Scenic views, affordable living, and an abundance of recreational opportunities make Colorado a top choice among many nurses for work and play. With dozens of hospitals, nursing schools, and community colleges, the Centennial State provides plenty of options to help nurses develop and diversify their skills.Sarah Stalder, RN
“The state of Colorado continues to grow and so does healthcare, giving nurses a ton of opportunity,” says Pam Hernandez, RNC, BSN, clinical coordinator for the labor and delivery unit at Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton, Colo. “Nursing can go in so many directions. You can be a nurse in a hospital setting, a home care nurse, an educator, or advanced practice. The possibilities are endless.”
Nearly 5 million residents were living in Colorado as of 2007, according to the Colorado Tourism Office. About 100 hospitals exist in Colorado, with 22 in the Denver metro area alone, says Tiffany Radel, spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association.Penne McPherson, RN
Larger hospitals and health systems in the state include Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver and Centura Health, which heads 12 hospitals. Banner Health operates four hospitals in Colorado, including McKee Medical Center in Loveland and North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.
A leading teaching hospital is the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. In 2007, several programs at the hospital were recognized in an annual survey of best hospitals by the magazine U.S. News & World Report.
“There’s just about every opportunity professionally,” says Penne McPherson, RN, BSN, MS, regional float pool educator for Centura Health. “There’s something for everybody.”Chris Nation, RN
McPherson, who is based in Denver, says St. Anthony Central Hospital was the first hospital in the country to offer a Flight for Life program. The Denver hospital implemented the program during the 1970s, she says.
For nurses wanting to experience mountain culture, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colo., provides the potential to treat a variety of injuries, McPherson says. “It has the highest trauma designation of anywhere in Summit County,” she says. “We have five clinics in that area. They get the ski accidents in the winter and the hiker and biker accidents in the summer. They can take care of a lot of things, but if it’s too acute, flights leave from right there and go down to St. Anthony Central.”
Summit County also draws a significant number of tourists who find themselves in need of medical treatment when trying to adjust to the mountain air. “A lot of ‘flatlanders’ come up here,” McPherson says. “They get a lot of high altitude sickness. If you’re not used to the high altitude and you climb too quickly, you can get a lot of fluid in your lungs.”
The amount of hiking, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities Colorado residents enjoy make for a generally healthy population, says Adrienne Abbot, RN, BSN. But that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of patients. In Colorado, it’s not uncommon for a young person who runs and hikes frequently to need hip or knee replacement, says Abbot, director of nursing administration for Boulder (Colo.) Community Hospital. “People who live a healthier lifestyle still have health issues,” Abbot says. “A lot of physical activity puts wear and tear on their bodies.”Wendy Wilbor, RN
As Colorado continues to grow, hospitals throughout the state are expanding and innovating to provide the best quality care. Sarah Stalder, RN, BSN, OCN, particularly likes the encouragement she receives at the University of Colorado Hospital. The hospital’s clinical ladder program provides rewards and reimbursement for nurses as they move through various levels of their careers, she says.
“The graduate residency program that they offer here is awesome,” says Stalder, a staff nurse on the oncology and bone marrow transplant units at the University of Colorado Hospital. “You get some good training.”
More hospitals also are offering simulation programs to help nurses improve their skills. Such programs use mannequins and high-tech devices to recreate real-life situations nurses might encounter on the job. McKee Medical Center is in the process of becoming one of Banner Health’s regional simulation centers, says Wendy Wilbor, RN, a recruiter for McKee Medical Center.
Chris Nation, RN, BSN, student placement coordinator for North Colorado Medical Center, shares a similar philosophy. Although Colorado, like other states, is facing a nursing shortage, Nation says she’s still seeing some competition for nursing jobs at her facility. “Colorado is unique,” Nation says. “It’s just a desirable place to live because of the economy and because of the location. People want to move here.”