Preliminary data from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses

Preliminary data from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses was released earlier today (3/17/10).  Below are a few highlights; more details may be accessed online at

Number: Growing

  • The U.S. has more licensed registered nurses (RNs) than ever (an estimated 3,063,163 – a 5.3 percent increase since the last survey in 2004)
  • For every 100,000 people, there are 854 RNs, up from 825 in 2004, but with variations from State to State. Utah has the fewest, 598 RNs for each 100,000 people. The District of Columbia has the most, 1,868 per 100,000.
  • Most RNs are actively practicing nursing (84.8 percent – highest in the history of the survey) and most are working full time (63.2 percent vs. 58.4 percent in 2004 – the first increase since 1996).

Demographics: More Diverse

  • White, non-Hispanics (65.6 percent of U.S. population) comprise 83.2 percent of licensed RNs, a decrease since 2004, when 87.5 percent of RNs were white. Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (non-Hispanic) are the next largest group at 5.8 percent (4.5 percent of U.S. population). African Americans (non-Hispanic) are 5.4 percent of RNs (12.2 percent of U.S. population) and Hispanics/Latinos of any race are 3.6 percent of RNs (15.4 percent of U.S. population).
  • Women outnumber men by more than 15 to 1 in the overall number of RNs, but among only those who became RNs after 1990, there is one male RN for every 10 women.

Education: Increasing

  • One-third (33.7 percent) of RNs beginning their careers did so with a bachelor’s degree, up from 31 percent in 2004 and twice as many as in 1980.
  • Fewer RNs entered nursing with a diploma – just 20.4 percent, continuing the trend since 1980, when 63.7 percent of RNs entered the nursing workforce with a diploma.
  • Significantly more RNs have advanced degrees – 404,163 in 2008, up from 275,068 in 2000.

Age: Stabilizing

  • The average age of all licensed RNs increased to 47.0 years in 2008 from 46.8 in 2004; this represents a stabilization after many years of continuing large increases in average age.
  • Nearly 45 percent of RNs were 50 years of age or older in 2008, a dramatic increase from 33 percent in 2000 and 25 percent in 1980.
  • Although the number of RNs younger than 40 dropped steadily between 1980 and 2004, there was an increase in 2008 and they now comprise 29.5 percent of all RNs.