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Nursing Workforce Getting More Diverse, Older

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 29, 2010

Overall, Dr. Mary K. Wakefield, the HRSA administrator, said officials are "encouraged by growth in the numbers and diversity of registered nurses and HRSA is committed to continuing this trend to ensure an adequate supply and distribution of nurses in the future."

Reacting to the findings, the American Nurses Association said it was "pleased to note the increasing diversity of the nation's population of registered nurses."

"More and more nurses have advanced training; more than half of American registered nurses have a bachelor's degree or higher," the ANA said. "Registered nurses in the US exhibit an increasing diversity of origins."

"By gender, race, and ethnic origin, US nurses are also increasingly diverse," the ANA said. "In the 2008 data, there were more male nurses, more non-white nurses, and more Hispanic nurses than ever before."

"Greater minority involvement in the health professions, including nurses, is critical," Wakefield said in a statement to HealthLeaders Media. "Numerous studies indicate that underserved communities benefit from the service of minority providers, who are more likely to choose to practice in these communities," she said.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing reported that there was a large increase in the number of internationally-educated nursing graduates who passed the National Council Licensure Examination, from 5,000 nurses in 1998 to more than 22,000 nurses in 2007.

"The growth in the number of internationally-educated nurses passing the NCLEX is consistent with the substantial growth in the number of internationally educated RNs living in the US," the report stated.

Additional findings included:

  • There are also wide variations across states in the number of employed nurses per 100,000 people. The lowest numbers of employed RNs per 100,000 were in Utah, (598), Nevada (681), and California (638), while the largest numbers were in the District of Columbia, (1,868), South Dakota, (1,333), and North Dakota, (1,273).

  • Half of RNs have achieved a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing or a nursing related field in 2008, compared to 27.5% in 1980.

  • The number of RNs with a master's or doctor's degree rose to 404,163 in 2008, an increase of 46.9% from 2004, and up from 85,860 in 1980.

  • Average annual earnings for RNs in 2008 were $66,973, an increase of almost 15.9 % from 2004, a figure that slightly outpaced inflation.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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