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 RN Data Sources 

In an online discussion convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers cite existing data sources as adequate for analyzing nurse workforce supply and demand, as well as conducting longitudinal workforce studies and making projections. Documentation of the webinar, titled “Data: An Overview of What is Collected, Where to Access It and How to Use It,” (December 13, 2012) is available on the Future of Nursing: Center to Champion Nursing in America Web site.

NSSRN Discontinued

In June 2012, HRSA announced its plans to discontinue the HRSA National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN), which captured detailed information about RN supply; educational background; employment/job satisfaction; salaries; gender, racial/ethnic background, age, and family structure.

While many groups remain concerned about the loss of the NSSRN, RWJF researchers assert that the survey cannot be used to make detailed predictions about nurse supply/demand in some states because the sample size is not large enough, and that the NSSRN only captures data about currently practicing RNs vs. all licensed RNs regardless of current employment. Also, findings from the NSSRN are not available for at least two years, often rendering them somewhat outdated by the time they are released.

Standardizing Data from the States

In 2010, the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) partnered to adopt national nursing workforce “minimum data sets” which collect the minimum needed information that is necessary for RN workforce planning: nursing supply, demand and education. The data sets are intended to establish standardized data to be collected by each state as part of a larger effort to effectively quantify and address the country’s critical nursing shortage - which is expected to grow to between 340,000 and 1,000,000 RN full-time equivalent vacancies by 2020. A few state nursing workforce centers are already collecting the minimum data sets, while others aspire to do so.

Of 30 state nursing workforce centers, 28 can access nursing education data, 29/30 can access nursing supply data, employment information (license type, date of birth, employment settings) and 13/30 can access nursing demand data (this last is lower since employers consider this information proprietary and only includes FTEs, not per diem workers nor vacant FTE positions recruiting, on hold or frozen.)

IOM Recommendation Progress

According to dashboard indicators on nursing education and other Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing recommendations:

  • In 2010, “49% of employed nurses held a BSN or higher,” meaning a BSN or non-nursing baccalaureate or higher degree.
  • Fall enrollment of DNPs increased 19% from 2011 to 2012 [DNPs=7034; PhDs = 4811]

Data Releases in 2013

Supply: NCSBN and Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers will release nurse supply data in early 2013.

Demand: The Forum will release nurse demand data and analysis by June 2013.

Projections:  The National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (NCHWA) is charged with estimating the supply and demand for health workers in order to inform decision-making around health workforce investments. The NCHWA has several projects underway to produce detailed workforce projections for key health professions, and to produce projections for most health occupations (cross-occupations projections) over the next several years.

  1. Clinical Specialty Projections (Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants):  December 2012
  2. Nursing Workforce Projections: September 2013
  3. Oral Health:  October 2013
  4. Clinical Specialty Projections:  October 2014
  5. Allied Health:  October 2015
  6. Nursing:  October 2016
  7. Cross-Occupations Projections:  2013 and 2014 

Existing Data Sources

The panel of nursing workforce researchers cited existing data sources for nursing education, demographic and employment characteristics.

To monitor nursing education, the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers and NCSBN plan to use data from NCSBN, AACN, IPEDS and RWJF Survey of Nurse Executives.

For demographic information, data will be drawn from the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis (state-level estimates), American Community Survey (U. S. Census data) and AHRF/ARF (county-level data).

For employment, the American Hospital Association data will be used. Unfortunately, many of these data sources, such as the American Community Survey and ARF, are not conducive to quick study and are designed for use by professional researchers.

For further information on these data sources:

  • NCSBN, which administers the NCLEX-RN and International NCLEX and maintains a national licensure database of RN/PNs; regulatory activity relating to the supply of nursing workforce data; recently attached licensure renewal in eight states to the minimum dataset to streamline data gathering, with data updated daily. Goal is to provide this in all states. Licensure data is available in an interactive map, by state. 
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which conducts surveys of nursing education programs and post-licensure BSNs, MSNs and doctoral-level RNs.
  • National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, U.S. state-level estimates to be released in February 2013.
  • American Community Surveywhich is collected by the U. S. Census Bureau, collects workforce data. One challenge of this source is that this raw data is more legible to the professional researcher than the lay reader.
  • Area Health Resource File (AHRF/ARF) consists of county-level data on population, mortality and health professionals.
  • American Hospital Association, which gathers nursing employment data on vacancy rates and staffing patterns.
  • IPEDS, which provides % of new RN graduate demographic/diversity data.
  • Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), which provides hospitals with residency requirements
  • Interagency Collaborative on Nursing Statistics (ICONS), which consists of researchers from a variety of organizations/agencies that have direct involvement in the performance of studies of a national scope that yield data about characteristics of nurses, nursing workforce and/or nursing education.

 Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Roxanne Fulcher
Director, Health Professions Policy
Ph: 202.728.0200 x274

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