National Nursing Workforce Study

About the Study

Every two years, NCSBN partners with The National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers to conduct the only national-level survey specifically focused on the U.S. nursing workforce. The National Nursing Workforce Survey generates information on the supply of nurses in the country, which is critical to planning for sufficient numbers of adequately trained nurses and ensuring a safe and effective health care system.

In addition to providing a portrait of the current state of the nursing workforce, the data from this study facilitates the following:

  • Examination of national workforce trends. The survey data can be compared with data from the US Health Resources and Services Association (HRSA) nursing surveys (conducted 1990- 2008).
  • State-level analysis. Each board of nursing (BON) and state nursing workforce center will be provided their state’s data with which to conduct their own analyses.
  • Further research. The national survey generates a broad data set from which to conduct important sub-studies or analyses.

2015 National Nursing Workforce Study

Over 260,000 Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurses (LPN/VNs) were randomly selected to participate in the survey (140,154 RNs and 120,793 LPN/VNs). Participants received an announcement postcard in late June and received their first survey in early July. Non-responders were mailed additional surveys. Participants could submit their responses via mail or online until the survey closed on September 15th.

In total, over 78,700 nurses (30%) responded to the survey. A formal nonresponse analysis was conducted and a weighting scheme was used in the analysis process to adjust the distribution across states, age, and gender. Selected results from the RN and LPN surveys are below:

Registered Nurses (RN)

  • 50% of the RNs were age 50 or older, down from 53% in 2013.
  • Data indicated an increasing proportion of men in the RN workforce. Among respondents licensed prior to 2000, 5.8% were male, while of those licensed between 2013 and 2015, 14.1% were male.
  • 19.5% of the RN respondents identified as racial/ethnic minorities. Newly-licensed nurses had a more diverse racial/ethnic composition.
Graphs depicting Age Distribution of RNs and Employment Status and Age of RNs
  • 42% of RNs had a BSN or higher degree as their initial credential, while 65% had obtained a baccalaureate or higher degree (in any field) as their highest level of education.
  • 6.7% of the RN workforce were foreign-educated.
  • The following states had greater than 10% foreign-educated nurses currently practicing: California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and DC.
  • The median salary for female RNs was $64,000; the median salary for male RNs was $72,000.
  • 51.2% of RNs reported never utilizing telehealth methods to deliver patient care; 31.4% of RNs reported utilizing telehealth between 1 and 25% of their time.
Graphs depicting Percent of Male RNs and Age Distribution of NPs

Licensed Practical Nurses/Vocational Nurses (LPN/VN)

  • Data indicated an increasing proportion of men in the LPN/VN workforce: for respondents licensed prior to 2000, 4.7% were male, while of those licensed between 2013 and 2015, 12.7% were male.
  • Newly-licensed LPN/VNs were more likely to report a more diverse racial/ethnic background. Of LPN/VNs licensed prior to 2000, 78.8% were White/Caucasian versus 55.6% of LPN/VNs licensed from 2013 to 2015.
  • 17.6% of foreign-educated LPN/VNs held BSN degrees, compared to 0.3% for US-educated LPN/VNs.
Graphs depicting Age Distribution of LPN/VNs and Employment Status and Age of LPN/VNs
  • A substantially larger proportion of foreign-educated LPN/VNs were male (22.7%) compared to US-educated (6.7%).
  • 30.1% of LPN/VNs primary employment setting was nursing home/extended care, followed by 15% home health, and 10.8% hospitals.
  • The median earnings for female LPN/VNs was $38,000; the median earnings for male LPN/VNs was $43,200.
  • 53.9% of LPN/VNs reported never utilizing telehealth methods to deliver care to patients; 23.3% of RNs reported utilizing telehealth between 1 and 25% of their time.
Graph depicting highest level of Education: US vs Foreign-educated LPN/VNs

Results of the 2015 National Nursing Workforce Survey are available in the April issue of the Journal of Nursing Regulation (JNR). The National Nursing Workforce Study is an example of NCSBN’s commitment to generating new knowledge through research. NCSBN remains dedicated to advancing the science of nursing regulation and contributing to the body of knowledge that will enhance public protection and make health care safer and more accessible for all.