TAN Issue: January/February 1998: News: Survey of RNs shows strong opportunities in nursing

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The Division of Nursing, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has just released data that show that nursing remains a desirable, life-long career opportunity.

According to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, as of March 1996, about 2.5 million nurses had current licenses to practice in the United States. Of these, about 83 percent were employed in nursing. The average age of licensed RNs was 44.3 years, while the average age among those employed in nursing was 42.3 years.

Sixty percent of employed registered nurses (about 1.2 million) work in hospitals. Seventeen percent work in a community or public health setting. Ambulatory care settings -- including physician or nurse solo or group practices and HMOs -- employ 8.5 percent. Nursing homes or other extended care facilities are the workplaces for about 8.1 percent of the total. The remaining employed RNs work in other settings such as nursing education, national or state administrative offices or associations, or insurance companies.

Slightly more than half of RNs have a diploma or an associate's degree, while 31.8 percent have a bachelor's degree as their highest nursing-related educational preparation. The number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees has more than doubled since 1980, to about 675,000 in 1996. Employed registered nurses with master's degrees represent 9.1 percent, and those with doctoral degrees account for 6 percent of employed RNs.

An estimated 6.3 percent of RNs have formal preparation to practice in advanced practice registered nursing positions (clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse-midwives).

The average salary of a full-time RN in March 1996 was about $42,000, an increase of 11 percent over the average salary of about $38,000 in 1992. RNs in staff nurse positions averaged about $38,500 in 1996, an increase of 9.5 percent since 1992. The average annual salary for all full-time employed RNs has increased 33 percent since 1988.

Overall, RNs spent 59.8 percent of their work time each week in direct patient care, 14.7 percent in administration, 9.7 percent in supervision, 8.5 percent in consultation, 4.9 percent in teaching and 1.9 percent in research.

The nursing profession does not represent the diversity seen in the general population: nearly 90 percent of the RN population is white compared to roughly 72 percent of the total U.S. population. (See diversity articles throughout this issue.) Men represent 5.4 percent of total employed nurses.

Both the ANA's Congress on Nursing Practice and the Tricouncil of Nursing are analyzing the sample survey. Watch upcoming issues of The American Nurse for more on the survey results.

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