15 Unhappiest (and Happiest) Nursing Jobs in America – 2024

Written By: Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN

A nursing job that one nurse loves, may be unbearable for another. Each of us has unique wants and needs that must be satisfied to make us happy nurses on the job. What kind of work motivates and fulfills you as a nurse? Is it pay, excitement, comfort, or autonomy? Indeed, those who work as travel nurses in the ER have different criteria for the perfect job than those who dedicate themselves to a lifelong nursing home administrator position. Both are wonderful career choices, but what makes a particular job right for each of them?

This article “America’s 15 unhappiest and happiest nursing jobs” helps answer the question of what are the unhappiest and happiest nursing jobs in America? In addition, the article also gives you an idea of what factors contribute to job satisfaction. Read on so that you don’t fall into the trap of a dead-end nursing job that leaves you miserable or burned out.

Are All Nurses Happy With Their Jobs?

As a nurse with many years of experience in a variety of jobs, I have noted that although nursing can be a highly satisfying career, there are many unhappy nurses who dislike their jobs. On the other hand, I think there are not many good reasons to stick with a nursing job that you loathe with so many other great opportunities for work just around the corner or virtually at your fingertips! As I have told my daughter, who has followed in my nursing footsteps, nursing is the best profession due to the variety of positions out there; and if you are unhappy, don’t suffer and complain. Make a change!

With that philosophy in mind, I may give you the impression that I frequently hopped from job to job. But in reality, the opposite is true. I worked as a school nurse in one district for 26 years. I just needed to find a position that I loved with an environment that loved me back. That is not to say that I did not have other jobs on the side. I enjoy variety as well as the next nurse. I like to keep my skills fresh and advance my career and education. I just happened to be able to do all of these things to help keep my career vibrant and satisfying while working as a school nurse.

So, no, not all nurses like their jobs. But specific reasons help contribute to satisfying employment. Read on to find ideas to help you in your search for the perfect position to make you one of the happy nurses who loves her job.


11 Factors That Make A Nursing Job Unhappy OR Happy

US News and World Report lists RNs as #12 on the 2022 list of best jobs. By the standards in this report, the majority still feel that nursing is a pretty good job. Criteria that US News used were salary, upward mobility, stress level, flexibility, work-life balance, and future growth. Let’s break these factors down a bit.

11 Reasons that contribute to unhappy or happy nursing jobs are:

1. Salary-

Unless you are vastly underpaid, most nurses make a pretty good wage. Although you may not get rich as a nurse, our career has excellent earning potential. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average RN wage as $77,600, and we all know nurses who make a much higher salary. Nurses work very hard and deserve every bit of pay that they receive. I know that I appreciate adequate compensation for my hard work. Pay is a significant factor in job satisfaction, but it is rarely the only reason we love or hate our jobs. Keep reading to find more of the main reasons behind nurse job fulfillment.

2. Upward mobility-

It is never fun being stuck in a dead-end job. Most nurses look forward to moving up the career ladder, taking on new responsibilities, and growing professionally. Hard work that goes unrecognized or without promotion year after year can be disheartening. The US News job report lists the opportunity for advancement as average for nurses. Therefore, if you are willing to put in effort, the chances for promotion are pretty good for many nurses.

3. Stress level-

As you may know, there are many unhappy nurses due to the high-stress level associated with the profession. The US News report lists a nurse's work environment and job stress to be above average. No surprise there! With the demands of the pandemic and now worsening staffing insufficiencies, the stress level of nursing is at an all-time high. Nurses are changing jobs or quitting the profession in record numbers in the last 2 years due to the high burnout rate of traditional nursing jobs. Savvy nurses know that they need to care for themselves in order to adequately nurse others. Therefore, many fed-up nurses leave the jobs that are draining them.

4. Flexibility-

When looking at the daily aspect of flexibility in nursing, it is limited. We are restrained by stringent work schedules and are often required to punch a clock at the beginning and end of our shifts. We can not come in late or leave early without some pushback. Heck, we rarely even take a complete break when it is in our contracts.

I had worked for years before I realized that I was entitled to a 15-minute break in addition to lunch. Nobody ever took this brief respite time or even mentioned it because our schedules never allowed such a luxury. I have always been envious of others who can leave work to get a coffee, make a personal phone call, or even go to the bathroom when necessary. Only teachers can understand the confining work environment of a nurse! Now that I work from home, I appreciate my flexibility. For the first time in my long nursing career, I do not have to punch a time clock, which is liberating!

5. Work-life balance-

In the past decade, the term work-life balance for nurses has gained popularity and become the buzzword for nursing wellness. In general, the nursing profession leads to poor work-life balance. Let me explain. Nurses are very caring and hardworking people. They do not want to let down their patients or coworkers. Since it is not easy to find nurses to fill in for us when we are off, we tend to work more than is healthy due to our stellar quality of not wanting our patients or coworkers to suffer due to short staffing. That is why many of us never use all of our allotted vacation and sick time, although we would love to take days here or there for rest and relaxation. Instead, we work when we are ill and come in when we want to be home. Thus, our work-life balance is not how it should be, and our health and families suffer.

6. Future growth-

With nursing jobs expected to grow by 9% through 2030, the job outlook for nurses is good. This term translates to more nursing job opportunities to pick from with the potential for better pay. Thus, increased job opportunity helps nurses to find more suitable jobs where they can be happy nurses.

7. Coworkers-

I have had some awesome coworkers who have made not-so-desirable working conditions more tolerable. This friendship and support that came with it kept me in one job much longer than I thought I would stay. On the other hand, I have been in great jobs with horrible, nasty “mean girl” colleagues where I had to leave due to the unfriendly atmosphere. Due to these negative vibes, some of the unhappiest nursing jobs have nothing to do with the job itself. It is the staff that can ruin a potentially great position for a nurse.

8. Variety-

Most nurses enjoy variety in their work. I do too. I remember when my supervisor at a school where I worked as a nurse asked me if I was ever bored in my position. I explained that although the job may seem simple to the eye, I loved the variety of my career, where each day held surprises, and I was at liberty to create programs and support services for the staff and students as I saw fit. If I just had to perform hearing and vision testing every day, yes, I would be bored, and I probably would not have stayed in this job for over 2 decades. But having the ability to hold support and health groups, specialized kids’ clubs, food drives, nutrition promotions, and fitness classes (to name a few) made each day unique and challenging.

9. Appreciation-

Working hard and giving your all in a job where nobody seems to appreciate your dedication can be demoralizing. Although we do not work for the kudos, hearing that you are doing a good job and that your superiors and work appreciate all you do goes a long way toward job satisfaction. I recall a position where my supervisor gave me no feedback and never bothered to do my evaluations. I loved my job and gave it my all, but I was unsure if I was performing as expected.

When I resigned from my position, my administrator cried not once but twice when we had our exit interview. He explained that nobody would be able to fill my shoes, and he never had to think about me or my job because he trusted that I would always do what was right for my patients and the practice. I guess that was why he never gave me any feedback. He just handed over the job to me and never questioned that things would run smoothly. It is too bad that I had to leave to hear some encouraging words about my performance.

10. Sufficient staffing-

I had one nursing job that I loved. It challenged me, the staff was great, and although the pay was only mediocre, I felt appreciated by my administrators. But I dreaded the frequent staffing calls to come in early, stay late or pick up extra shifts. Increasing pressure to work extra and more mandatory weekend hours kept me on edge. So much so that I could not enjoy my days off as inevitably “the call” would come asking me to help out. Eventually, I became a bundle of nerves. We all know that others have to pick up the slack if we do not pull our “unwritten” expected extra hours, so it is tough just to turn off the inner guilt if we say no to these requests.

11. Empowerment-

NIH lists an article about creating empowering conditions in the workplace for nurses. They state, “job satisfaction has been related to nurses feeling empowered to exercise autonomy over their own practice”. By having a say in the decision-making, nurses feel that their contributions are essential, leading to self-satisfaction.

I have had the very frustrating experience of being a part of radical change in several institutions where nurses are expected to enact the change without any input. These same nurses know what was best for the patient and ways to affect change that may work well for the unit, nurses, and patients. Without the nurses' input, we have seen the disaster this type of top-down authoritarian management has created for all involved.

In addition, empowering nurses in other ways to foster independence, such as encouraging team leadership and options for self-scheduling, will go a long way to creating happy nursing jobs.


(The following are America’s 15 unhappiest nursing jobs.)

1. School Nurse

About the Job:

School nurses work independently in most schools as the lone medical provider to children and teens to take care of their everyday medical needs. The job involves dispensing medication, caring for sick and injured students, and creating care plans to manage complex and chronic illnesses along with fragile students with multiple handicaps. In addition, the school nurse is responsible for maintaining medical records and providing state-mandated health screenings such as hearing and vision testing for every child in the school.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

School nurse jobs have typically been on the “happy nursing job” list. This year, it tops the unhappiest nursing job in America list. Here is why. School nurses are busy. With the onset of the pandemic, the school nurses' job load has increased 3-fold. Imagine having unhappy teachers, parents, community, and students all of the time because the school nurse needs to constantly check ill students and send them home for long periods due to stringent Covid regulations. In addition to caring for students with Covid, the school nurse is responsible for doing all of the contact tracing. Being the hub of “Covid central” and the constant bearer of bad news has made the job of a school nurse quite labor-intensive and dissatisfying.

2. Hospital Staff Nurse

About the Job:

Hospital staff nurses work the floors and can be in any unit. Staff nurses are the nurses who are directly responsible for patent care in a hospital.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Probably consistently one of the unhappiest nursing jobs, hospital staff nursing has always been a challenge. In addition to working long hours on their feet with required rotating shifts and weekends, staff nurses have often been overworked and understaffed. With the onset of covid and “the great resignation” of nurses underway, the problem of inadequate staffing has made the job unbearable.

3. Emergency Room Nurse

About the Job:

An emergency room nurse cares for patients with urgent injuries and illnesses ranging from sniffles to life-threatening issues.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Emergency nursing can be very exciting, but the constant hustle and bustle of caring for people at their worst can wear you down. As one of the most unhappy nursing jobs due to the unexpected nature of the position, ER jobs can be quite stressful and, often, dangerous. Criminals, drug seekers, and those who are intoxicated can walk through the doors at any time, and the ER nurse is there to treat them.

4. Substance Abuse Nurse

About the Job:

Substance abuse nurses implement, monitor, and assess addicted patients to adhere to their treatment plan to aid in the recovery from drugs or alcohol.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Although this growing and important field of nursing is in demand, working with people who are addicted can be very frustrating and, at times, dangerous. Many patients in recovery facilities are not there because they are committed to recovery. The law often dictates that a substance abuser must commit to a specific number of days of treatment as part of their sentence. Therefore, your work as a nurse may not be appreciated, and the patients are not overly cooperative. Combining those who are detoxing, of a criminal element, and those at the lowest aspect of their lives, makes for a dismal work environment for nurses.

5. Correctional Nursing

About the Job:

Correctional nursing is a challenging position where nurses provide all types of medical care for incarcerated people. Correctional nursing jobs can be found in juvenile detention centers, jails, and prisons.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Working in a correctional facility typically tops the list for one of the unhappiest nursing jobs. In general, your patients are not a happy bunch! Your work day can involve treatment for fights, inmates detoxing or craving drugs, and people who have not taken care of their health for years. Most inmates have led a hard life, with a high percentage suffering from mental illness or trauma. It is a harsh work environment, to say the least.

6. Nurse Educator

About the Job:

Nurse educators teach health-related classes such as nursing or other health-related occupations. Nurse educators can work in universities, local colleges, hospitals, or other training centers.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Most nurse educators enjoy their work. However, due to the meager pay for highly educated nurses, the nurse educator job is one of the unhappiest nursing jobs. Nurse educators may feel unappreciated when they are underpaid. Due to low compensation, many nurse educators justly think their education and expertise in their nursing field are not recognized. As one of the lower-paid nursing positions, nurse educators certainly deserve higher wages.

7. Nurse Manager

About the Job:

Nurse managers are administrators in a medical facility. They lead and supervise nurses and other medical staff on the nursing unit or department.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Although many nurses strive to become nurse managers, some may find the job unsatisfying once they achieve this goal. Nursing leadership comes with many headaches. Unhappy nursing jobs many times are stressful. Nurse managers deal with pressure daily and are the go-between for higher administrative complaints and the staff they serve. They also are the bottom line regarding patient dissatisfaction, budget cuts, staff drama, and implementing unwelcome policies. This position can be stressful with little encouragement and positive feedback for your hard work.

8. Home Health Nurse

About the Job:

A home health nurse travels to patients' homes to provide assessment, medical care, and treatment. Patients can be of all ages.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Having worked as a home health nurse, I was very busy. I would work long hours and sometimes be called out late at night for an emergency admission or problem. I enjoyed working in this specialty area as I knew how much my patients depended on me and required medical care. However, times have changed, and extreme nursing shortages have stressed the field of home health nursing, making it one of the unhappiest nursing jobs to date. Home health nurses currently have caseloads that are too large and not enough time to adequately care for their patients, leading to burnout and dissatisfaction with their jobs.

9. Insurance Physical Nurse

About the Job:

Insurance physical nurses provide a physical exam ordered by the insurance company in the privacy of a patient's home. Many times, this type of nurse works from home.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Although nurses who do insurance physicals have much autonomy, this position can be one of the unhappiest nursing jobs in America. Most nurses in this line of work do not stick with the position for long as there typically are no benefits to this job. In addition, going into a stranger's house by yourself and performing a hands-on procedure such as a physical examination presents many dangerous opportunities for an unscrupulous patient. I know of one nurse who was assaulted in a patient's home while working as a physical insurance nurse. Sometimes, the potential for harm is not worth the money for this position.

10. Nursing Home RN

About the Job:

Nurses who work in a nursing home or extended care facility provide ongoing medical assessment and care for the senior or disabled residents where they work.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Although some very dedicated and talented nurses work in nursing homes, many consider this position the last choice of options in nursing. The reason that a position as a nursing home RN is one of the unhappiest nursing jobs is due to staffing shortages and, many times, coworkers that may not be professional or have the best interest of patients as their priority. Nursing homes are notorious for infractions regarding residents' safety and appropriate care. I saw this first-hand when I was in college as a nursing student. In many instances, I would never want to subject my elderly relatives to the conditions I experienced in some of these facilities. Of course, I am aware of many exceptional extended care facilities but those that are below standard mar the reputation of the good ones.

11. Public Health Nurse

About the Job:

A public health nurse's job can vary according to the community's needs. The goal of a public health nurse is to provide education, guidance, prevention, and at times, treatment of health conditions within the community.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

The Covid pandemic has made the job of public health nurse (PHN) very complex and unpleasant. With this crisis, the role of a PHN became front and center to help track and control Covid. Working with a novel virus in an ever-changing climate is extremely difficult. To be one of the local experts as the criteria changes daily creates confusion and frustration for the nurse and those she serves. Unhappy nursing jobs can result from a lack of leadership and clear guidelines which have plagued public health nursing during the pandemic.

12. Camp Nurse

About the Job:

Camp nurses can work with a variety of campers. However, camp is typically for children and teens. Some sites are for campers with specific conditions such as diabetes or cerebral palsy, while other camps are designed for fun. Camp nurses often live at the center and care for campers 24 hours a day.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Nurses who take a job as camp nurses either love or hate the job once they are there. Camp nursing can be lonely, boring, fun, or overwhelming, depending on your experience and the particular camp.

I have worked as a camp nurse at horseback riding, girl scout, diabetes, and ventilator camps. I finally gave up on camp nursing after numerous disastrous summers in this specialty. I have found camp nursing to be lonely and, sometimes, understaffed. At times, I had to work 24 hours a day with medically complex campers who required overnight care, and I was the only medical staff person. I would arrive home exhausted and somewhat traumatized.

Just this week, I was solicited for a nursing job where I would need to stay overnight during weekdays at the camp for kids. Although these were healthy children, there were still some diabetic kids to care for, along with a spattering of meds to be given. I was expected to volunteer for this job and receive no compensation. Whether you are on team “love camp nursing” or not, this position is one of the unhappiest nursing jobs due to the paltry wage offered for this type of nursing.

13. Diabetic Educator

About the Job:

A diabetic educator works in a hospital or private practice to educate patients of all ages about their diabetes and care.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

A diabetic educator is a great job where you can find tremendous satisfaction in your work. However, cases of diabetes have been rising steadily, especially type 2 diabetes. In addition, there has been an alarming post-Covid trend of increased cases of children with Type I Diabetes. With the increased need for diabetic education, it would be wise to hire more diabetic educators. However, hospital systems have not responded to this high need, and diabetic educators are left with an unreasonably large caseload. Unhappy nurses result from the frustration and burnout associated with this job due to the inability to care for patients properly.

14. Hospice Nurse

About the Job:

Hospice nurses work with patients of all ages with end-stage cancer or any other terminal diagnosis. They see patients in hospitals, rehab centers, long-term care facilities, hospice houses, or patient homes.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Special nurses work in hospice. This job can be physically and emotionally demanding yet very rewarding. As a young nurse, hospice was the last choice for nursing jobs on my list due to the depressing nature of the work. Now, as an experienced nurse, I find hospice work very satisfying, and I enjoy assisting patients and their families in their last days.

As with any nursing job, your personality and the job itself make the position a great job or a terrible one. I would say that a position as a hospice nurse may not be a great fit (in general) for many young nurses who may not have the experience to work independently in a possibly depressing environment.

15. Hospital OR Nurse

About the Job:

Hospital operating room nurses work in hospital OR suites assisting doctors during surgery. In the OR suite, nurses can work as scrub nurses, OR assistant RN, or circulating nurses.

What Makes this an Unhappy Job:

Working as a highly-skilled nurse in the OR can be a gratifying job. However, due to the current extreme medical staffing shortages, the OR has become wrought with frustration. Surgeons are unhappy with the new environment of inexperienced travel nurses assisting in the OR and slower turn-around times. Their displeasure trickles down to the nurses assisting them in the OR. This stressful environment translates to unhappy nurses who no longer enjoy their job.


(The following are America’s 15 happiest nursing jobs.)

1. Outpatient Case Management

About the Job:

There are all different types of case managers. But in general, a nurse case manager works alongside physicians and patients to coordinate the best patient care possible with an eye toward cost savings for the client, which can be an insurance company, hospital, or other medical facilities.

Earning Potential:

Like the diverse environment a case manager can work in, the pay is also quite varied. According to the 2022 case management salary and trends report (CMSTR), case management RNs make a higher than average wage than many nurses, with 62% earning over $80,000 annually.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

A whopping 92.5% of case managers claim they are happy with their jobs. According to the CMSTR, above-average pay, good benefits, supportive management, lack of overtime, and the job itself were all reasons happy nurses working in case management listed the job as satisfying.

2. Office Nurse

About the Job:

One of the happiest nursing jobs is a position as an office nurse. Nurses who work in a physician or other outpatient office provide direct care to patients for chronic or non-urgent conditions.

Earning Potential:

The average national salary for an office nurse is $45,677.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

Although office nurses make one of the lowest wages, many nurses enjoy the job due to the lower stress and the smaller, more intimate work environment. During the times that I have worked in a private physician practice, I have enjoyed wonderful and supportive relationships with the physicians and the rest of the staff. Stress was low and I rarely felt hurried or had to deal with an emergency.

3. NICU Nurse

About the Job:

NICU nurses work in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit caring for sick newborns. In addition, parent education is an integral part of the job to ensure that the parents are ready to care for their infants on their own post-discharge.

Earning Potential:

NICU nurses make 94,616 on average nationally.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

If you love babies and a challenging job with great pay, you will find a career as a NICU nurse to be one of the happiest nursing jobs out there. The nurses I know who work in the NICU enjoy tending to these fragile babies and would not change their job for all the money in the world. Luckily, NICU nurses make a very healthy wage, so they get the best of both worlds!

4. Informatics Nurse

About the Job:

An informatics nurse uses computers and technology to collect and analyze data to better the healthcare system and medicine. You may help develop policies and procedures and health-related software based on this information.

Earning Potential:

A nurse working in informatics makes $101,628 annually.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

Nurses who enjoy the technical side of medicine will find the job of an informatics nurse fascinating. This low-stress job compensates nurses generously with excellent pay and benefits. As one of the happiest nursing specialties for those with a nose for technology and detail, informatics nurses get to work autonomously away from the daily grind of hospital work.

5. Legal Nurse Consultant

About the Job:

A legal nurse consultant is a medical expert on legal cases. You will work alongside attorneys to help them decipher complex cases involving injury or chronic illness. You may be asked to testify in court occasionally to assist in the litigation process.

Earning Potential:

Legal nurse consultants makes an average yearly salary of $81,195.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

Legal nurse consultants agree that this is one of the happiest nursing specialties if you value autonomy and enjoy working in the legal system. Working on the business side of the profession, regular hours, and prestige are all refreshing reasons legal nurse consultants are delighted with their jobs.

Although I am not a legal nurse consultant, I have worked alongside attorneys on cases when I was employed to handle medical insurance cases. I found this smattering of legal nursing work very stimulating, enough to consider becoming a legal nurse consultant at one point in my career.

6. Health Writer

About the Job:

Nurses are naturally inclined to write about health content due to their medical background and experience.

Nurses can write:

• technical medical reports
• case studies
• health journal content
• medical educational materials for pharmaceutical companies
• for nursing education sites and universities
• for medical product companies
• for patient support groups.

Earning Potential:

Nurses who write health content make an average annual salary of $101,558.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

Many health writers work freelance or hybrid long-term contracts with some freelance thrown in. That environment gives the nurse much freedom, which can be liberating for those used to punching a clock for work. Being your own boss is a unique concept for many nurses, but I can attest that it is a joy to be the master of your destiny as a nurse. We have so much potential and expertise, along with an exceptional work ethic, that many nurse writers are very successful in their business.

7. Private Duty Nurse

About the Job:

A private duty nurse is responsible for the care of one patient. The nurse can work in a school, hospital, long-term care facility, or the patient’s home. The care may be necessary due to a medically complex issue or if a family wants to ensure exceptional care for a loved one.

Earning Potential:

ZipRecruiter quotes an average national annual salary for a private duty nurse to be $75,339.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

I have worked as a private duty nurse with medically complex children and also adults. My experience with adult one-on-one cases varied from a patient under suicide watch to an elderly woman who mainly required a companion and some minor assistance to keep her living in her own home. In this capacity, I have worked in homes, schools, nursing homes, and a hospital.

The job pays exceptionally well and is low-stress. I have developed lasting relationships with patients and their families, which I have found gratifying. Compared to many nursing positions, this is one where a nurse has ample time to complete all of the necessary duties to feel that the job was well-done. For these reasons, being a private duty nurse is one of the happiest nursing jobs.

8. Dermatology Nurse

About the Job:

Dermatology nurses provide care for patients with skin conditions. In this specialty, nurses can work in burn clinics, private dermatology, or plastic surgeon practices.

Earning Potential:

Indeed.com shows that RNs who work in dermatology make an annual average salary of $89,870.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

As one of the happiest nursing jobs, a position as a dermatology nurse pays very well. Nurses find this job satisfying as they typically have a reasonable caseload, and the working conditions can be pleasant. Most dermatology patients are cooperative and grateful for the medical assistance. The exception may be those nurses working in a burn unit treating severe and painful injuries. Working with patients in extreme pain may be upsetting.

9. Virtual Nurse Coach

About the Job:

Virtual nurse coaches provide online wellness and medical guidance for a variety of patients and corporations. In this position, nurses can work for hospice, hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid, HMO’s and insurance companies. Some coaches specialize in specialty areas such as cardiology or obstetrics. This job can also be called a virtual health care coach.

Earning Potential:

ZipRecruiter lists the average salary for a virtual health care coach to be $61,549 annually.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

There are currently a wide variety of virtual nurse jobs. Working from home is one of the main components of some of the happiest nursing jobs. A virtual nurse coach can enjoy all of the perks of working in the comfort of your home. Although the pay is only average, you will save time and money by not having to travel to work each day. In addition, a job as a nurse coach is typically low-stress and can be very rewarding as you develop ongoing relationships with your patients over time.

10. Stress Lab Nurse

About the Job:

An RN who works in a stress lab is a highly skilled cardiac nurse. This position requires the nurse to assess and monitor patients while administering a cardiac stress test. Stress lab nurses can work in hospitals, clinics, or private cardiac offices.

Earning Potential:

Indeed.com indicates that a stress lab RN makes between 92Kand 116K on average.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

If the facility pays for your considerable cardiac expertise, you should be making a very nice salary as a stress lab nurse. My RN friend, who has worked in cardiology for many years, has found that a stress lab nurse position is one of her happiest nursing jobs. After years in a hospital, working all kinds of shifts in a stressful and fast-paced CCU and cardiac outpatient clinic, the stress lab has been a calming and refreshing environment to work in. She enjoys the time to work one-on-one with patients at a slower pace, alongside a small and cheerful team of coworkers.

11. Occupational Health Nurse

About the Job:

Occupational Health Nurses (OHN) promote and oversee health and safety for industries and large corporations. The object of this position is to prevent injury and illness in the workplace.

Earning Potential:

Indeed.com lists the job of an occupational RN to be $69,940 on average annually. However, I have seen salaries up to $87,000 per year.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

The job of an occupational health nurse can be one of the happiest nursing jobs as this type of work is typically low-stress. The OHN nurse works with employees who are interested in their health and typically appreciate the nurse's input and help. Depending on where you work, the salary can be quite competitive, making the job of an OHN even more appealing.

12. Transplant Nurse

About the Job:

Transplant nursing is a specialty in itself. Transplant nurses help to care for, educate and prepare patients for organ transplants both on the donor and receiving end of the procedure.

Earning Potential:

ZipRecruiter indicates that transplant nurses make on average a salary of $83,803 per year.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

The job of a transplant nurse is one of the happiest nursing jobs due to the low nurse-to-patient ratio and excellent pay. This highly specialized job is very satisfying as you will assist in a process that saves lives. Transplant recipients and their families are very grateful for your assistance in this life-saving procedure.

13. Research Nurse

About the Job:

A research nurse works in a hospital, pharmaceutical company, or teaching facility to help to develop life-saving medical technology and drugs. Nurse researchers conduct medical studies and analyze health data to improve healthcare and patient outcomes.

Earning Potential:

According to ZipRecruiter, a clinical nurse researcher makes an average annual salary of $75,711.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

For nurses who enjoy solitary, autonomous, and analytical work, the research nurse position can be one of the happiest nursing jobs. With competitive compensation and a low-stress environment, a career as a research nurse can be quite satisfying.

14. Ambulatory Surgery Nurse

About the Job:

Nurses who work in ambulatory surgery typically work in outpatient same-day surgical centers. They can work in pre- or post-op areas or the surgery suite assisting the surgeons.

Earning Potential:

Ambulatory surgery nurses make an average annual salary of $91,732.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

As one of the happiest nursing jobs, ambulatory surgery positions offer top pay and daytime hours with weekends and holidays off. A nurse colleague of mine has this to say about her job as an ambulatory surgery nurse: “I love my job in a same-day surgery center where I can assist with a wide variety of surgical procedures. The job is typically low-stress, and I find the work very interesting.”

15. Nurse Medical Reviewer

About the Job:

Nurses can be medical reviewers for hospitals, insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid, and HMOs. Nurses in this position mainly work remotely to check medical bills and procedures for medical necessity and cost-effectiveness.

Earning Potential:

Simply Hired lists the nurse medical reviewer earning potential to be between $52,000 and 72,000 per year.

What Makes this a Happy Job:

I enjoyed working as a medical reviewer due to the relaxed nature of the work. With no patients or physicians to please, I could work autonomously in my home or a quiet hospital conference room. Due to the pleasant work environment and adequate pay, the position of nurse medical reviewer is one of the happiest nursing jobs for those who want a change from direct patient care.

5 Reasons Why It Is So Important For Nurses To Be Happy In Their Jobs

The Oxford Dictionary describes job satisfaction as “a feeling of fulfillment or enjoyment that a person derives from their job”.

We all want to feel fulfilled and satisfied as a nurse. Working day in and day out at a job that you hate can lead to burnout.

Why is it so crucial for you to be happy in your nursing job? Let’s find out why.

1. Mental well-being-

Enjoying a job where you feel appreciated and not overly stressed leads to positive mental well-being.

2. Less job-hopping-

When you find a position in nursing that you love, you are less likely to look for other work. Once you are established in a job long-term, you can accrue higher pay and days off. In addition, you will become an expert in your specialty area, leading to self-satisfaction.

3. Work-life balance-

If you can find a job that checks all of your boxes for a great position, you most likely have found a job where you have adequate work-life balance. To prevent mental and physical exhaustion on the job, you must establish a suitable ratio of work to family, rest and recreation.

4. Friendship-

Colleagues that become friends and can be a support network are very important to nurses. Once you find a happy nursing job, you will most likely begin to develop friendships that may last a lifetime. Most of my closest friends are nurses that I have worked with over the years. Nobody understands nurses like nurses. I treasure these friendships as my nurse friends understand me and my day-to-day work issues.

5. Compensation for skills and education-

Although high pay does not make a terrible nursing job better, adequate compensation for your expertise and education helps a nurse feel appreciated. I remember working as a seasoned nurse with an MSN, where I was compensated the same as new grad nurses. I was shocked and disappointed with this unbalanced pay scale, and in the end, I did not stick with the job for long.

BONUS! 7 Things You Can Do If You Are In An Unhappy Nursing Job

It is vital for nurses to become aware of factors that can lead to job dissatisfaction. You should know what to do to rectify your displeasure so that you can position yourself in one of the happiest nursing jobs you can find.

A few ways to go from unhappy to happy in your job are:

1. Acknowledge areas causing you to be unhappy-

The first step to finding a happy nursing job is to acknowledge your job displeasure and figure out what exactly is causing you distress. Is it the long hours, your coworkers, or lack of administrative support? Are you missing your family, hating the shift work, or is inadequate staffing pushing you over the edge? Once you have pinpointed the reasons why you hate your job, you can then go about rectifying the problem.

2. Realize that you are not “stuck” in your current situation or job-

Having 2 daughters in the medical profession, I have always wanted to give them wise counsel as a working woman. How could I continue to complain and “stick it out” at a nursing job where I was miserable and still be a role model for my children?

I realized early on in my nursing career that I needed to show my daughters how to be happy in a job. Once I came to this conclusion, I found that I can change nursing positions if needed, as the sky is the limit for nurses. There are all kinds of satisfying and exciting jobs available.

3. Take advantage of this opportunity to think about what you really want to do with your job situation-

Now is the time to analyze what you want out of life. Do you want more time with your family? Are you thinking about switching specialty areas? Is it time to go back to school for an advanced degree?

4. Consider what you can do to rectify your current work distress-

Before jumping ship, give some thought to ways to make your current job situation more pleasant. Talk to your administrator about your concerns. You never know if positive change can occur until you try. Who knows, maybe there is another internal job where you would be the perfect fit!

5. Take a look around-

With nurses in demand more than ever; you can have your pick of positions. A quick search on Indeed or ZipRecruiter reveals hundreds of diverse nursing opportunities. There are also plenty of exclusive nursing career sites and recruiters eager to help you find the job of your dreams.

6. Make inquiries-

Ask your friends, neighbors, Facebook groups, and nursing associations about work opportunities. Sign up for LinkedIn to connect with other professional nurses who can point you in the direction you desire for jobs. I frequently get LinkedIn messages from nurses asking me how to become a nurse writer. I am more than happy to help them out. You, too, may find professional connections that can jump-start your new career direction.

7. Consider jobs “outside of the box”-

Once I got on LinkedIn, I found all kinds of information about nursing jobs that are unique or in a particular niche. Up until that point, my knowledge of nursing positions was quite limited. You may become excited to find that the world of nursing has expanded quite a bit beyond the typical hospital and outpatient settings! With remote jobs commonplace now, the variety of novel nursing jobs has grown even in the last 2 years.

My Final Thoughts

You may be dissatisfied with your current nursing job or are considering a change in work environment if you are reading this article. Are you thinking about what makes you content with your current work environment? You deserve to be in a gratifying position. If you are not in a job that you like, please consider my suggestions to find a happy nursing job that you will love.

Although we all have different ideas about what makes a great job, I hope that I have answered your question about what are the unhappiest and happiest nursing jobs in America? This article, America’s 15 unhappiest and happiest nursing jobs should springboard you into action to get on the career path leading you to work satisfaction. If you are not quite there yet, read on for more questions and answers to assist you in pursuing your best career move.


1. Overall, How Happy Are Nurses With Their Jobs?

I have seen a good number of nurses who are not happy with their jobs. In general, there seems to be a lot of grumbling going on in the nursing profession. Many have expressed wanting to leave their jobs, but few seem to do anything about it.

2. Do The Happiest Nursing Jobs Have A Part-Time OR Full-Time Schedule?

If I had the option when my family was young, I would have loved to work part-time. My family needed me when I worked full-time, and I always felt pulled in 2 directions. Now that I work fewer hours, I enjoy part-time work very much. Based on my experience and that of nurses I know who work both full and part-time, I would say that nurses who work part-time are happier, especially if they have a family.

3. What Is The Highest-Paying Happiest Nursing Job?

From my research, nurses who work in ambulatory surgery make about the same income as hospital staff nurses (which typically pays very well). I did not mention travel nursing in this article, but if you love travel nursing, you will make top nursing wages.

4. What Are The 3 Happiest Nursing Jobs With The Most Promising Job Outlook?

All nursing jobs have an exceptional job outlook at present. Virtual nurse coaches, NICU, and private duty nurses are great jobs that will be especially needed in the future.

5. What Are The 3 Happiest RN Specialties?

Once again, the answer to this question will vary according to the nurse and their needs and desires. I personally know that most nurse writers are delighted with their jobs, along with RNs who work in private business such as legal nurse consultants and insurance jobs.

6. Where Do The Happiest Nurses Usually Work?

Nurses who are satisfied with their jobs often work in a smaller, more intimate environment. Working in a hospital can sometimes make nurses feel like disposable commodities. However, if you work in a job with just a few pleasant coworkers, such as a doctor’s office or small clinic, you are more likely to feel like a part of the team and have higher job satisfaction.

7. What Are The Top 3 Happiest Nursing Jobs For New Grad Nurses?

In the past, new grad nursing jobs were limited to working as a staff nurse in a hospital, nursing home, or rehab center. You had to first earn your seniority in the lesser desired areas of nursing before moving on to other types of nursing environments.

Nowadays, new grad nurses have more opportunities to pick from a comprehensive selection of jobs due to the nursing shortage. Although it is wise to work in a hospital after graduation to gain some much-needed general nursing experience, new grads can look elsewhere if they choose.

When my daughter graduated from nursing school, she said she did not want to work with old or sick people. I thought to myself, “what else does a nurse do, especially a fresh graduate”? Fortunately for her, upon graduation, my daughter found the job of her dreams: working in obstetrics. She also was offered jobs in the PICU and NICU, which a new grad may find exciting.

8. What Are The Top 3 Happiest Non-Clinical Nursing Jobs?

There is quite a variety of non-clinical nursing jobs. Jobs such as informatics, forensics, and legal consultant are all very satisfying jobs for nurses that are away from the bedside.

9. What Are The Top 3 Happiest Work-From-Home Nursing Jobs?

With work-from-home jobs for nurses on the rise, you may be surprised to find a comfortable virtual nursing job easily. Health writing, virtual health coach, and insurance medical appeals work are all satisfying jobs for nurses where you can work from home.

10. Are Nurses Happier With Their Jobs Compared To Other Healthcare Professionals?

If high pay makes you happy, nurses make more than many healthcare professionals (except doctors). So, if money is your key to happiness, I would say that some nurses are happier with their jobs than other healthcare professionals. However, US News and World Reports ranks nursing as #5 on the list of best healthcare jobs in 2024, where they give them an average score for job satisfaction.

Donna Reese MSN, RN, CSN
Donna Reese is a freelance nurse health content writer with 37 years nursing experience. She has worked as a Family Nurse Practitioner in her local community clinic and as an RN in home health, rehabilitation, hospital, and school nursing.