Montana Nursing Opportunities

Overview of Montana Nursing Needs

Home to both Glacier and Yellowstone National Park, Montana is a virtual wonderland to visiting nature lovers. It’s also a great place to live for those who prefer wide open spaces to busy streets teeming with people. However, Montana’s vast prairie, farming and mountainous lands create unique challenges to locals needing quality health care. Breathing room isn’t the issue for frontier counties with populations of 6 people per every square mile, but finding decent medical assistance can be.

To address the issue, non-profit organizations like the Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network and the Montana Center to Advance Health through Nursing aim to bridge the divide between patients, qualified healthcare providers, and nursing schools throughout the region. Nursing students can choose from 11 schools and 60 different programs. Those who choose to continue on to a Baccalaureate degree or higher could be of great assistance in more rural locales where doctors are needed yet unavailable.

Job Outlook for Montana Nurses

On a national level, RN jobs are predicted to rise by 26% between now and 2020. In Montana, the current unemployment rate 5.6%, well below the national average. As in the rest of the country, qualified healthcare practitioners are in demand. The more populous cities like Yellowstone and Missoula should offer more opportunities for hospital jobs. However, Montana’s more rural, less populated, counties could provide terrific opportunities for advanced level nurses such as Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwifes. Also note that the state of Montana is taking a serious look at the Institute of Medicine’s suggestion to have 80% of RNs hold a BSN degree or higher by the year 2020.

Other areas where Montana grads may have unique opportunities is in the realm of medical technology. Because of the long distances between patients and practitioners, the award-winning Eastern Montana Telemedicine Network connects those in need with healthcare providers via video-conferencing consultations. Some services include surgery follow-ups, as well as assistance with cardiology and neurology issues.

In Montana, RNs can expect an annual mean wage to range from $53,240 to $64,820—with higher wages earned in more metropolis settings such as Billings. Nurse Practitioners in Montana can expect an average mean salary ranging between $79,101 and $93,140, respectively.

Average Nursing Salaries in Montana

Data from BLS 2011 10th Percentile 25th Percentile 50th Percentile
Registered Nurses $45,420 $51,280 $58,220
Licensed Practical Nurses $28,640 $32,600 $37,020
Nursing Aides/Orderlies $19,710 $21,100 $23,430
Home Health Aides $17,130 $18,920 $21,200

Licensing for Nurses in Montana

As in other states, Montana requires nurses, from LPNs to ARPNs, to be licensed. The extent of licensing required is dependent on level of practice. To become licensed, LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) and RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Advanced nurses such as Nurse Practitioners must possess valid licensing but also career-specific certifications.
Montana is not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, so only nurses holding a valid Montana license in good standing may practice in the state. For specific licensing information, please refer to Montana’s Board of Nursing website.

Nursing Programs in Montana

Prospective students should be pleased to note that Montana is home to 11 schools with 60 different nursing programs. High school students may become Licensed Practical Nurses and then go on to become Registered Nurses and even pursue Doctoral degrees in Montana. Larger institutions such as Montana State University offer several campuses throughout the state, and online courses for various classes are also offered. There are also nursing programs available that are particularly pertinent to the state of Montana; for instance, Montana State University-Bozeman has an online MSN program specifically tailored to studying frontier medicine.

In addition, Montana and various independent entities offer financial incentives for eligible students who choose to study and then remain in the state to work.