Travel Guides

6 Career Tips for Chicago Nurses

Chicago has more than 40 hospitals, making it an ideal place to grow your registered nursing (RN) career. Whether you’re looking for full-time RN jobs in Chicago or interested in travel assignments, there are several ways to gain new skills, make valuable connections and maximize your earnings. This guide offers actionable tips for taking your career to the next level in Chicago, Illinois.

1. Take Advantage of Chicago Networking Opportunities

One of the best ways to enhance your nursing career is to take advantage of networking opportunities. When you network with other nursing professionals, you have a chance to learn from their experiences. You can also share your own stories and make others aware of your expertise. Once you establish yourself as an experienced professional, you may receive job offers from some of your networking partners, making it easier to land rewarding RN jobs in Chicago.

The following are just a few networking groups for RNs, advanced practice RNs (APRNs) and other healthcare professionals working in Illinois.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Area Nurse Practitioner Networking Group

The Chicago Area Nurse Practitioner Networking Group allows Chicago-area nurse practitioners to ask questions, post job opportunities and start discussions related to nursing and other relevant topics. Nursing students can also use the group to find preceptors for their clinical hours or interview working APRNs about their careers.

Illinois Registered Nurses

Illinois Registered Nurses provides access to job listings from Illinois healthcare organizations and staffing agencies. Occasionally, nursing professionals invite members to participate in surveys designed to assess the state of the industry or determine how to increase nurse retention rates.

2. Join State and Local Professional Organizations

Membership in a professional nursing organization shows that you’re committed to advancing your career. Depending on which organization you join, you may have access to continuing education classes, workshops, conferences, peer-reviewed publications and other benefits. Some nursing organizations also have multiple committees, giving you an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills and take a more active role in the nursing profession. Consider joining one of the Illinois-based nursing associations listed below.

American Nurses Association (ANA) Illinois

ANA-Illinois members work to ensure Illinois residents have access to affordable, high-quality care. Member benefits include opportunities to earn CEUs, discounts on certifications obtained through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, research tools, members-only publications and access to life insurance and long-term care insurance benefits.

Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing (ISAPN)

ISAPN works to ensure patients, hospital administrators, lawmakers and other stakeholders understand the positive impact of APRNs in Illinois. The organization holds an annual conference, allowing members to network with each other and stay abreast of new trends in the nursing field. Members also have access to seminars, volunteer opportunities and job listings.

National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) Chicago Chapter

Chicago has an active chapter of the NBNA, the only national professional association specifically for African-American nurses. The organization helps shape health policy and improve healthcare in as many communities as possible. Members have access to the Journal of the NBNA, Minority Nurse magazine, members-only newsletters and position papers on topics of interest to nursing professionals.

3. Identify Top Nursing Specialties in Chicago

Some employers find it challenging to fill openings in high-demand specialties. Thus, you could potentially command a higher salary or negotiate a more attractive benefits package if you have experience in one of these specialties.

Based on the number of jobs posted on Vivian Health for the week ending December 17, 2022, Chicago employers had the greatest need for full-time med-surg nurses, followed by full-time OR nurses and full-time ED nurses. If you’re interested in travel nursing jobs in Chicago, med-surg, med-surg/telemetry and ICU were the specialties with the highest demand during that period.

4. Accept Per Diem or Travel Nursing Assignments

Permanent positions have many benefits, but a staff role isn’t necessary to grow your career in Chicago. If you want to learn new skills or improve your work-life balance, consider accepting per diem or travel nursing assignments.

Per Diem Assignments

When you work per diem, you have the option of working part-time instead of committing to a full-time schedule. Depending on the employer’s needs, they may schedule you to work 1 or 2 days each week, or you may have the opportunity to fill in for full-time nurses who call in sick or need time off to tend to personal obligations. You can also work per diem at more than one unit, allowing you to work in multiple specialties and learn which one is the best fit for your career goals.

Travel Nursing Assignments

Travel nurse career perks

Travel nursing is also highly flexible, making it a good fit for nurses seeking new challenges. When you accept travel assignments, you can move from one facility to another, building rewarding relationships and expanding your skill set.

Taking on travel RN jobs in Chicago also allows you to explore different work settings. For example, home health agencies, correctional facilities and outpatient clinics all use travel nurses to meet their staffing needs. Working in a non-hospital setting gives you a chance to work with unique patient populations and gain new skills.

One of the most significant advantages of travel nursing is the opportunity to increase your earnings. To compensate for the immediate need and short-term nature of each assignment, employers typically pay a premium to entice nurses to take temporary assignments that may be 100s or even 1,000s of miles from their homes.

According to Vivian’s salary data, staff nurse salaries in Chicago averaged $37.22 per hour on December 16, 2022. In comparison, travel nurse salaries in Chicago averaged $2,927 per week during this period. If you divide the weekly travel salary by 40 working hours, that’s just over $73 per hour, nearly double the average for staff positions.

5. Consider Top Employers in Chicago

Chicago has academic medical centers, community hospitals and everything in between, making it a great place to explore your career options. The typical RN salary in Chicago is an important consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you think about when deciding where to work. Choosing a top employer can help you access valuable networking opportunities. Depending on where you work, you may even get the chance to work with world-renowned healthcare professionals or observe cutting-edge procedures.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

As part of Northwestern Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers many opportunities for nurses to achieve their career goals. It’s also part of the Magnet Recognition Program, indicating that its nurses set a standard of nursing excellence, with 100% of its nurse leaders having a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing.

U.S. News & World Report ranks Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital among the 10 best hospitals in the country and No. 1 in Chicago and Illinois, making it an excellent place to refine your nursing skills. Northwestern Medical Center is also nationally ranked in the following specialties:

  • No. 7 Gastroenterology and GI surgery
  • No. 8 Cardiology and Heart Surgery
  • No. 8 Geriatrics
  • No. 9 Cancer
  • No. 10 Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • No. 10 Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • No. 12 Urology
  • No. 13 Pulmonology and Lung Surgery
  • No. 15 Orthopedics
  • No. 18 Obstetrics and Gynecology

Nurses at Northwestern Memorial Hospital have access to journal clubs, on-site certification review courses, training opportunities and full-day conferences to aid their professional development.

Rush University Medical Center

One unique nursing program at Rush University Medical Center is its Critical Care Outreach Team (CCOT), staffed by experienced ICU nurses certified in critical care nursing. Members of the CCOT respond to consultation requests from nurses and other healthcare professionals throughout the hospital, making it easier to identify patient deterioration as early as possible.

Rush University Medical Center is known for its neurology and neurosurgery program. U.S. News & World Reports ranks Rush among the top 20 best hospitals nationwide and No.2 in Chicago and Illinois. The hospital is also nationally ranked in the following specialties:

  • No. 4 Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • No. 5 Orthopedics
  • No. 13 Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • No. 14 Geriatrics
  • No. 14 Urology
  • No. 20 Pulmonology and Lung Surgery
  • No. 25 Cardiology and Heart Surgery
  • No. 31 Cancer
  • No. 34 Ear, Nose and Throat
  • No. 40 Gastroenterology and GI Surgery

Rush nurses have many opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills. The hospital offers full tuition prepayment for eligible nurses who pursue advanced degrees at Rush University. Nurses who choose to attend other colleges or universities may qualify for tuition assistance.

University of Chicago Medical Center

University of Chicago Medical Center is part of UChicago Medicine, an integrated system of hospitals, clinics and physician groups. According to U.S. News & World Report, it’s nationally ranked in these specialties:

  • No. 14 Cancer
  • No. 14 Gastroenterology and GI Surgery
  • No. 16 Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • No. 17 Diabetes and Endocrinology
  • No. 31 Urology
  • No. 38 Pulmonology and Lung Surgery
  • No. 44 Cardiology and Heart Surgery
  • No. 45 Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • No. 47 Geriatrics
  • No. 49 Ear, Nose and Throat

Nurses at the hospital follow a professional practice model that emphasizes collegial relationships, evidence-based practice, ongoing professional development and the need to advance the community’s health and well-being. University of Chicago Medical Center also follows a nursing shared governance model, which helps nurses make collective decisions about professional development, quality improvement, research and clinical practice standards.

6. Calculate Your Potential Earnings

Before you look for RN jobs in Chicago, use the Vivian Health salary tool to calculate your potential earnings. For the week ending December 17, 2022, home health and interventional radiology were among Chicago’s highest-paying specialties for full-time nurse jobs. Positions in home health hospice, admissions and case management paid between $38 and $49 per hour, while interventional radiology positions paid between $35 and $60 per hour.

If you’re interested in travel nursing assignments, positions in the PICU, CVICU and OR had the highest weekly salaries, per Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending December 17, 2022. During this period, you could earn $4,080 per week to $5,290 per week for the highest-paying assignments in these departments.

Rachel Norton BSN, RN

Rachel Norton became an RN in 2007 and has been part of the Vivian team since 2019. She has always worked in critical care, and spent the first 12 years of her career working in a surgical neuroscience trauma ICU. She's also worked as a flight nurse, started travel nursing in 2010 and continued working in the ICU until joining Vivian full-time in 2022. As a user researcher, Rachel advocates for healthcare workers to help bridge the gap between employee and employer expectations.

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