Diversity in Nursing is Growing

The nursing workforce has come a long way since the typical young white female, dressed in a white dress, characterized by World War I. There are more licensed registered nurses are in the United States than ever before, according to the survey "The Registered Nurse Population: Initial Findings from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses" conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A large workforce consisting of 3,063,163 people, they are steadily becoming more diverse when it comes to age and race.

For past 20 years, the age of registered nurses has steadily increased. In 1988, the group with the most people, 18.3 percent, fell into the 30 to 34 year-old age range. Twenty years later in 2008, 16.2 percent of registered nurses fell into the 50 to 54 age range, and almost 45 percent were 50 years or older. But as those in nursing positions get older, they report being less likely to work in nursing positions, and the shares of registered nurses tend to decrease for each age group after 50. Of the nurses in the 50 to 54 age range, 87.5 percent reported being less likely to work in nursing positions, and 85.1 percent of those in the 55 to 59 age range. This may be why the share of nurses under the age of 40 grew to 29.5 percent in 2008, compared to 26.6 percent in 2004, a nearly 18 percent increase.

For the most part, the registered nurse population has white, but that is beginning to change. In 2004, the percentage of white, non-Hispanics in the nursing work force was an overwhelmingly 87.5 percent, but by 2008, it decreased to 83.2 percent. Although it is by a gradual amount, the racial diversity of nurses is steadily increasing. In 2008, the second largest racial group, made up of 5.8 percent of the nursing population, was that of Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. At 5.4 percent, the third largest racial group was African Americans. Hispanic or Latinos made up the smallest racial group at 3.6 percent. Although a small percentage, the share of nurses reporting that they were Hispanic did increase from 2004, when they only made up 2.3 percent of the workforce. This group is also the quickest growing as far as nursing graduates are concerned, rising to 7.1 percent of graduates since 2005. Of those nursing students who have graduated since 2005, 4.8 percent are Asian and 7.4 percent African American.

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