I’ve just finished my first two weeks in my new job as an allergy and asthma nurse. What a crazy whirlwind it has been! The first day, I walked into our new office and was slightly alarmed: every room was completely bare. We literally started from ground zero. Over the course of the first week, I helped move in exam room beds, hang shelves, unload supplies, and make copies of school forms. I guess I didn’t realize how much work it would be to set up even the most basic things. Questions like, where do I order this from? or who do I ask for that? swirled around in my brain, and it seemed like my “to-do” list was never-ending.
Miraculously, we were ready to see patients by the following Monday. With a lot of bumps along the way, we made it to Friday and saw a total of 17 new patients. I am learning more about the field of allergy and asthma every day, and after floating for a year, it feels good to focus on one specialty. There’s so much more work to do in the office and so much more knowledge to soak in, but I’m feeling optimistic that there are some pretty amazing things in store!
For this week’s blog, I thought it might be fun to gather a few nationwide nursing statistics and compare them to my personal experience. I find it helpful to sometimes widen my perspective of nursing since my day-to-day nursing duties rarely cause me to think big-picture about my fellow nurses at work across the nation.
I’ve included the links to the sites where I found the statistics at the bottom. (Sometimes there were small discrepancies in percentages between sites, but I did my best to relay the most accurate information. The data is relatively recent, but as always, the numbers are always changing with time).
- 9.1% of Registered Nurses (RNs) in the United States are men. 1
Nursing has predominantly been a female-dominated profession since its beginnings. Most websites that I found reported over 3 million RNs in the United States, and if we apply the 9.1% to that number, it comes to about 273,000 male nurses total in the U.S. Men are woefully in the minority when it comes to nursing. This statistic is definitely congruent with my experience as a nurse. During school, there were eight men in my class of 61 (roughly 13%). At my current workplace, I work with zero male nurses. I think the nursing profession could greatly benefit from a more balanced gender distribution. The men in my graduating nursing class were just as brilliant, caring, and patient-oriented as any one of the female students. Society’s tendency to see nursing as a more “feminine” occupation only does the profession a disservice.
- The average age of an RN in the U.S. is 51 years old. 2
Yikes. In my opinion, this is a very scary statistic. Not only is it scary when you realize that a large number of nurses will be retiring in the next 10-15 years, but a great amount of the general population is also retiring within that time frame. As people live longer and suffer from chronic conditions, geriatric healthcare will be in desperate need of nurses. Nurses are already experiencing workforce shortages, and this impending situation will further strain the current limited number of nurses.
- 63% of RNs are employed in hospitals .1
Most of my peers that I graduated nursing school with work in the hospital. Hospitals are well equipped to train new graduate nurses, and big institutions offer plenty of opportunities to enhance skills and pursue career advancement. For many, the hospital is a perfect place to start a career because it serves as a solid foundation for future nursing jobs. Personally, I don’t work in a hospital or inpatient setting, so I would be in the minority group of both my nursing graduating class and the general RN population. I am intrigued by “unconventional” nursing employment opportunities, such as outpatient clinics (where I am now), school systems, virtual education programs, legal consulting, and home health. These avenues are probably not as financially advantageous as a hospital, but I value the versatility of community-based nursing and working with patients who can implement health actions within their natural environment. As a nurse who works outside of the hospital, I have the chance to reduce the possibility of patients being admitted for an inpatient stay.
- Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with more than three times as many RNs as physicians. 3
Basically, there are a whole lot of nurses in the U.S. When I ponder the sheer number of RNs across the nation, I can see how there is definite potential to make healthcare changes: changes that will promote patient care from a nursing perspective. I might not have much contact with other RNs during my daily nursing duties, but I can join local nursing organizations to stay up to date on the latest evidence-based practice and potentially join a group to create legal changes that will increase the quality of life for patients, nurses, or both! When many people come together, great changes can be made.
- 17% of RNs hold a master’s degree and 1.9% of RNs hold a doctoral degree. 3
Compared to other professions, the amount of RNs with graduate degrees is relatively low. Perhaps this is because nursing is considered a “practice” profession, and pursuing a degree after receiving a “Registered Nurse” license seems unnecessary to many people. However, like any discipline, nursing has its own body of knowledge that can only grow and develop if the people who study it consistently push the boundaries of current practice.
In a previous blog, I’ve shared a bit about why I decided to postpone graduate school for the time being, but I still believe that it is important to pursue new knowledge as nurses. More knowledge and research can only propel the profession to new levels.