alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

To better understand the demands and demographics of the larger RN community, the Health Resources Services Agency (HRSA) compiled data from the National Sample Survey of RNs (NSSRN). Released in January 2020, the report is a compendium of information and questions RNs have answered about different aspects of the life and work. The data collected since 1977 provides insight into the latest trends and future workforce projections, and HRSA uses it to help allocate workforce resources.

“Considered the cornerstone of nursing workforce data, this comprehensive exploration provides a dynamic status of the RN population by revealing their demographics, educational attainment, licenses and certifications, and employment characteristics. These continued data collections have supported evaluations of government RN workforce programs, assisting in critical decision making affecting the U.S. healthcare system. Highlighting the intricacies of the current RN status is essential for developing strategies that address present-day healthcare challenges and the evolving nursing workforce needs,” the report’s executive summary states.

Key findings included the following:

  • An estimated 3,957,661 licensed RNs practice in the United States.
  • In 2017, roughly 83% (3,272,872 RNs) held a nursing-related job.
  • RNs’ average age is 50 years old.
  • Nurses are more diverse today than in the 2008 NSSRN study. Minority groups and men are increasing slightly in the RN population.
  • Most of the RN workforce is college educated (63.9%). Of them, nurses with a master’s or doctorate degrees accounted for 19.3%.
  • Advanced practice RNs account for approximately 11.5% of the nursing workforce.
  • Telehealth capabilities were reported for 32.9% of nurses’ workplaces. Among them, 50.3% of nurses used telehealth in their practice.
  • Median earnings for full-time RNs were $73,929, while part-time RNs earned a median amount of $39,985.

The Center coordinates with the Bureau of Health Workforce to analyze data on “supply, use, access, need, and demand for health workers.” It details 840 occupations, and the Office of Management and Budget and the Bureau of Labor Statistics assist in the compilation. The report is cataloged approximately every 10 years.