A Snapshot of the 2015 National Nursing Workforce

A Snapshot of the 2015 National Nursing Workforce

A Snapshot of the 2015 National Nursing Workforce

The 2015 National Nursing Workforce Survey results are in, and the trends are positive, with sufficient numbers of new RNs entering the profession to offset concerns about a potential nursing shortage as a result of retirements.

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First conducted in 2013 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and the National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, the survey helps identify educational, employment, and demographic trends and their impact on national health-care needs. Surveys were mailed to 140,000 RNs randomly selected from 3.9 million active licensed RNs in 2015 (up from 3.5 million in 2013). One-third responded, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories.

Results showed that the average age of RNs is 48.8 years, indicating that the aging of the RN population is slowing (average age in 2013 was 50), and that retirements portend no impending shortage. Gender and ethnic diversity is increasing. Men made up 8% of RNs in 2015 and 14.1% of those licensed between 2013 and 2015. By contrast, only 5.8% of RNs licensed before 2000 were male. Ethnic minorities were 19.5% of the workforce in both 2013 and 2015, and accounted for higher proportions of younger and recently licensed RNs.

The survey found that RNs are more highly educated than ever. Compared with earlier surveys, more RNs hold a baccalaureate or higher degree, and more earned a bachelor of science in nursing as their initial credential—especially RNs licensed from 2013 to 2015. About 80% of survey respondents said they were actively employed in nursing, 63% full-time. Hospitals remain the primary work setting, although to a lesser degree. In part, this is due to the growing use of technology to deliver health care. Almost half of respondents provided services electronically or by phone, of which 7.7% did so across national borders and 39.4% across state lines, suggesting the need for a multistate licensure model.

Survey limitations include a lower response rate than in 2013 (34.3% versus 39%) and incomplete data. While $65,000 was the reported median salary for a primary nursing position, 30.2% of respondents skipped this question, possibly skewing the results. Further, the question may have suppressed participation overall. Still, the survey’s authors hope the results produce a better understanding of the ever-evolving nursing workforce.—Lucy Wang Halpern

National Council of State Boards of Nursing J Nurs Regul 2016 7 1 S12–S53

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