Although the number of licensed registered nurses in the United States increased by more than 5% between 1996 and 2000, this growth rate was much smaller than in previous years, holding little hope of any quick fix for the nation’s worsening nursing shortage. The good news, however, is that the number of racial and ethnic minority nurses showed a small but significant increase during the same period, and the number of men in nursing crept upward as well.

These are some of the key findings of the long-awaited 2000 edition of the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN), published by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing.

Regarded as the nation’s “information bible” of statistics on the RN profession, the NSSRN tracks nurses’ educational background, specialty areas of practice, employment status, geographical distribution, salaries, ages and much more. The 2000 report was published in spring 2001; the previous edition came out in 1996.

Here’s a closer look at some of the survey’s results:

• As of March 2000, the estimated total number of licensed RNs in the U.S. was 2,696,540—a 5.4% increase from 1996. However, compared to the estimated 14.2% increase in the RN population that occurred between 1992 and 1996, this latest figure clearly reflects a serious slowdown in the growth of the profession.

• Racial and ethnic minority nurses now account for 13.4% of the total RN population, up from 10.3% four years ago. With the exception of American Indian/Alaskan Native nurses, all minority groups tracked by the sample survey showed increases, albeit small ones (see charts). Reflecting the U.S. Census’ new multicultural approach, the 2000 NSSRN gave nurses the option of categorizing themselves as “multiracial” for the first time.

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• Between 1996 and 2000, the percentage of men in the total RN population rose from 4.9% to 5.4%.

• When both initial and post-RN education are taken into account, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and African-American nurses are more likely than white and Hispanic nurses to have at least baccalaureate preparation. Furthermore, 11.1% of black nurses held master’s or doctoral degrees as of March 2000, compared to 10.4% of white RNs, 10.2% of Hispanic RNs and 5% of Asian RNs.


• The three most common employment settings reported by RNs in 2000 were hospitals (59.1%), public/community health centers (18.3%) and ambulatory care (9.5%). More minority nurses than white nurses reported being currently employed in nursing at the time of the survey (86.4% vs. 81%), and minority nurses were more likely to work full-time than their Caucasian counterparts (86% vs. 70%).

For more information about the new RN Sample Survey, visit HRSA’s Web site at (click on “Health Professions”), or contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, Division of Nursing, Rockville, MD 20857.

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