The nursing workforce in 21 numbers

The nation's nursing workforce is becoming more diverse and highly trained, though job satisfaction is falling and shortage projections are increasing through 2036, a new federal report shows. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration and U.S. Census Bureau released the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses in March. The report includes responses from 49,234 registered nurses polled in 2022 and early 2023.

Here are 21 numbers that provide a snapshot of the nursing workforce in 2022: 

1. There are an estimated 4.3 million actively licensed registered nurses in the U.S., up nearly 400,000 RNs from 2017. 

2. Racial and ethnic minority groups account for 33% of the registered nurse workforce, up from 26.7% from 2018. This increase was largely driven by a jump in Black nurses and Asian nurses, who now account for 11% and 9% of the workforce, respectively. 

3. Male nurses account for 12% of the workforce, up from 10% in2018.

4. About 45% of the U.S. workforce indicated they entered the field with a bachelor's degree, making it the most common degree for initial U.S. licensing. This figure is up from 39.3% the previous year. 

5. About 11% of licensed RNs have completed an additional degree that qualifies them as an advanced practice registered nurse.

6. Nurses' job dissatisfaction increased from 11% in 2017 to nearly 20% in 2021, with hospital-based registered nurses reporting the largest jump. 

7. About 5% of the workforce, or 195,000 nurses, left the workforce during COVID-19. Forty-three percent plan to return, while 19% said they do not intend to come back. High-risk working conditions (51%) and burnout (50%) were the most common reasons for leaving. 

8. Demand for registered nurses is projected to exceed supply by 9% in 2036 if labor patterns remain stable. This means the U.S. would be short 337,970 full-time RNs. Healthcare is also projected to be short about 99,000 licensed practical nurses by 2036.

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