Talent Tuesday: Roundtable on New National Survey on the State of the Nursing Workforce

Roundtable with national nursing leaders explored latest survey findings and the future of the nursing workforce

New data is the first comprehensive federal survey of registered nurses — the largest health care profession in the United States — since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic

Carole Johnson, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), recently convened leaders from over 25 nursing and health care organizations for a roundtable discussion on the newly released findings of the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses — the first comprehensive federal survey of nurses since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The survey is a comprehensive picture of the nursing workforce, the largest health care profession in the United States, conducted every four years by HRSA’s National Center for Health Workforce Analysis in collaboration with the U. S. Census Bureau. Nearly 50,000 nurses responded to the survey questions and reported on topics such as education, training, job satisfaction, as well as their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her comments, Administrator Johnson underscored that nurses are the backbone of the health care system and how HRSA has used this survey for nearly 50 years to hear directly from nurses across the country about their experiences to strengthen patient care, identify opportunities to support nurses, and learn how we can best grow the health workforce. She also emphasized how the survey findings and feedback from participants reinforce the need to increase our investment in the nursing workforce and invest in innovative new training approaches. The Biden-Harris Administration has continuously focused on new investments to train more nurses and support the nursing workforce, growing HRSA’s nursing workforce budget by over 20%. The President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget proposes a $20 million increase in funding for nurse training, as well as $10 million to support innovation in health workforce training.

Dr. Michelle Washko, who leads HRSA’s National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, reported on the survey results, saying that while the survey captured nurses reporting leaving the field as a result of the pandemic, in aggregate the registered nurse workforce grew by about 400,000 since the 2018 survey. The nursing workforce is younger and becoming more diverse with greater percentages of people of color and of men since the previous survey. Job satisfaction of nurses remains high (80%), even though nurses reported high levels of burnout during the pandemic.

Participants at the roundtable discussed the importance of the new data and the investments HRSA is making to support growing the nursing workforce and retaining the current workforce. Several participants noted the important role of pathways for underrepresented students to become nurses and the need to support nurse training in clinical settings. Nurse faculty are a necessary part of the infrastructure that is needed to grow the workforce and address shortages. The need for faculty and preceptors is often identified as a factor that can limit growth of the nursing field. All participants underscored the impact that COVID-19 had on the nursing workforce and stressed the importance of innovative solutions to address burnout. Several participants noted the importance of exploring the root causes of the particularly acute challenges in recruiting and retaining nurses in certain settings and geographic areas, such as rural communities and historically underserved communities. Participants appreciated HRSA’s investments in nurse faculty and clinical preceptors as well as health workforce models like nurse residency programs in helping to address these issues.

HRSA supports the nursing workforce with financial assistance to individuals to help pay for nursing school through scholarship programs and loan repayment programs. In addition, HRSA funds nurse training grant and loan programs to support growing the nursing workforce including the important role nurses play in addressing health care priorities like improving maternal health, increasing access to primary care, and expanding behavioral health.

Leadership from the following organizations participated in the roundtable:

  • AARP Center for Health Equity through Nursing
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses
  • American Association of Medical Colleges
  • American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology
  • American College of Nurse-Midwives
  • American Nurses Association
  • Association of Clinicians for the Underserved
  • Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
  • Center for Health Workforce Studies, University at Albany
  • Center for Health Workforce Studies, University of Washington
  • Children’s Hospital Association
  • Colorado Nurses Association
  • Delaware Nurses Association
  • George Washington University, Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity
  • Louisiana State Nurses Association
  • Maryland Nurses Association, Inc.
  • Mercer County Community College
  • Michigan State University
  • Missouri Nurses Association
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses
  • National Black Nurses Association
  • National Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers
  • National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties
  • Organization for Associate Degree Nursing
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of the District of Columbia
  • Washington Center for Nursing

To learn more about the NSSRN or to download data and further analysis of the data, visit National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN).