Slow Growth in the United States of the Number of Minorities in the RN Workforce

Authors

  • Peter I. Buerhaus RN, PhD, FAAN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Peter I. Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, Alpha Chi, Director, Harvard Nursing Research Institute and Assistant Professor, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. David Auerbach, MS, doctoral student in Health Policy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. The opinions and conclusions are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Harvard Nursing Research Institute.
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  • David Auerbach MS

    1. Peter I. Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, Alpha Chi, Director, Harvard Nursing Research Institute and Assistant Professor, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. David Auerbach, MS, doctoral student in Health Policy, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. The opinions and conclusions are solely those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Harvard Nursing Research Institute.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • The authors thank Hattie Bessent for inspiring this research and manuscript.

Dr. Buerhaus, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave., Kresge Room 400, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: pbuer@hsph.harvard.edu

Abstract

Purpose:

To assess the extent to which the number of minority RNs has grown during the past 20 years, and to identify and compare key trends in personal and professional characteristics among minority groups and between minority and majority populations of RNs. Nursing education programs, employers, philanthropic organizations, and governments have expended considerable effort and resources to increase the number of minorities in nursing.

Design:

Longitudinal analysis of trends in the number, education, employment, and earnings of minority RNs from 1977 to 1997.

Methods:

Descriptive analysis of data from the U.S. National Sample Surveys of the Population of Registered Nurses, 1977-1996; and data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey (CPS) Outgoing Rotation Croup Annual Merged Files, 1977-1997.

Findings:

In the past 20 years, the number of minority RNs has grown from 87,386 (or 6.3% of the total supply of RNs) in 1977 to 246,364 RNs (9.7%) in 1996. The number of Black (nonHispanic), Asian Pacific/Islanders, and American Indian/Alaskan Native nurses nearly tripled in this period while the number of Hispanics doubled. Although these rates of growth are impressive, the percentage of minorities in nursing lags considerably behind the percentage (18.3%) who are teachers, and the percentage (28.2%) in the U.S. population.

Conclusions:

Studies are needed to determine the barriers that exist in nursing education programs, health care organizations, and society in general that deter minorities from a nursing career. Without this understanding, efforts to design and implement ideas to attract, educate, and retain minorities in nursing education and later in the workplace are hampered.

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