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Colorado: Healthcare Employment Location Guide

Colorado is an enticing destination for healthcare professionals, offering an incredible combination of stunning natural landscapes and a robust healthcare industry. With its majestic mountains, sparkling lakes and abundant trails, the state provides endless opportunities for outdoor adventures and a healthy work-life balance for nurses and allied health professionals seeking personal and professional fulfillment.

With Colorado’s growing population of 5.8 million, the demand for healthcare services is steadily increasing, providing abundant job opportunities at prestigious hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the state. Whether you prefer urban living or a more relaxed small-town atmosphere, Colorado’s diverse communities provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. From skiing and hiking to cultural events and culinary delights, Colorado offers an enriching lifestyle for your next travel nurse assignment or travel allied health job.

Top Hospitals in Colorado

According to the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA), Colorado hospitals and health systems employ or contract with more than 96,000 healthcare workers across various employment opportunities. CHA represents over 100 hospitals and health systems throughout the state and claims Colorado hospitals extend care to over 555,000 inpatients and serve approximately 9 million outpatients annually.

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital

UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital

Per U.S. News & World Report, the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) in Aurora ranked as the No. 1 hospital in Colorado in 2022-23. It also ranked nationally in five adult specialties and rated high performing in an additional five specialties and 17 procedures or conditions.UCH is part of the not-for-profit UCHealth system. This general medical-surgical facility is also a teaching hospital that boasts one of the premier academic research institutions in the country. In 2021, Forbes named UCHealth the No. 1 employer in Colorado, and UCH won first place in the Healthcare Innovator Awards program that same year. Since 2002, the University of Colorado Hospital has received international recognition in nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing Services.

UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies

UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies

U.S. News & World Report ranked the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland as the No. 2 hospital in Colorado and rated it high performing in two adult specialties and 15 procedures or conditions. It uses EPIC systems and is part of the UCHealth systems network. Within the hospital, you’ll find a regional heart center specializing in open heart surgery and a regional neuroscience center dedicated to providing care for individuals affected by head and back injuries, strokes, spinal cord and nervous system diseases. Holding the esteemed Magnet designation since 2010, the Medical Center of the Rockies has consistently demonstrated its commitment to excellence in patient care. In 2020, the hospital achieved Gold Plus status from the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines Program for its exceptional stroke program.

Saint Joseph Hospital

Photo Source: By Tshonsey – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Rooted in Catholic history for the past 150 years, Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver is part of the Intermountain Healthcare system and continues to operate according to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. It ranked as the No. 3 hospital in the state, per U.S. News & World Report, and rated high performing in two adult specialties and 16 procedures and conditions. St. Joseph Hospital has also won the following awards:

  • ANCC Magnet Recognition since 2017, redesignated in 2022
  • 5-star rating for patient excellence by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Multiple 3-star ratings (highest rating) from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons
  • “A” grade from Leapfrog Group for Hospital Safety in Spring 2022
  • Multiple Chest Pain – MI Registry awards from the American College of Cardiology in 2022
  • Winner of the Guardian of Excellence Award in 2021

UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central

UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central

Housing the only level 1 trauma center in Colorado Springs and part of UCHealth systems, Memorial Hospital Central rated as high performing in 11 procedures or conditions. Although the hospital doesn’t rank in any specific specialties, U.S. News & World Report still ranked it among the top 5 Colorado hospitals in 2022-23. It has also earned many honorable awards, such as:

  • The Outstanding Achievement Award in Oncology by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer Memorial
  • The National Distinction of Excellence from the American College of Cardiology
  • HeartCARE center designation from the American College of Cardiology
  • Transcatheter Valve Certification in 2022
  • Chest Pain Center accreditation by Primary PCI and Resuscitation
  • GoldPlus status in stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart failure care from the American Heart Association, Get with the Guidelines Program in 2020-2021

Average Nurse and Allied Health Pay Rates in Colorado

In late July 2023, Vivian Health had over 3,900 healthcare jobs in Colorado posted on its site. These job opportunities encompassed various roles such as staff and travel registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, allied health professionals, therapy professionals and school-based healthcare professionals. The table below shows the average and max pay rates for nursing and allied health opportunities in Colorado during this period.

Discipline Average Pay Rate Max Pay Rate
Staff Registered Nurse $46.67/hour $74/hour
Travel Registered Nurse  $2,193/week $4,299/week
Staff Licensed Practical Nurse $25.57/hour $36/hour
Travel Licensed Practical Nurse $1,557/week $2,332/week
Staff Allied Health Professional  $31.33/hour $100/hour
Travel Allied Health Professional  $2,413/week $3,600/week

Registered nurses earned 7% higher wages in Colorado than in other states in late July 2023. If you wanted to make more money as a staff registered nurse, operating room nurses in Colorado averaged $74 hourly during this period. Travel nurse managers earned an average of $4,299 per week on the high end of the scale. On average, travel allied health professionals in Glenwood Springs, CO, made up to $3,600/week, and staff surgical technologists made up to $41 per hour. 

Cost of Living in Colorado

In Colorado, nurses enjoy an average salary that surpasses the national average by 7%, per Vivian Health’s salary data in early July 2023. With Colorado’s overall cost of living being 20.5% higher than the national average, the higher nurse salaries provide a significant advantage.

Although grocery costs are about average and utilities are slightly cheaper statewide, housing costs are higher than the national average by 67.5%. However, housing prices vary greatly depending on your location. Living in an affluent area like Aspen costs substantially more than living in a more affordable area like La Junta.

According to the Tax Foundation, Colorado implements a flat 4.4% individual income tax rate. This means that regardless of your income level, every individual in the state pays the same percentage in income taxes.

Top Locations to Live in Colorado

Living in Denver Colorado

According to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence, there’s a pressing need for 33,000 new nurses each year in Colorado to meet the demand arising from a nursing shortage, an aging population and an 11.2% increase in the overall population since 2020. Colorado is part of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), which allows nurses to practice in multiple states with one license. With the CHA reporting over 100 hospitals in Colorado, there are many opportunities to find your perfect nursing or allied health job in one of these or many other exciting cities.

  • Denver: Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Mile High City offers stunning views and top medical facilities, making it a desirable place to relocate temporarily as a travel healthcare worker. With its dynamic creative spirit, thriving music scene and abundant outdoor opportunities, Denver offers something for everyone to enjoy. Discover renowned museums like the Denver Art Museum, or immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy the city’s proximity to the Rocky Mountain National Park and countless hiking and skiing destinations. Denver is also home to 40 hospitals and primary care medical facilities, including one of the leading hospitals in the nation, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.
  • Colorado Springs: Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is a mid-size city in east-central Colorado and home to the award-winning UCHealth Memorial Hospital. Nature enthusiasts can fully embrace the natural wonders of Colorado Springs with attractions like the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. Discover the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Shrine of Remembrance Memorial. For shopping enthusiasts, The Citadel Mall is a must to indulge in retail therapy.
  • Boulder: Healthcare professionals looking to relocate, permanently or temporarily, find abundant opportunities in Boulder, with more than 25 hospitals in or around the area. It’s easy to strike a work-life balance here with over 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, historic city landmarks and a pumping nightlife infused with the many college students attending the state’s largest university. Downtown Boulder also boasts the pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall, spanning multiple blocks and featuring over 1,000 businesses, including numerous eateries, breweries, boutiques and art galleries.  The prestigious Boulder Community Health system anchors Boulder’s healthcare landscape and is known for its commitment to cutting-edge medical advancements and exceptional patient care. The city is also home to the University of Colorado Boulder, a renowned research institution that provides opportunities for collaboration and professional growth.
  • Aurora: A short 10-mile drive to all the amenities of Denver makes the suburb of Aurora a popular destination for staff and travel nurses seeking a more affordable cost of living than living in downtown Denver. The more relaxed, suburban atmosphere comes with spacious, family-friendly neighborhoods and ample greenspaces. Plus, the city boasts its own thriving arts and culture scene, with venues like the Aurora History Museum and Aurora Fox Arts Center and plenty for outdoor enthusiasts to do at auspicious places like the Cherry Creek State Park and Aurora Reservoir. Aurora also has an impressive healthcare landscape, anchored by the renowned Anschutz Medical Campus. This sprawling medical complex houses the University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Working in these prestigious institutions provides healthcare professionals with unparalleled opportunities for professional advancement.

Popular Colorado Attractions

Colorado Rocky Mountains

Colorado boasts many popular attractions that captivate those looking to relocate. From the majestic Rocky Mountains and stunning national parks to vibrant cities like Denver and Boulder, the state offers a perfect blend of natural wonders, outdoor adventures, cultural landmarks and iconic destinations that leave a lasting impression.

  • Avalanche Ranch Cabins & Hot Springs: The perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, Avalanche Ranch caters to those looking for some serious relaxation. After being on your feet for long hours at the hospital and caring for everyone else, rest and relax on this 36-acre property in the heart of the Rocky Mountains with three hot spring pools on-site.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain National Park is a breathtaking natural wonderland. Spanning 415 square miles, it showcases majestic peaks, picturesque alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls and abundant wildlife. Visitors can explore scenic trails, spot elk and bighorn sheep, and become immersed in the unparalleled beauty of this iconic national park.
  • Pikes Peak: Located 12 miles west of Colorado Springs and right below Manitou Springs, Pikes Peak is the highest mountain summit in the southern front range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. Drive the 19-mile scenic toll road to the top of this legendary summit and take in the view and the mountain’s history at the interpretive center.
  • Historic Antique Row: Located on South Broadway in historic downtown Denver, most businesses on Antique Row have had their doors open for over 30 years. Strolling along the Antique Row is the perfect place to go if you want to step back in history while searching for vintage treasures. Walking down the street, you can find an eclectic mix of storefronts, each with a unique collection of vintage furniture, clothing, jewelry and collectibles. In the usual Denver style, you also find an array of dining establishments and even a tea room.

Colorado’s Foodie Scene

Colorado’s food scene is a gastronomic delight that caters to diverse palates. With a focus on farm-to-table cuisine, the state showcases abundant fresh, locally sourced ingredients. From the bustling food halls of Denver to the quaint eateries in Boulder, Colorado offers a wide range of culinary experiences. Sample award-winning craft beers from the vibrant microbrewery scene or indulge in innovative fusion dishes that blend international flavors with local flair. With an emphasis on sustainability and creativity, Colorado’s chefs continually push boundaries, delivering unforgettable dining experiences. Colorado’s food scene will tantalize your taste buds, whether you desire upscale fine dining or crave-worthy street food.

Getting Around Colorado

Union Station - Denver, CO

Traveling to and within Colorado is incredibly convenient, thanks to its robust airports, highways, buses and train network. Whether you prefer air travel, hitting the road on a scenic drive, utilizing public transportation or exploring by rail, the state offers excellent connectivity options that make your journey a breeze. Regional Transportation District (RTD) is the public transit system within Denver that allows access to most of the city by bus and train. Bustang Lines connects much of Colorado with varying routes by bus. Colorado also offers modern and convenient train options with many routes, specifically 10 scenic routes to connect the state. 

The population of Colorado is steadily increasing, which increases the demand for healthcare professionals. If you’re looking for a staff or travel job as a nurse or allied health professional, Vivian Health can help you obtain that goal faster and easier. 

Explore current job openings in Colorado with Vivian and find the perfect work-life balance in this adventure-filled state that offers an incredible combination of stunning natural landscapes and a thriving healthcare industry.

Amanda Farquharson, BSN, RN

Amanda Farquharson, BSN, RN is a registered nurse, travel nurse, writer and wellness warrior. She practices from a holistic lens with a focus on health promotion and prevention. Amanda has been actively engaged with the wellness community for over 15 years, supporting and developing activities that strengthen individuals' and communities' emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health.

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