Nursing is the nation's largest healthcare profession, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 84.5% are employed in nursing.1
The federal government projects that more than 200,000 new registered nurse positions will be created each year from 2016-2026.2
Registered Nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the U.S. workforce as a whole and are among the highest paying large occupations. Nearly 58% of RNs worked in general medical and surgical hospitals, where RN salaries averaged $70,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.3
Nurses comprise the largest component of the healthcare workforce, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation's long-term care.
Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in the RN workforce will occur for a number of reasons, including an increased emphasis on preventive care; growing rates of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity; and demand for healthcare services from the baby-boom population, as they live longer and more active lives.4
Most healthcare services involve some form of care by nurses. Registered nurses are in high demand in both acute care and community settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, minute clinics, outpatient surgicenters, nursing school-operated clinics, insurance and managed care companies, schools, mental health agencies, hospices, the military, industry, nursing education, and healthcare research.
Though often working collaboratively, nursing does not "assist" medicine or other fields. Nursing operates independent of, not auxiliary to, medicine and other disciplines. Nurses' roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems.
With more than three times as many RNs in the United States as physicians, nursing delivers an extended array of healthcare services, including primary and preventive care by nurse practitioners with specialized education in such areas as pediatrics, family health, women's health, and gerontological care. Nursing's scope also includes services by certified nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists, as well as care in cardiac, oncology, neonatal, neurological, and obstetric/gynecological nursing and other advanced clinical specialties.5
Most registered nurses today enter practice with a baccalaureate degree offered by a four-year college or university or an associate degree offered by a community college.2
Employers are expressing a strong preference for new nurses with baccalaureate preparation. Findings from AACN latest survey on the Employment of New Nurse Graduates show that 46% of employers require new hires to have a bachelor’s degree while 88% strongly prefer baccalaureate-prepared nurses.6
In 2018, 17.1% of the nation's registered nurses held a master's degree and 1.9% a doctoral degree as their highest educational preparation. The current demand for master's- and doctorally prepared nurses for advanced practice, clinical specialties, teaching, and research roles far outstrips the supply.1
Smiley, R.A., Lauer, P., Bienemy, C., Berg, J.G., Shireman, E., Reneau, K.A., & Alexander, M. (October 2018). The 2017 National Nursing Workforce Survey. Journal of Nursing Regulation, 9(3), supplement (S1-S54).
Torpey, E. (April 2018). Employer outlook for bachelor’s level occupations. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (May 2018). Occupational Employment and Wages.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2018). Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses.