Skip to content
Skip to content
Open navigation

Nurses in the Workforce


The nation's 4.3 million registered nurses work in every aspect of health care and are crucial in delivering care, evolving health care systems locally and nationally, closing health disparities, and improving the nation’s health. Harnessing the full power and promise of nurses and the nursing profession depends on addressing complex issues such as:

  • Building an adequate supply of nurses;
  • Creating Safe, empowering, and healthy work environments;
  • Public policy that supports quality health care;
  • Laws and regulations that enable nurses to practice at the full extent of their education and licensure.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing shortages occurred on and off due to factors such as economic downturns, waves of retiring nurses, and increased health care demand.

As the pandemic hit in March 2020, nurses, who represent the largest group of health care professionals in the country, already were under strain due to factors such as:

  • Retirements outpacing new entrants to the field;
  • Increased demand for health care from aging and chronic disease populations;
  • Inadequate workforce support


During the pandemic, demand for RNs surged. This combined with other existing factors to considerably worsen the nursing shortage and expose the workplace challenges nurses face. Nurses are under immense stress and feel the full weight of an overburdened, poorly functioning health care system.

About the Supply of Nurses

Rising Openings and Employment—The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 194,500 average annual openings for registered nurses between 2020 and 2030, with employment projected to grow 9%.

Accelerating Retirements—In 2020, the median age of RNs was 52 years with more than one-fifth indicating intent to retire from nursing over the next 5 years, according to the 2020 National Council of State Boards of Nursing and National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers national survey of the US nursing workforce. The pandemic has accelerated this trend.

More On The Nursing Shortage And Workforce

These organizations offer resources, data and statistics on the number of RNs, RN licenses, employment, and nursing school enrollment:

The Future

To address the on-going pandemic and changing patient demographics and its demands on the health care system, more nurses will be needed in practice areas such as telehealth, home health, long-term care and rehabilitation, and outpatient care centers.

ANA closely monitors, analyzes, and acts on federal legislation, policies, and rulemaking involving the nursing workforce, work environment, shortage, and practice authority. We collaborate with our constituent and state nurses associations on how federal actions could impact state and local jurisdictions. In turn, C/SNAs closely follow activities in their states and communities, and they apprise ANA about these developments so that together, we have a global picture of policy and regulatory trends that affect the nursing profession. Learn more about ANA’s advocacy efforts.

Detailed resources on the nursing workforce

  • Title VIII (Nursing Workforce Development) Funding and the RN National Licensure Exam  In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson enacted the Nurse Training Act (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act), which has provided educational opportunities, career paths, loans, grants, and scholarships for generations of nurses. Congress’ annual Title VIII funding allocation has been closely associated with the development of new nurses. For example, from 1990 to 2000, when funding averaged $60 million, about 118,000 took the nursing exam (NCLEX) annually. From 2001 to 2013, when funding increased by an average of more than $100 million in real dollars annually, the number of exam takers jumped to about 172,000 annually.
  • Fast Facts: 2014 Nursing Workforce Find details about nursing job growth and salaries by region and practice level; demographics of the workforce; new graduates’ job-seeking results; and nursing school capacity and faculty shortages.
  • Nursing Job Growth and Salaries by State (2013). Where will the most new nursing jobs be located in the future? What states have the highest growth rates for nursing employment? Where can RNs expect the highest salaries? Find out in this state-by-state chart, with figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Employment and Compensation Estimates for RNs and Selected APRNs, 2013, USA Total and States
  • Nursing Salaries in the Top 50 Metro Areas Of the U.S.’s 50 largest metro areas, the top five for RNs’ median salary are in California. Nineteen of the top 20 are in the West or Northeast. Of the bottom 25, 13 are in the South and 9 in the Midwest/Central.
  • ANA Health Economist Peter McMenamin, PhD, asks “It’s 2022 – Where have all the nurses gone?” This mini-report/blog post outlines how the nursing workforce pipeline has evolved over 50 years and warns of the anticipated acceleration of RN retirements.
  • Charts and Tables of RN and APRN Employment Data. ANA’s Health Economist Peter McMenamin constructed these charts and tables from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Learn how your state compares to national averages.
  • Nurse Staffing
  • Nursing License Map is a simple guide to nursing licensure in your state, helping you to advance your nursing career.

You May Also Like

Item(s) added to cart

Go to cart Continue Shopping