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Rethinking Agency Nurses

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, November 13, 2012

They're also younger, more culturally diverse, and more flexible when it comes to relocating. And supplemental nurses earned an average of $2,150 less per year than permanent nurses.

Let's break down those findings, which come from comparing data on supplemental and permanent nurses from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses from 1984 to 2008.

When it comes to education, the study finds that from 1984 to 2008, the number of RNs with bachelor's degrees in nursing increased from 34% to 46% among supplemental nurses and from 33% to 50% among permanent nurses. On the experience side, researchers found that supplemental nurses had only three years less nursing experience than permanent nurses; they averaged 15 years' experience in 2008, compared with 18 years for permanent RNs.

Now, let's take a look at demographics. Compared with permanent nurses, supplemental nurses tend to be younger, are more likely to be male, and more likely to be Hispanic, black, or Asian or Pacific Islander. Roughly one-third (33.2%) of supplemental nurses in 2008 were people of color compared with fewer than just 17.4% permanent nurses.

I just wrote about several grant and scholarship programs that aim to bring more minorities into nursing, since according to the latest National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, they remain underrepresented in the RN population when compared to the general population.

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2 comments on "Rethinking Agency Nurses"


shannon (11/14/2012 at 6:45 PM)
So it's not okay to mandate OT but for many nurses that work a full time job and then do agency work often work multiple hours all over the place. So if we really are considered about patient safety maybe we should increase the normal wages and salaries so that we can entice people to enter the profession verse over working nurses to the point of burnout just an idea.

Thomas A. Coss (11/14/2012 at 12:14 PM)
Agency Nurses also enable hospitals to wage discriminate and there by actually saves them money. Additionally, from my years as an Agency RN, I developed a broad base of experience across multiple healthcare systems that has served me well to this day. Excellent piece.