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Characteristics of nurse leaders in hospitals in the USA from 1992 to 2008


Judith A. Westphal
College of Nursing
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
800 Algoma Boulevard
WI 54901


Aim  Describe the nurse leader workforce in hospitals in the USA over time by exploring three research questions: (1) What are the characteristics of the nurse leader workforce in US hospitals? (2) How does the nurse leader workforce change over time? (3) How do nurses in executive positions (administrators) differ from nurses in first-line supervisory positions (supervisors)?

Background  Effective nurse leaders use management skills to ensure safe patient care in hospitals in the USA. Changes in the nurse leader workforce have an impact on patient care.

Method  A non-experimental design was used to explore the characteristics of 10 150 nurse leaders using the 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 National Sample Surveys of Registered Nurses.

Results  Number of masters and doctorally prepared nurse leaders increased from 14.5% to 23.2% along with an increase in mean age. A 30% decrease in the number of nurses in leadership positions was found. Male nurses reported significantly higher salaries P < 0.000.

Conclusions  Nurse leaders are older and have achieved higher educational degrees. Salary disparities based on gender still prevail.

Implications for nursing management  Identifying and developing future leaders with necessary skills and competencies is critical for organizational success.