Introduction

May 12th, 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, who is noted as the founder of modern nursing, a biostatistician and the first nurse researcher. The work of Florence Nightingale is evident in 21st century nursing practice in the United States of America and around the world. Nurses compromise the largest sector of the healthcare workforce with more than 20 million nurses worldwide and over 4 million in the U.S.A. (National Council of State Boards of Nursing [NCSBN], 2020). Let’s dive deeper into the nursing profession and learn about their workforce characteristics by exploring nurses by the numbers.

*Note, the below data was obtained from two main reports: National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) Environmental Scan: A Portrait of Nursing and Healthcare in 2020 and Beyond and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Workforce, 2018 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses: Brief Summary of Results.

How many nurses are there in the United States?

There were 4,096,607 registered nurses (RNs) and 920,655 licensed practical nurses/licensed vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs) in the United States as of October 2019 (NCSBN, 2020).

How many nurses are there in our surrounding areas?

StateTotal Licenses
Delaware24,112
Maryland68,323
New Jersey97,103
Pennsylvania193,212

(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2019)

What is the average age of nurses in the United States?

The average age of a nurse is 47.9 years old with nearly half (47.5%) of all nurses aged 50 or older (DHHS, 2019).

What is the distribution of nurses by race and ethnicity?

(DHHS, 2019)

How many men are working in nursing?

The percentage of men working in nursing is growing. The 2018 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN) showed that 9.6% of the nursing population were men which is an increase from 7.1% in the 2008 survey. (DHHS, 2019)

How is the nursing workforce educated?

In the 2018 NSSRN, the most commonly reported initial educational qualification for registered nurses in the United States were the Associate (48.5%) and Bachelor (39.2%) degrees (Figure 5). When asked about the highest nursing or nursing-related educational attainment, nearly two-thirds of the RNs (63.9 %) had a Bachelor degree or higher (44.6% earned a Bachelor degree and 19.3% earned a graduate degree) (Figure 6). (DHHS, 2019)

(DHHS, 2019)

What is the availability of approved nursing education programs in the United States?

In 2018, there were 2,496 approved nursed education programs for RNs and 1,638 for LPN/LVNs. There continues to be growth in the number of RN educational programs in contrast to a decrease in the number of LPN/LVN educational programs. (NCSBN, 2020)

What is the distribution of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)?

RNs may expand their scope of practice by earning a graduate degree and an advanced practice certification including Nurse Practitioner (NP), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), and Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). The 2018 NSSRN survey estimates that 11.5 percent of RNs (n=439,527) have completed their training for advanced practice, an increase from 8.1 percent in 2008. NPs accounted for 68.7 percent of all APRN licenses, followed by CNSs (19.6%), CRNAs (9.3%), and CNMs (2.4%). (DHHS, 2019)

How many Certified Nurse Midwives are there in the United States?

As of May 2018, there were 6,250 CNMs in the United States. (NCSBN, 2020)

What types of settings are nurses working in?

In the 2018 NSSRN, most nurses reported working in a hospital (59.9%), while others reported working at clinics and ambulatory settings (15.6%), other inpatient settings (8.3%), and other types of settings (16.2%). Approximately 16.6 percent of employed nurses did not have direct patient care as part of their duties in their primary nursing position. Of the nurses who were actively licensed to practice but had left their position held at the end of 2017, 12.9 percent reported that they stopped working due to retirement. (DHHS, 2019)

References

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2020). NCSBN’s environmental scan: A portrait of nursing and healthcare in 2020 and beyond. Journal of Nursing Regulation. 10(4), S1-S36.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. 2019. Brief Summary Results from the 2018 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, Rockville, Maryland.