December 6th, 2016 – By Jean Moore, DrPH, and Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D, RN, FAAN


Upcoming webinars on state level nursing data collection, analysis and dissemination will help stakeholders better understand the major challenges facing the nursing profession and the strategies used to support nursing workforce data collection, analysis and dissemination.


Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, The Health Workforce Technical Assistance Center, and the The Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) at the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY) are pleased to co-sponsor a three-part webinar series in January, February, and March of 2017 on nursing workforce data collection, analysis, and research.


Why You Should Participate in These State-level Nursing Data and Research Webinars

There are a number of critical challenges facing the nursing profession today. How well planners, policymakers, and other key stakeholders overcome these challenges will greatly influence nursing’s ability to influence the evolution of health delivery systems and improve the health of the nation. Yet, overcoming these challenges, described below, will require high quality and timely data which reflect what is happening at a state-level and can describe, among other things, how nursing roles are changing, the settings where nursing employment is growing or shrinking, and whether there are local imbalances in supply of and demand for nurses. Each of the three webinars will describe and discuss strategies being used to collect data, conduct analysis, and disseminate information on these topics, and more.

Challenges Facing the Nursing Profession

Over the next 10 years, the nation’s nursing workforce will face four major challenges. First, the country’s baby boom generation will grow older. Already, each day approximately 10,000 people reach 65 and become eligible for Medicare.1

Many of the nearly 80 million baby boomers have multiple chronic conditions—diabetes, heart disease, obesity, disabilities, and degenerative diseases.2 Consequently, the demand for registered nurses will increase—no one really knows by how much—and the intensity of nursing care required by these complex patients will increase as well. What’s more, Medicare will continue to see expanded enrollment from aging baby boomers, who will all reach age 65 or older by 2030.1

Second, substantial shortages of physicians are projected over the next 10 years. These shortages will not only involve primary care physicians but specialists as well. The Association of American Medical Colleges forecasts shortages of primary care physicians ranging between 25,000 and 36,000, and total physician shortages as high as 95,000 by 2025.3 These shortages are likely to increase the demand not only for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), but for registered nurses (RNs) as well. In October, The Josiah Macy Foundation released a report recommending expanding the numbers and roles of RNs in the primary care delivery system.4  

Third, health care delivery system transformation begun under the ACA coupled with new reforms under the Trump administration will likely increase the demand for nurses and stimulate new roles for them as well. Current efforts seek to increase the efficiency and accountability of health care delivery systems and are likely to continue in the years ahead. Other reforms that emphasize population health, a focus on primary care and prevention, and addressing the social determinants of health are also unlikely to change. And payment system reform aimed at shifting away from volume- based utilization incentives in the fee-for-service system in favor of more efficient, value-driven care are likely to continue.   Taken together, these and other reforms will change the delivery landscape facing the nursing profession in ways that are not easy to forecast and will evolve over time.

The fourth challenge facing the country’s nursing workforce is the anticipated retirement of one-third of working RNs over the next 10 years.4 National-level projections suggest that if the recent inflow of younger RNs into the profession continues, enough RNs will be available nationally to replace the more than one million RNs expected to retire. While encouraging, there will be many areas of the nation where retirements will occur faster, larger, and sooner than other areas, and many areas will experience different rates of entry into the workforce, potentially compromising the ability to replace retiring RNs. This means that local conditions are likely to differ greatly from a national perspective. Further, those retiring from the nursing workforce will have decades worth of knowledge and experience! Replacing these nurses quantitatively is one thing, but making up for millions of years of lost nursing experience is quite another.

Each of these challenges—the aging baby boomers, physician shortages, health reform implementation, retirement of one-third of the nation’s nursing workforce—will affect the nursing profession in substantial ways. But what makes the next ten years particularly important, if historic, is that all of these challenges will occur at the same time!

It is hard to imagine a time when there is greater need for the right data, high quality data, timely data, and data that captures state and local level information on the nursing workforce. Moreover, it is not sufficient to merely collect these data – it is critical to develop effective dissemination strategies to help policy makers and other stakeholders understand what we are learning from these data.


What Do We Know About State-level Nursing Data Collection?

The Health Workforce Technical Assistance Center is conducting an ongoing survey of states to learn more about their efforts to collect, analyze and disseminate data. Here’s what we know so far5:

  • 30 states report collecting data on nursing professions, including RNs, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives/midwives, and licensed practical nurses
  • 31 organizations in those states collect nursing data including state agencies, universities, nursing centers, and area health education centers, among others
  • The vast majority of those states collect supply data and about a third of them collect nursing demand data
  • About two-thirds of states report collecting supply data through relicensing surveys


What Else We Need to Know:

  • Better information about the quality, consistency, and timeliness of the nursing data collected by states
  • How do states use these data?

o   Do they inform state policy decisions?

  • Are there best practices in data collection, analysis, and dissemination that can:

o   enhance nurses’ ability to understand changes in delivery and financing,

o   help prepare nurses for new roles and to adapt to different care delivery settings and employer expectations,

o   improve nurses’ ability to provide high-quality nursing care, and

o   recommend strategies that strengthen the nursing workforce?


We’re looking forward to this very informative webinar series and hope to “see” you there!

Jean & Peter





1. Baby Boomers Retire. Pew Research Center. 2010. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2016.


2. The Challenge of Managing Multiple Chronic Conditions. HHSgov. 2016. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2016.


3. Association of American Medical Colleges. Physician Supply And Demand Through 2025: Key Findings; 2015. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2016.


4. Registered Nurses: Partners In Transforming Primary Care. Atlanta, GA: Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation; 2016. Available at: Accessed November 28, 2016.


5. Armstrong DP, Liu Y, Forte GJ. Inventory of State Health Workforce Data Collection. Rensselaer, NY: Center for Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, SUNY Albany; November 2016