Travel Guides

Wisconsin: Healthcare Employment Location Guide

Cheeseheads love Wisconsin and so do nurses who enjoy cheese, football, affordable cities, beautiful vistas, and cold weather. Known as “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin is a cheese-filled utopia, producing three million pounds of cheese in 600 varieties annually and making it the #1 cheese-producing state in the nation. The Dairy State is also known for its friendly Midwestern hospitality, foodie culture full of delicious ethnic cuisine, and outdoor recreation at 47 state parks, 15,000 lakes, 76 state wildlife areas, 13 state forests, and 84,000 miles of river. Nurses in Wisconsin further benefit from short commute times and low housing costs that were nearly 15% below the national average in 2019, per

Top Locations to Live in Wisconsin

Wisconsin communities have individual characteristics and charm, making every city and town unique. Choose from a myriad of vibrant cities filled with stunning natural wonders, world-renowned festivals, and safe neighborhoods full of diversity that make this state a wonderful place to call home.

Madison: The youthful energy of Madison attracts young professionals to Wisconsin’s capital and home to the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin. Madison is situated between Mendota and Monona lakes on an isthmus, providing tons of canoeing, kayaking, boating, and lakeside hiking trails for outdoorsy nurses in Madison. It’s a friendly, easily navigated city full of things to do and see, including Broadway plays, touring national acts, and big-name musicians who frequently stop at the Overture Center for the Arts, the Majestic Theatre built in 1906, and the Barrymore Theatre built in 1929.

Madison’s low cost of living helped place it #3 in Livability’s 2019 Top 100 Best Places to Live. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the city’s largest employer, but it also boasts numerous tech companies and a thriving medical industry with four hospitals, including the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Madison. The City has 120 neighborhood associations with a wide range of real estate options for permanent and visiting nurses alike. Top neighborhoods include:

  • Downtown is sophisticated and appeals to nurses who crave urban life. Real estate is dominated by condominiums, from historic to modern, and all with spectacular views.
  • Willy Street, officially known as the Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood, hugs the shorelines of lakes Mendota and Monona. It offers classic Arts & Crafts Bungalows, Italianate, Greek Revival, and Picturesque homes, combined with modern condos and apartments.
  • Monroe Street is a family-friendly neighborhood filled with quaint shops and restaurants, plus the admission-free Henry Vilas Park Zoo and UW-Madison Arboretum. Real estate is highly coveted by homebuyers in this historic neighborhood.

Milwaukee: Situated beside the banks of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee is a bustling, fun-filled lakefront city in the warmer months when the “City of Festivals” really livens up. Its most renowned festival is the annual Summerfest, touted as the world’s largest music festival, and Pug Fest features adorable smushed-faced dogs in costumes strutting their stuff in a talent competition. The City’s immense pride in their ancestry shows in a wide array of unique cuisine like Mader’s German wiener schnitzel, a tradition for over 110 years.

Milwaukee nurses benefit from a relatively low cost of living and lower housing costs. They may find employment at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, the #1 hospital in Milwaukee and #2 in Wisconsin, or Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, the #2 hospital in Milwaukee and #3 in Wisconsin. Vogue magazine named Milwaukee the coolest, most underrated city in the Midwest due to its old-world charm, geographical beauty, and diverse, highly walkable neighborhoods. Top neighborhoods include:

  • East Side is a trendy neighborhood teeming with young professionals, students, families, and retirees alike. As one of Milwaukee’s larger neighborhoods, it has ample housing options from elegant Victorian-style and Craftsman-style homes to high-rise condos and apartments converted from 1920s hotels.
  • Bay View is a hip, eclectic neighborhood on the coast of Lake Michigan that’s popular with young professionals and families. Housing opportunities appeal to homebuyers and renters and include Arts and Crafts Bungalows, Colonial-style homes, classic brick cottages, and modern townhomes and apartments.
  • Historic Third Ward is a historic neighborhood, revitalized warehouse district, and creative hub filled with indie boutiques and upscale restaurants. This desirable Downtown neighborhood draws all types with pricier housing options that include renovated warehouse lofts, historic spaces, and new, trendy apartments and condominiums.

Fond du Lac: Situated on the southern shores of Lake Winnebago, Fond du Lac offers tons of things to see and do year-round, including a historic working lighthouse. It boasts 19 city parks, including the 145-acre Lakeside Park and 248-acre Lakeside Park West with a special park for fido. Fond du Lac also has several multi-use trails, and the Greenway Arboretum, consisting of 14 acres of natural habitat. Fond du Lac nurses who like winter sports enjoy the 293 miles of state-funded snowmobile trails for local and long-distance snowmobiling. 

Money magazine listed Fond du Lac on its top 100 places to live in 2017 for its high quality of life, affordable homes, and healthy economy. Nurses enjoy working at St. Agnes Hospital and a cost of living that was 4% below the national average in 2019 with housing costs more than 16% less. Single-family homes are the most common type of housing available, but Fond du Lac also has some large apartment complexes, duplexes, and row houses.

Cost of Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin ranked 11th best state in the nation and 16th for affordability with the cost of living nearly 5% lower than the national average in 2019, according to US News. It also ranked 8th for healthcare access and 15th for healthcare quality. Nurses can increase livability without sacrificing affordability in Wisconsin with 2020 cost of living data indicated slightly lower costs for groceries and miscellaneous goods and services, but housing was more than 11% lower than the national average. Rent costs in Wisconsin were $200 to $500 less than comparable housing in other cities with costs significantly dropping in the northern and central parts of the state.

Top Hospitals in Wisconsin

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Madison: Ranked by US News as #2 in Madison and #9 in Wisconsin, St. Mary’s in Madison rated high performing in five adult procedures and conditions, including three in cardiology and heart surgery and two in orthopedics. It’s a general medical and surgical teaching hospital with a cardiac ICU, med-surg ICU, and 24-hour on-site emergency department. Its cutting-edge facility is a Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing services, has award-winning family birth suites, and received the Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Award from the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines campaign. SSM Health also operates St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville, which was listed among the top 100 hospitals by Watson Health in 2020.

University of Wisconsin Hospitals: Ranked #1 in Madison and Wisconsin by US News, University of Wisconsin Hospitals in Madison is nationally ranked in six adult specialties and two pediatric specialties and rated high performing in five adult specialties and 10 procedures/conditions. Founded in 1924, it’s a general medical and surgical teaching hospital and includes an adult and pediatric trauma center, transplant program, cancer center, burn center, and over 80 specialty clinics. Its UW Carbone Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Wisconsin and specializes in treating more than 25 types of cancer.

St. Agnes Hospital: Located in Fond du Lac, St. Agnes Hospital treated its first patient in 1896 and has grown into a 146-bed hospital for inpatient and outpatient healthcare services throughout the region. It’s a general medical and surgical teaching hospital with a 24-hour on-site emergency department and a leader in providing quality healthcare services, including comprehensive heart care through the Dale Michels Center for Heart Care. St. Agnes received the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines Heart Failure Gold Plus and Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Awards.

Average Nurse Pay Rates in Wisconsin

Vivian Health posted more than 3,000 jobs for various Wisconsin travel nursing and allied health positions in in January 2023. Top recruited nursing specialties included med-surg, ICU, telemetry, ED, intermediate care, OR, PCU, surgical ICU stepdown, and dialysis. In-demand allied health professionals included respiratory therapists, speech-language pathologists, med lab techs, physical therapists, and CT techs.

Travel nurses were earning a gross weekly salary between $1,051 and $5,113 depending on the position, location, and number of working hours required. Nurses in permanent positions were earning between $24 and $38 per hour. Travel allied health professionals were earning between $1,050 and $3,428 and permanent allied health perm positions were paying between $21 and $32 per hour.

Popular Wisconsin Attractions

Henry Vilas Zoo: Located in Madison, Henry Vilas Zoo is one of the few admission-free zoos remaining in the United States. The Zoo is surrounded by Vilas Park and features amazing exhibits like the Tropical Rainforest Aviary, Herpetarium, Primate Building, Arctic Passage, Savanna and High Plains, Big Cats Exhibit, and others. It also has fun attractions like the Zoo Train and Conservation Carousel, which are open daily during the summer. 

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail: Open for hiking, backpacking, and wintertime snowshoeing, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail crosses through 31 Wisconsin counties and extends for 1,200 miles across the state. It has trailheads at Interstate State Park and Potawatomi State Park with trails passing through Lookout Mountain, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and a variety of other landscape features left behind by glacial activity. Day hikes and long-distance hikes are permitted with designated camping sites on the trail.

Circus World: Located in Baraboo, Circus World is on the site of the original winter quarters of the famous Ringling Bros. Circus. It includes seven winter quarters structures listed as National Historic Landmark Sites and chronicling all the aspects of the circus through colorful displays. Exhibits, which include over 260 authentic circus wagons, are open to the public from May 23 to October 31 with live circus performances from May 23 to August 30. Tickets for visitors aged 12 and over are $15.95, children aged five to 11 are $9.95, and children under five are free.

Milwaukee Art Museum: Housing more than 31,000 pieces, the Milwaukee Art is one of the most well-known attractions in Wisconsin. Its Collection dates back to 1888 with pieces from antiquity to present time, including sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, decorative arts, video arts, and textiles. The 341,000-square-foot Museum includes the War Memorial Center created in 1957 and four floors with more than 40 galleries of art rotated regularly. General admission is $19 for visitors aged 13 to 64, $17 for seniors aged 65 and older, and free for children aged 12 or younger. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and free for all ages on the first Thursday each month.

Wisconsin Public Transportation

  • Madison Metro offers several routes throughout the City of Madison. Fares are $2 for adults, $1.25 for youth, $1 for seniors or disabled riders with children under age five free with chaperone. Riders also can purchase one-day passes for $5, 10-ride cards for $17.25, and 31-day passes for $65.
  • Milwaukee County Transit System offers an affordable, convenient way to get around Milwaukee. Fares may be paid for with cash for $2.25 or M•CARD or the Ride MCTS app for $2. Riders can also purchase a one-day pass for $4, seven-day pass for $19.50, or 31-day pass for $72.
  • Fond du Lac Area Transit provides safe, reliable transportation throughout Fond du Lac and the surrounding area on fixed routes run on weekdays only. Adult fares are $1.50 cash per ride, 10 tokens for $13, or monthly passes for $38. Youth fares are $1,25 per ride, 10 tokens for $11, or monthly passes for $32.

Best Time of Year to be a Nurse in Wisconsin

Wisconsin winters are frigid, so wool socks, insulated gloves, snow boots, and a down parka are absolute must-have apparel, especially in January when the average nighttime temperature is 7.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The State has 160.5 days yearly with nighttime temperatures below freezing and 24.1 days yearly with nighttime temperatures below zero, making it one of the coldest states in the nation. Wisconsin is also one of the snowier states with an average annual snowfall of 47.6 inches and seven months of the year having significant snowfall, but January is the snowiest. Wisconsin’s most pleasant months are June, July, and August with July being the warmest at an average high temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

No matter if you’re looking for permanent or travel nursing or allied health positions in Wisconsin, Vivian Health has you covered with 100s of jobs posted around the State. Our travel nurse recruiters can help get you matched to the perfect job, so you can start talking to potential employers without delay.

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract positions.

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