5 Best Nursing Schools in Washington – 2024 Rankings

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

By the year 2025, Washington may be looking at a nursing shortage of more 7,000. Nurse burnout and high turnover are some of the culprits behind the high number of vacant nurse job postings in health care facilities across the state, and several pieces of legislation are currently before the state legislature that address the issue of unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios. Rural areas are where the shortages are most likely to be felt. Indeed, in cities like Seattle and Olympia, there is likely to be a modest nursing surplus. Washington State currently has 164 designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. New graduates of accredited nursing schools in Washington may be wise to get experience working with medically underserved populations even if their long-term career goals lie elsewhere.



(After closely assessing all nursing schools approved by the Washington State Board of Nursing, based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the best accredited nursing schools in Washington offering BSN programs.)

1. Gonzaga University, Spokane

About Department of Nursing @ Gonzaga University: Gonzaga University is another Jesuit institution of higher learning that offers high-quality nursing programs in Washington. This nursing school uses the Complex Adaptive Systems framework as its basic teaching paradigm; this holistic model posits that an understanding of individual parts does not necessarily add up to an understanding of the complex whole. In keeping with its Jesuit principles, this nursing school focuses upon servant leadership, social justice and community practice as well as upon the acquisition of top-notch clinical skills. You don’t have to be Roman Catholic to attend this school, however.

Nursing students learn clinical skills by participating in simulated patient scenarios at the Simulation Innovation Resource Center on campus, and they also find out about the social conditions that affects the lives of many of the patients they will be caring for through unique learning opportunities like Poverty Simulation. Clinical rotations take place in medical/surgical units, emergency rooms, intensive care units and other clinical environments at hospitals throughout the greater Spokane region.

Financial Aid: Though Gonzaga doesn’t earmark scholarship funds specifically for nursing majors, nursing students may apply for any institutional award whose criteria they match. By filling out and submitting a FAFSA form, students may also qualify for other types of state and federal funding.

2. Seattle University, Seattle

About Seattle University College of Nursing: As a nursing student at Seattle University’s College of Nursing, you’ll learn how to combine compassion with critical thinking. While it welcomes students from every religious background, Seattle University is a Jesuit institution of higher learning, and its educational offerings focus upon service as well as upon the pursuit of intellectual excellence.

The College of Nursing occupies Garrand Hall, which is the building that first housed Seattle University when the school was founded back in 1891. The 19,000-square-foot Clinical Performance Lab is located in Swedish Cherry Hill Medical Center, a few blocks away from the main campus. Here, nursing students get their chance to translate classroom lectures into clinical experiences as they practice starting IVs and respond to health-emergency scenarios using high-fidelity manikins in a simulated hospital environment. Students continue their experiential learning through clinical rotations at clinical facilities and community agencies like Evergreen Health, Seattle Children’s Hospital, UW Medical Center, Neighborcare Health and International Community Health Services. Nursing majors also have the opportunity to participate in global health missions in places like Belize and Nicaragua.

Financial Aid: Seattle University administers 26 endowed scholarships expressly for the needs of undergraduate and graduate nursing students. The university makes other grants and scholarships available, too, and nursing students are encouraged to apply for these if they meet the qualifying criteria. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may help you attain eligibility for state and federal financial aid.

3. Seattle Pacific University, Seattle

About School of Health Sciences @ Seattle Pacific University: Seattle Pacific University was founded in 1891 to train missionaries for overseas work, and the university is part of the Christian College Consortium. If you’re interested in making a genuine difference in the lives of the people you’ll encounter as a nurse, SPU’s School of Health Sciences is a one of the nursing colleges in Washington you should be investigating further because it’s a school where you’ll learn how to combine clinical skills with caring and empathy. You don’t have to be Christian to attend this school, but education here is taught from a Christian perspective.

Nursing skills labs will be an important adjunct to your classwork so that you can apply the nursing theory you learn in classes. A newly opened simulation center in the 6 Nickerson building contains a virtual hospital unit complete with eight beds and realistic equipment where nursing students can acquire clinical know-how by practicing on computerized manikins. You’ll further your training by participating in clinical rotations at a range of venues throughout the metropolitan Seattle region such as EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the Seattle/King County Health Department and the Seattle public school system.

Financial Aid: SPU offers a number of scholarships for entering and transfer students, and nursing students will be automatically considered for these upon acceptance into the university. Filing a FAFSA form may help qualify you for other types of federal and state grants and loans.

4. Washington State University, Spokane

About WSU College of Nursing: WSU is dedicated to educating visionary nurse-leaders who will play a central role in improving health care delivery in the 21st century. In 2017, the College of Nursing received nearly $7 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and other prestigious science foundations. The college’s research focuses on topics that have a particular impact on families living in the Pacific Northwest such as opioid addiction, obesity and rural mental health.

Since 2009, the college has occupied a building on WSU Spokane Health Sciences campus, which is located in downtown Spokane. The College of Nursing shares this campus with the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, so nursing students have plenty of opportunity to learn how to work collaboratively. The college has integrated simulation into undergraduate and graduate nursing coursework so that students will have the chance to learn fundamental skills, clinical skills, critical thinking and clinical judgment before they begin providing actual patient care. Once they’ve developed their skills, nursing students perform clinical rotations at hospitals, clinics, community agencies and skilled nursing facilities throughout Spokane, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Walla Walla.

Financial Aid: In 2017, the College of Nursing awarded 50 scholarships amounting to more than $400,000 in scholarship funds to undergraduate and graduate students. In order to qualify, you’ll need to fill out the college’s scholarship application. You may also be eligible for federal and state financial aid if the information you submit on your FAFSA form indicates sufficient need.

5. Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma

About PLU School of Nursing: If you know you want to be a nurse, but you’re not sure what nursing specialty you’re interested in pursuing, Pacific Lutheran University is a nursing school in WA with a lot to offer you. Students at PLU learn how to function effectively as nursing generalists who are able to rise to whatever professional challenges come their way. Though it admits students of all faiths, the university is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the school’s avowed mission is to prepare students for lives of service and inquiry.

The School of Nursing receives research grants from the Robert Wood Johnson and the Northwest Health Foundation’s Partners Investing in Nursing. Nursing classrooms and learning labs are located on the second and third floors of Ramstad Hall. Learning labs are equipped with hospital beds, hospital fixtures and computerized manikins so that students can become familiar with the physical assessments and functional skills they will need to know when they begin caring for real patients. The nursing school partners with hospitals and community care agencies throughout the Greater Tacoma metropolitan area to provide students with clinical rotations; these partners include MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children's and Allenmore Hospitals, Madigan Army Medical Center; Western State Mental Health Services and Veterans Administration Hospital at American Lake.

Financial Aid: Pacific Lutheran University administers a few endowed scholarships specifically designated for nursing majors. Additionally, the university encourages nursing majors to apply for external nursing scholarships. Submitting a FAFSA form to Student Financial Services may also qualify you for state and federal financial aid.


Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

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