50 things to know about nurses in the US

Nurses make up a vital part of the healthcare industry, providing care to patients and filling leadership roles at hospitals, health systems and other organizations.

In honor of National Nurses Week, here are 50 statistics, facts and figures regarding these important caregivers.

History of nursing

1. Florence Nightingale, born in 1820, is known as the founder of modern nursing.

2. The first school in United States run according to Florence Nightingale's nursing principles was the Training School for Nurses attached to Bellevue Hospital in New York City, which opened in 1873.

3. Clara Barton, a nurse who earned the nickname "angel in the battlefield" during the Civil War, went on to create the American Red Cross in 1881.

4. Famed American poet Walt Whitman served as a volunteer nurse for several years during the Civil War.

5. In 1879, Mary Mahoney became the first African-American woman to complete nursing training and become a registered nurse. She went on to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908.

6. Today, there are more than 3.9 million professionally active RNs and licensed practical nurses in the United States.

National Nurses Week

7. The first National Nurses Week in the U.S. was held Oct. 11-16, 1954, in observance of the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea.

8. International Nurses Week was named by the International Council of Nurses to be May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, in 1974.

9. National Nurses Week was designated by the White House and President Nixon in 1974.

10. Today, National Nurses Week in the U.S. starts on May 6 and ends May 12.

11. There are days within National Nurses Week for specific subsets of nurses. For instance, May 8 is National Student Nurses Day and National School Nurse Day is held on the Wednesday within National Nurses Week each year.

Professional organizations

12. The American Nurses Association was formed in 1911 when fewer than 20 nurses attended a Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada convention in 1896.

13. The national Association of periOperative Registered Nurses organization was founded by AORN of New York. The national group became the charter members of the Association of Operating Room Nurses in 1954, which adopted its current name in 1999.

14. The American Society of Registered Nurses was founded in May 2003 and became formally incorporated in January 2007 to bring nurses together from all fields to expand the study and practice of nursing and offer support to its members.


15. The national estimated annual wage average for registered nurses is $68,910, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

16. Five variables that greatly affect nurse compensation include work experience, payment method (i.e. salary vs. hourly), education level, union status and personal factors like gender and whether they have children, according to AORN.

17. Location is another factor that affects nurse compensation. The survey found nurses who live in rural settings earn about $7,300 less annually than their counterparts in suburban or urban settings.

18. The following are the top ten states with the lowest average annual estimated wage for RNs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

1.   South Dakota — $53,050

2.   Iowa — $53,520

3.   West Virginia — $55,240

4.   North Dakota — $56,030

5.   Arkansas — $56,150

6.   Kansas — $56,410

7.   Mississippi — $56,530

8.   Tennessee — $56,730

9.   Alabama — $55,870

10.   Nebraska — $56,920

19. The following are the top 10 states with the highest average annual estimated wages for registered nurses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

1.   California — $96,980

2.   Hawaii — $85,380

3.   Massachusetts — $83,720

4.   Alaska — $83,640

5.   Oregon — $80,440

6.   Nevada — $78,800

7.   Washington, D.C. — $77,550

8.   New Jersey — $77,360

9.   Washington — $76,420

10.   Connecticut — $76,280

20. Nurses living in certain regions of the U.S. make much more than nurses in other regions, according to AORN:

  • Nurses in the Pacific region make about $18,000 more than the average staff nurse.
  • Next is the Mid-Atlantic region, where nurses make $14,800 more than average.
  • New England nurses earn $10,600 more than average.
  • The Mountain region also had higher than average incomes, with nurses there earning $5,100 more.
  • Nurses in the East South Central region make $4,300 less than average.

21. Male registered nurses earn, on average, upwards of $5,000 more than their female counterparts. The gender pay gap is present in all specialties except orthopedics, according to a study published in JAMA.

22. The gender pay gap among nurses was higher in ambulatory settings, at $7,678, and lower in hospital settings, at $3,847.

23. Among nurse specialties, chronic care had the smallest gender pay gap, at $3,792, and cardiology had the highest gap, at $6,034.

Employment trends

24. Employment for registered nurses is expected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

25. The reasons for the growth are multifaceted, including increased emphasis on preventive care, the growth of chronic conditions among the population in the U.S., and increased demand for healthcare services due to the aging population.

26. Registered nurses make up the largest healthcare occupation in sheer number, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as they held 2.7 million jobs in 2012.

27. The settings that employed the most registered nurses in 2012 are:

  • State, local and private hospitals: 61 percent
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: 7 percent
  • Physician offices: 7 percent
  • Home healthcare services: 6 percent
  • Government: 6 percent

28. About 1 out of 5 registered nurses worked part time in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

29. Nearly 18 percent of newly licensed registered nurses leave their first nursing job within the first year, and roughly 34 percent leave within two years, which can be costly for hospitals.

30. The top three reasons nurses leave a hospital job, according to Karlene Kerfoot, PhD, RN, vice president of nursing for API Healthcare, are:

  • Strained relationships among nurses in a unit or between nurses and their manager or physicians.
  • Issues related to staffing levels, unit organization or inequitable assignments
  • Personal reasons including compassion fatigue and lack of opportunity to expand roles

31. Roughly 45 percent of younger nurses believe the nursing shortage has improved over the last five years, while just 34 percent of nurses 55 years and older agree.

32. WalletHub, personal finance social network, ranked the best and worst states for nurses based on job opportunity and competition, as well as work environment. The 10 best and worst states are listed below.

The best states are:

1. Washington

2. Colorado

3. Minnesota

4. Wisconsin

5. Texas

6. Wyoming

7. Alaska

8. New Hampshire

9. New Mexico

10. Oklahoma

33. The worst states are:

42. Tennessee

43. Alabama

44. Delaware

45. District of Columbia

46. Mississippi

47. New Jersey

48. West Virginia

49. Kentucky

50. Hawaii

51. Louisiana

34. Looking at the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the most nursing job openings per capita are in:

1. Washington, D.C.

2. New Hampshire

3. New Mexico

4. North Dakota

5. Maine

35. The least nursing jobs per capita are in:

1. Hawaii

2. New York

3. Utah

4. Mississippi

5. Alabama

36. Nurses with informatics backgrounds are seen as a positive force for care quality, as 60 percent of respondents to a HIMSS survey said informatics nurses have a "very high level of impact" on the quality of care patients receive.

37. Informatics nurses are also seen as bringing a high degree of value to participating in the implementation and optimization of clinical systems, according to 85 percent and 83 percent percent of the HIMSS survey respondents, respectively. Additionally, 73 percent of respondents said informatics nurses bring value to their organization through the design of clinical systems.

Nurse satisfaction

38. Almost 90 percent of nurses, regardless of age, are satisfied they became nurses, and 73 percent are happy with their current job, according to a 2013 survey.

39. Despite the optimism many nurses express over their career, one recent study revealed that 17 percent of nurses are disengaged; another 34 percent feel unsupported and report a lack of tools, resources and energy to do their work well, and 26 percent say they are likely to leave their organization within the next two years.

40. About two-thirds of younger nurses (between ages 19 and 39) say the use of EMRs positively influences their job satisfaction, efficiency and patient care. On the other hand, just 51 percent or less of older nurses (ages 40 to 54 and 55 and older) feel positively about EMRs.

41. Thirty percent of nurses working in hospitals say they feel bullied at work. Nurses who feel bullied are more likely to say their profession has taken a turn for the worse. They are also more likely to say they feel isolated and waste time on tasks others could do.

42. Nurses feel bullied by a variety of people, including senior management (13 percent), fellow nurses being cliquey or rude (11 percent), nursing administration and leaders (5 percent) and physicians (5 percent).

43. Nursing assistants and registered nurses suffer a large number of injuries. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, nursing assistants suffered 208.4 injuries and illness resulting in lost work days in 2013 per 10,000 full-time workers. Registered nurses suffer 55.7 such illnesses and injuries per 10,000 full-time workers that year.

44. Nurses often work in pain, as 8 of 10 report frequently working with musculoskeletal pain, according to a report from OSHA.

45. Additionally, nurses also have to take time off to recover from unreported injury, as 24 percent of nurses and nursing assistants reported changing shifts or taking sick leave to do so, according to an OSHA report.

46. Nursing assistants spent a median of seven days away from work due to injuries and illness, and registered nurses spent a median of eight days away from work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.


47. Temporary nurses have the same influence on patient satisfaction as permanent nursing staff. Recent research results show that communications with patients, medication explanations and pain control are essentially the same whether a nurse is permanent or temporary.

48. The qualifications for temporary nurses are equivalent to permanent staff nurses nationwide.

49. Intensive care units in which nurses report a favorable perception of the nurse-physician partnership tend to have lower rates of ventilator-associated pneumonia and central line-associated bloodstream infections.

50. Even though nurses are the largest healthcare profession, a 2011 study in Journal of Healthcare Management found that only 6 percent of hospital board members were nurses.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars