for a dip in some of the clearest and coldest water in the state! 

Spiritualists also flock to Sedona for the New Age “vortexes” and spirit-balancing powers said to be found here. In Downtown Sedona, you’ll find New Age shops and psychics alongside an array of restaurants, art galleries, and interesting tourist shops. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of Sedona’s most iconic landmarks. The Roman Catholic Chapel is built into the buttes of red rocks, and was inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building. 

Nightlife in Sedona is casual but entertaining, and the numerous spas with Sedona-inspired specialty treatments leave everyone feeling relaxed yet rejuvenated. Sedona is full of unique neighborhoods with an eclectic array of housing options, including gated communities, quaint red rock cabins, apartments, condos, townhomes, and a mixture of older and newer homes.

Cost of Living in Arizona

Arizona’s cost of living is only slightly higher than the national average, but groceries, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services are slightly less. Certain cities in the state have a lower cost of living, including Tucson, which had the fourth-lowest cost of living nationwide in 2020. Tucson’s overall cost of living is nearly 10% lower than Arizona’s statewide average and more than 8% lower than the national average. Housing costs in Tucson are almost 20% lower than the national average and more than 25% lower than the state average. While Phoenix’s overall cost of living is slightly higher than the state’s, the city’s housing and healthcare costs are much lower and utility costs are slightly lower. The cost of living is much higher in Sedona where housing costs are twice as high as the state and national averages and in Scottsdale where housing costs are twice the national average and almost twice that of the state.

Top Hospitals in Arizona

HonorHealth is a non-profit healthcare system serving the greater Phoenix area that’s well respected in the community. Among its many hospitals, medical groups, and specialty care centers, HonorHealth provides care for individuals and families with an array of medical needs.

  • HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center: Located in Phoenix, Deer Valley Medical Center is a full-service, 204-bed hospital that offers extensive inpatient and outpatient care, including general and cardiac surgery. It also provides Level 1 trauma care and a 24/7 emergency department and pediatric emergency center. Deer Valley Medical Center is an accredited Chest Pain Center, a Primary Stroke Center, and certified Magnet Hospital for its excellence in nursing care. It received the top Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in the fall of 2020.
  • HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center: The 427-bed Scottsdale Shea Medical Center was rated high performing in heart failure procedures, hip replacement, and knee replacement. It has a dedicated pediatric emergency department, neonatal ICU, and pediatric ICU, and provides women’s services. Shea Medical is known as a bariatric surgery center of excellence and is a certified Chest Pain Center, Certified Heart Attack Center, and Designated Primary Stroke Center. The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center is housed on the Shea campus, as is the HonorHealth Research Institute. Shea Medical is a certified Magnet Hospital for its excellence in nursing care and received the top Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in the fall of 2020.
  • HonorHealth Scottsdale Thompson Peak Medical Center:  The 120-bed Scottsdale Thompson Park Medical Center provides cutting-edge medical, surgical, and emergency care services. Its surgical services include minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures, and it provides intensive care services, including cardiac care. Thompson Peak was rated high performing in hip replacement and received the top Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in the fall of 2020. It’s a certified Chest Pain Center and certified Magnet Hospital for its excellence in nursing care.

Banner Health: Headquarter in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest, nonprofit healthcare systems and recognized as one of the top health systems in the country. Banner Health is the largest private employer in Arizona and operates 29 hospitals and other related health entities in six states. Twenty-two of these hospitals are in Arizona, including three in Tucson and three in Phoenix, plus several in nearby suburbs including the one in Scottsdale.

Several of Banner Health’s hospitals made it into the top 10 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the best hospitals in Arizona, including Banner Boswell Medical Center at #2, Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix at #3, Banner Baywood Medical Center tied at #4, and Banner-University Medical Center Tucson tied at #7. Banner Estrella Medical Center, Banner Gateway Medical Center, and Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix are certified Magnet Hospitals, recognized for their excellence in nursing care.

Average Nurse Pay Rates in Arizona

Vivian has hundreds of jobs in Arizona nurses and allied health professionals. ICU, med surg, telemetry, ED, OR, PACU, intermediate care, behavioral health, mental health, psychiatric, surgical ICU stepdown, case management, CVICU, and labor and delivery nurses were among the specialties in high demand. In February 2021, nursing positions were paying as much as $5,009 per week, but the average weekly salary was $3,012. In-demand travel allied health specialists included respiratory therapists, med lab techs, med techs, speech-language pathologists, Cath lab techs, CT techs, surgical techs, physical therapists, and radiology technologists. Weekly allied health salaries were between $3,742 and $824, depending on the role, location, required experience, and work schedule.

Popular Arizona Attractions

Nurses in Arizona find plenty of attractions and things to do in Arizona. Outdoor enthusiasts love the plethora of hiking trails around the state, numerous national parks and monuments, forests, and mountains, and amazing stargazing. Cultural attractions include 100s of museums and art galleries with a variety of themes, plus wonderful places offering live theatre, opera, ballet, and symphony performances. There’s also a nice selection of concert venues, nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping locales.

Grand Canyon: Considered one of the most majestic landmarks in America, take the time to visit the Grand Canyon while you’re in Arizona. It’s ranked the #1 best place to visit in Arizona and the nation for a reason. The natural wonder is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, but it constantly expands with the help of the mighty Colorado River snaking its way through its valley. The Grand Canyon is a top destination for whitewater rafting, hiking, and unmatched views from the rim (make sure to see both the North and South Rim!!). The Grand Canyon National Park covers more than 1.2 million acres and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grand Canyon operating hours vary by season. While the South Rim is open year-round, the North Rim closes for the winter. The best times to visit are March through May and September through November when daytime temperatures are cooler. Entry fees are $35 per private vehicle or $20 per individual, or purchase an annual pass for $70. Camping and lodging are available for an additional fee. While you’re visiting the Grand Canyon, consider taking a short jaunt down the road to Antelope Canyon, a hugely popular slot canyon that offers sightseeing tours by reservation only.

Hiking Trails: Nurses find amazing hiking opportunities pretty much anywhere in Arizona with 1,000s of miles of trails of varying lengths, uses, and skill levels. Phoenix is one of the best places for hiking with some amazing trails around the red sandstone formations of Papago Park and stunning Sonoran Desert scenery at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. Tucson trails include the Seven Falls in the Santa Catalina Mountains where waterfalls run most of the year. Scottsdale trails include the challenging climb at Camelback Mountain, which resembles a kneeling camel. Hiking is listed as the #1 thing to do in Sedona with most trails leading into the red rocks. Some trails require a Red Rock Pass for $5 per day or $15 per week. If you’re not up for a hike, you can also explore the wilderness via a guided Jeep tour.

Phoenix Zoo: One of the top things to do in Phoenix is visit the Phoenix Zoo, which isn’t just for kids, adults have fun with the animals, too. The Zoo sits on 125 acres and cares for over 3,000 animals representing nearly 400 species, many of which are threatened or endangered. The Phoenix Zoo has seasonal hours, but it’s usually open from at least 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and costs $25 for adults.

Saguaro National Park: You’ll be amazed by the 100s of towering saguaro cacti at Saguaro National Park, one of the top things to do in Tucson. The Park covers 91,771 acres of iconic southwestern landscapes and is deemed a national treasure. Visit in late April through June when the saguaros are blooming for an even more spectacular sight. The Park has 171 miles of hiking trails combined and the Tucson Mountain District boasts the largest petroglyph site. Weekly passes are $25 per vehicle or $15 per person when entering on foot or bicycle. Backcountry camping is available year-round but sites are first-come, first-served. 

Arizona Foodie Fare

Arizona is a state for food lovers with a wide array of restaurant options in the different dining regions. From iconic dishes the state is noted for to a mishmash of cuisines representing the various cultures in Arizona, you’ll find great eats throughout the state. Phoenix is a fantastic destination for foodies. While it’s best known for its Mexican eateries, Phoenix has 100s of restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world. Mexican cuisine is also Tucson’s specialty and tamales are considered a staple. Discerning foodies will also encounter various other favorites, including the cowboy steak. The Arizona wine country is only about an hour from Tucson. Dining in Sedona includes some beloved French and Italian restaurants, but the local specialty is traditional southwestern flavors.

Arizona Public Transportation

Getting around in larger Arizona cities is easy with public transportation. In Phoenix, the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority operates city buses that travel along main traffic arteries and a light-rail that connects Phoenix to Tempe and Mesa. Combined, the two transit systems cover 513 square miles and are relatively inexpensive with fares at $2 per ride, $4 for an all-day pass, $20 for 7-day passes, and $64 for month-long passes. Valley Metro also provides Express/Rapid commuter bus service that runs between Phoenix and Scottsdale for $3.25 per ride, $6.50 for an all-day pass, and $104 for monthly passes. 

Sun Tran is Tucson’s public bus system, which covers the city proper and the Sun Link trolley runs from the University of Arizona to Downtown. Full fares are $1.75 per ride, $4 for an unlimited day pass, $10 for 3-day passes, and $48 for 30-day passes. Verde Lynx Public Transportation runs out of Cottonwood and provides limited bus service in Sedona with 10 stops for $1 per ride within Sedona and $2 per ride between the two cities.

Best Time of Year to be a Nurse in Arizona

Arizona weather is H-O-T in the summer, but as the famous saying goes, it’s a dry heat. In many parts of the state, seasons are basically non-existent or a bit different than the norm. Leaves don’t change in the fall and flowers may not bloom during the traditional spring season. However, cacti blossom and wildflowers bloom when springtime hits, which can be as early as late January in some areas. Summertime can routinely reach triple digits in the southern parts of the state and monsoon rains can strike anytime. You must also watch for haboobs, which are intense dust/sandstorms that frequently blow through in the summertime and cause dangerously low visibility and respiratory problems.

The best time to be a nurse in Phoenix or Scottsdale is November through April when highs generally don’t get above the lower 80s. June, July, and August are the hottest months when almost all days will be significantly over 100 degrees and nighttime lows won’t be under 70. During the month of August, nighttime temps may not drop below 95 in Phoenix. Tucson is usually slightly cooler than Phoenix and the very best times to be here are April, May, September, and October. However, all but the summer months are generally pleasant with June the most likely to see 100-plus days. Being farther north, there really isn’t a bad time to be in Sedona and temps in the 100s are unlikely. However, the most ideal time to be in Sedona is March to May and September to November.

Nurses and allied health professionals looking for positions in Arizona can depend on Vivian to help them find the perfect job. Experienced recruiters are ready to assist you while you compare 100s of jobs and help match you with potential employers right away.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Senior Editor & All-Around Wordsmith. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other healthcare professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, local contract and per diem positions faster and easier than ever.

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