February 20, 2024

Nursing workforce expected to fully rebound from pandemic low

Editor's Note

Although RN employment dropped significantly during the past few years, updated workforce forecasts with numbers similar to those projected prior to the pandemic indicate that the decline was likely temporary. Jama Health Forum published the data February 16.

For the study, researchers pulled data on registered nurses aged 23 to 69 employed from 1982 to 2023 from the Census Current Population Survey. Highlights include:

  • At the height of the pandemic In 2021, the US RN workforce fell by more than 100 000 – the largest single-year drop than the industry has seen in four decades. 
  • However, RN employment has increased steadily since then, rising 6% in 2022 and 2023 from 2019 numbers (3.16 million to 3.35 million).
  • Based on projections, the researchers conclude that the RN workforce will likely increase by about 1.2 million FTEs by 2035 to 4.56 million nurses, bringing it in line with pre-pandemic forecasts.
  • They anticipate that this growth will be largely driven by RNs aged 35 to 49 years. This age group is expected to make up nearly half (47%) of the RN workforce in 2035, up from 38% in 2022.

“The forecasted growth will be large enough to replace RNs who will retire and further expand the workforce by RNs by roughly 1.2 million by 2035,” the researchers conclude.  

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