Pay raises ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $6,000 per year have been approved effective this month for approximately 900 federal nurses in the Washington area in Grades 4 through 12.

The increases for regular nurses, critical care and psychiatric nurses and others in the 610 Job Series have been authorized by the Office of Personnel Management.

Nurses at St. Elizabeths Hospital who were recently transfered from federal to D.C. government jurisdiction aren't included in the raises.

The raises went into effect with the first pay period on or after Jan. 15. They result from a study that showed the government was having trouble hiring and keeping nurses because of pay competition from the private sector.

Currently about 120,000 white-collar federal workers are paid special rates from 3 percent to 30 percent more than the regular salary for their grade. The government can adjust special rates any time, and last April it approved raises ranging from 3 percent to 24 percent for 32,000 clerical employees here. Because they got the special rate raises last year they did not get the general 2 percent federal pay raise this month.

New minimum (starting) and maximum rates for series 610 employees affected are:

GS 4, $16,213 to $20,263; GS 5, $19,654 to $24,190; GS 7, $21,222 to $26,838; GS 9, $28,255 to $35,131; GS 10, $30,272 to $37,841; GS 11, $32,336 to $40,652, and GS 12, $37,646 to $47,609.

Nobody (Yet) for President

Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis is the top choice in an early presidential preference poll conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees. With about 200,000 members, AFGE is the biggest federal union excluding those of postal workers.

Although Democrat Dukakis drew 19 percent of AFGE's mail ballot preference late last year, nearly 30 percent of the respondents checked the "No Preference" box when presented with the names of 14 announced candidates for endorsement by the AFGE and AFL-CIO. An AFGE spokeswoman said the response was "relatively small . . . but big enough" to give a sense of members' feelings at that time. Because of the big uncommitted block, AFGE leaders will go to the AFL-CIO winter conference in Florida uncommitted. Some of the big postal unions are polling their members to see which candidate, if any, they want to endorse.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who ran second in the AFGE poll with 10.4 percent of the tally, subsequently decided not to run.

Jesse L. Jackson ran third with 10 percent, followed by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) with 9 percent; and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who is no longer a candidate, with 5 percent. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) received 4.9 percent as did Vice President Bush and Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.). Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) received 2.5 percent and Republican Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV of Delaware got 1 percent. Republican candidates Pat Robertson, Rep. Jack Kemp (N.Y.) and former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig, and Democrat Bruce Babbitt, former Arizona governor, were each favored by less than 1 percent of the AFGE members who expressed a preference.