The number of licensed registered nurses (RNs) in the United States grew to a new high of 3.1 million between 2004 and 2008 according to a report released today by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This increase of more than 5 percent features important gains in age and diversity of the workforce.
For the first time in three decades, the youngest population of nurses grew, which is helping to restock the pool of RNs. At the same time, the older population of nurses continued to grow as well. The increase is the result of growing demand for RNs and responding growth enrollment. The study also highlights that one of the principle barriers to restocking the pool of RNs is a shortage of nursing faculty to meet the growing need.
“The growth in the numbers and diversity of registered nurses is a positive sign of moving in the right direction, and HRSA remains committed to ensuring an adequate supply and distribution of nurses in the future,” said HRSA Administrator and nurse Dr. Mary K. Wakefield. “HRSA has distributed a significant increase of funds over the past year to recruit, educate and retain nurses.”
The survey found that the RN workforce is gradually becoming more diverse. In 2008, 16.8 percent of nurses were Asian, Black/African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and/or Hispanic; an increase from 12.2 percent in 2004.
Additional findings include:
Published every four years by HRSA’s Bureau of Health Professions, the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses is the preeminent source of statistics on trends over time for the nation’s largest health profession. The report,
The Registered Nurse Population: Findings from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses,
includes comparisons from eight recurring surveys, 1980 through 2008. The 2008 survey was sent to 55,171 nurses with active RN licenses, with representation from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data in the survey cover educational background, practice specialty areas, employment settings, position levels, job satisfaction and salaries, geographic distribution, and personal demographics such as gender, racial/ethnic background, age and family status.
HRSA, part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency providing policy leadership and grant support for health professions workforce development – helping to ensure the United States has the right clinicians, with the right skills, working where they are needed.