Known as the Prairie State or the Land of Lincoln, Illinois has four distinct seasons and a landscape marked by farmland, rolling hills, wetlands, forests and waterways, including Lake Michigan in the north and Shawnee National Forest in the south. With everything from big bustling cities to charming small towns, this Midwestern state boasts a broad economic base and a wide array of attractions and fun things to do and see, including 309 state parks and recreational sites, numerous museums and cultural institutions, botanic gardens, theme parks, snow and water skiing, hiking and biking, shopping venues and a piece of the historic Route 66. Illinois is also a foodie’s paradise with cuisine from around the world and the self-proclaimed best hot dogs and deep-dish pizza in the nation. These are just a few things that registered nurses in Illinois love about this great state.
Top Hospitals in Illinois
Illinois is home to several large healthcare systems, providing numerous employers with tons of career opportunities. From urban areas to smaller communities, you’ll find various nursing, advanced practice and allied health job openings statewide. Our list of 10 Great Healthcare Employers in Chicago is a good reference for the Windy City, but you can research medical facilities anywhere in Illinois via our list of employer reviews. These are just a few top facilities you’ll find throughout the state.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital: Located in the heart of Downtown Chicago, Northwestern Memorial was ranked No. 1 in Chicago and Illinois and No. 9 in the nation in 2022-2023. It was also nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties. Northwestern Memorial is the teaching hospital for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and the flagship facility for Northwestern Medicine. It’s been Magnet-recognized since 2006.
- SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital: Located in Mount Vernon, Good Samaritan is a 134-bed general medical and surgical teaching facility with a med-surg ICU and 24-hour on-site emergency department. It was rated high performing in treating COPD and kidney failure in 2002-2023 and previously recognized with a Citation of Merit Award for Outstanding Patient Care by Premier Inc. Good Samaritan received a Guardian of Excellence Award for Physician Engagement, and Healthgrades honored it with Outstanding Patient Experience Awards in 2018 and 2020 and a Critical Care Excellence Award in 2021.
- NorthShore University Health System (Metro Chicago): Located in Evanston, NorthShore University Health System (Metro Chicago) is part of the greater NorthShore network, which also includes NorthShore Evanston Hospital, Glenbrook Hospital, Skokie Hospital and Highland Park Hospital. The NorthShore Metro Chicago hospital is regionally ranked No. 4 in Chicago and Illinois and nationally ranked in orthopedics and diabetes & endocrinology in 2022-2023. It also received high-performing ratings in five adult specialties and 16 procedures or conditions. NorthShore has been Magnet-recognized since 2010.
- SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Centralia: Located in Centralia, St. Mary’s is a 125-bed general medical and surgical teaching facility that’s been serving the community for over 100 years. It includes a med-surg ICU and 24-hour emergency department and specializes in a wide array of care, such as maternity, cancer, behavioral health and weight management, among others. St. Mary’s rated high performing in treatment for COPD in 2022-2023, and Healthgrades honored it with Outstanding Patient Experience Awards in 2018 and 2019 and a Pulmonary Care Excellence Award in 2021.
Average Nurse and Allied Health Pay Rates in Illinois
Vivian had 1,000s of staff and travel jobs for registered nurses (RNs) and allied health professionals at hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout Illinois in late December 2022. The following table shows the average and max pay rates for nurses and allied health workers during this period.
|Discipline||Average Pay Rate||Max Pay Rate|
|Staff Registered Nurse||$46/hour||$67/hour|
|Travel Registered Nurse||$2,786/week||$6,392/week|
|Staff Allied Health Professional||$36/hour||$41/hour|
|Travel Allied Health Professional||$2,573/week||$4,564/week|
Top recruited nursing specialties included med-surg, home health, ICU, OR, ED, clinical, telemetry, intermediate care, stepdown, PICU, NICU and nurse case management. In-demand allied health professionals included pharmacy technicians, medical assistants, phlebotomists, radiology technologists, behavioral health techs, sterile processing technicians, respiratory therapists, medical lab techs, surgical techs, cath lab techs and ultrasound techs.
Cost of Living in Illinois
The overall cost of living in Illinois is considered moderately inexpensive. Its cost of living index was 91.9 in 2022, lower than the national average by about 8%, ranking it the 16th most affordable state nationwide. Illinois residents enjoy lower groceries, utilities and healthcare costs, but the biggest savings is its significantly lower housing costs. Housing was nearly 20% less than the national average in 2022.
Top Locations to Live in Illinois
Most of Illinois’ population lives in the north, primarily in Chicago and its suburbs, known as the Chicago metro or Chicagoland. Despite this vast urban area, about 75% of the state is farmland. Central Illinois includes numerous small cities and towns with a large agricultural presence. Illinois is the leading producer of corn, soybeans and swine (aka oinkers). Southern Illinois features warmer winter weather than the rest of the state, appealing to those who prefer milder climates. Housing in Illinois typically reflects a 66% owner-occupied to 34% renter-occupied ratio.
Home to over 2.7 million residents, Chicago is the largest city in Illinois and the third largest city nationwide. Registered nurses and allied health workers seeking an action-packed, cosmopolitan atmosphere will find it all here. The Windy City has something for everyone, including shopping along the Magnificent Mile, a thriving arts scene, Lollapalooza, iconic skyscrapers and architecture, world-class museums and 15 miles of Lake Michigan beaches. It also boasts a diverse and active nightlife and ranked No. 3 on the Best Foodie Cities list, with more than 7,300 restaurants, and No. 7 on the Best Nightlife Cities list in 2022.
Chicago has spectacular parks ideal for getting outdoors, including Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park and Cloud Gate. Sports lovers can cheer for eight major league teams in Chicago, including the Bears, Bulls, White Sox, Cubs, Sky and Blackhawks. Chicago’s distinct neighborhoods define the city, each boasting unique personalities and cultures. Healthcare workers have no trouble finding popular housing options throughout the city.
Dubbed the Festival Arts City, Mount Vernon is a mid-sized municipality in the southern part of the state. Many residents of Mount Vernon work in office/administrative support roles, but healthcare services and social services have the second-highest employment. Leading local attractions include the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts and the Hall of Honor and Military Museum. Outdoorsy Mount Vernon nurses and allied health professionals enjoy the Rend Lake Recreation Area and Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area. Mount Vernon boasts seven distinct neighborhoods with housing costs a whopping 80% lower than the national average.
Located in south-central Illinois, Centralia is a charming, relatively small city that’s hospitable and family friendly. Residents take pride in their community, celebrating at several annual festivals and events, including Centralia’s Balloon Fest. It touts numerous memorials honoring U.S. servicemen and fallen coal miners and murals depicting the town’s rich heritage. Notable attractions include the 160-foot-tall Centralia Carillon in Bell Tower Park and the Centralia Historical Society Museum in the historic Kohl & Meyer Building downtown.
Centralia nurses and allied health workers enjoy shorter commutes and housing costs nearly 77% lower than the national average. They can choose from four distinct neighborhoods where a lower crime rate and excellent schools especially appeal to healthcare professionals raising a family.
Popular Illinois Attractions
Illinois is famous for the Chicago River, the only river in the world that flows backward, and the Sears/Willis Tower, the tallest building in North America. It’s home to the world’s first McDonald’s restaurant and the starting place for the Dairy Queen franchise. Illinois was also the birthplace of President Ronald Reagan and home to Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Barack Obama, with plenty of historical sites tied to each of these great leaders. Other notable Illinois attractions include:
Navy Pier: This iconic landmark in Chicago located on the shores of Lake Michigan has been in operation since 1916. Highlights include the Chicago Children’s Museum, Crystal Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the nearly 200-foot-tall Centennial Ferris Wheel. The area also boasts numerous restaurants, shopping venues, boat rides, live shows, miniature golf, outdoor amusement rides, semi-weekly fireworks shows and an IMAX theater. There’s no admission fee to enter Navy Pier, but individual attractions may charge admission or require tickets to ride. Hours of operation for some attractions are seasonal.
Anderson Japanese Gardens: Located in Rockford, Anderson Japanese Gardens offers 10 acres of cascading waterfalls, winding lanes, rock formations, streams, koi ponds, pagodas, traditional lanterns and an authentic Sukiya-style guest house. Guests can learn the basics of calligraphy, participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and discover Japanese culture through many cultural programs. It’s a wonderful retreat full of tranquility, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mermet Springs: The full-service dive site at Mermet Springs in Belknap offers scuba training and fun attractions like a sunken 727 Boeing airplane, an underwater petting zoo and numerous underwater treasures to explore. It’s one of the most popular dive facilities in the Midwest with 15 to 120 feet dives and submerged training platforms. Mermet Springs has extended hours in the spring and summer. Visitors can rent scuba gear or bring their own and rent campsites for an additional fee.
Grant Park: This 313-acre park in Chicago is home to some of the most popular attractions in Chicagoland, including its centerpiece, Buckingham Fountain. One of the world’s largest fountains, it features a stunning water display every 20 minutes. Other attractions include The Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and Shedd Aquarium, a five-million-gallon aquarium home to 32,000 animals. Grant Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. without an entry charge, but each attraction charges a fee.
Illinois Foodie Scene
Illinois’ diverse population translates to a foodie paradise beyond its amazing hot dogs and famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. The state’s iconic cuisine is unique from other fare served around the nation, like the Horseshoe Sandwich. This renowned dish, found only in Illinois, dates back to 1920 when it included ham topped with French fries and doused with sharp white cheddar cheese sauce. Nowadays, most restaurants in Springfield serve their own version, many with a hamburger patty in place of the ham.
Another food special to Illinois is corn dogs dipped in slightly sweet batter served at The Cozy Dog, where the owner claims to have served the first official corn dog on a stick at the Illinois State Fair in 1946. If you’re looking for a tasty snack, Chicago-style popcorn combines the ultimate sweet and salty treat with a cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn combination you can’t beat. After all, popcorn is the official snack food of Illinois.
For dessert, grab an Original Rainbow Cone, the ice cream scoop to beat all scoops, only it’s sliced. Each delectable dessert comes with single slices of chocolate ice cream, vanilla ice cream with cherries and walnuts, strawberry ice cream, orange sherbert and pistachio ice cream heaped onto a cone or into a cup if you prefer.
Getting Around the Prairie State
The Chicago Transit Authority has an extensive public transportation system that offers an easy way to get around the state’s largest city. It includes the elevated train (aka L train), comprehensive bus system and Metra Rail, a regional commuter train system with several stops throughout Downtown Chicago and neighboring suburbs.
Illinois’ central location has made it a hub for air travel, with over 100 public and private airports and around 750 aviation facilities throughout the state. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport consistently ranks among the top 10 nationwide for its annual air cargo. O’Hare was the world’s busiest airport from 1963 to 1998 by passenger counts, but today is the world’s fourth-busiest airport.
If you’re looking for a new job in the Windy City or anywhere in the Prairie State, Vivian Health can help. Experienced recruiters are ready to help applicants compare 1,000s of healthcare jobs with top employers in exciting Illinois cities. To help you with your search, check out our questions to ask recruiters tips before beginning your job hunt. Whether you’re seeking a staff or travel position in nursing or allied health, we can match you with jobs meeting y at some of the most prestigious facilities throughout the state.