Nursing Workforce Research

research 3Why Nursing Research Matters

Since 2002, the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) has been collecting, analyzing and distributing information on Oregon’s nursing workforce.

“Okay, so what?” you might ask. Why do we need in-depth information on Oregon’s nurses?

Here are just a few reasons why nursing workforce data is important:

  • Nurses make up the largest number of health care professionals in Oregon and in the United States. Knowing information on where nurses work, their practice areas and more will help health care providers, lawmakers, and educators.
  • The evidence gathered from nursing workforce data can justify funding requests, influence nursing education program planning, inform regulatory policies, identify shortage areas, and forecast employment needs.
  • The aging of the population,increased prevalence of chronic disease, expansion of health insurance coverage, and the rapid growth of new models of care will likely increase the demand for nursing services and create new roles for nurses. Nursing workforce data can track those changes and identify trends over time in nursing service delivery.
  • There is increased pressure on states to collect a common set of data elements that can be aggregated at a national level. Having common data elements, such as the Minimum Data Set (MDS) developed by the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, allows organizations to compare and contrast the nursing workforce by states and regions.

But where does the data come from?

researchNursing workforce data is collected at both the state and federal level. At the state level, nurses are surveyed when they apply for their first Oregon nursing license or when they renew their license. The Oregon Employment Department also collects general information on nurses in Oregon including salary information. The Oregon State Board of Nursing also collects data about Oregon’s nursing school programs to track the number of students enrolled and graduating nursing every year.

Nationally, several organizations collect and analyze nursing workforce data such as the National Council on State Boards of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Bureau of Labor Services.

OCN gathers information from both state and national sources to help provide a comprehensive look at Oregon’s nursing workforce. OCN also conducts additional sample surveys around other topics such as the demand for nursing professionals so Oregon has a complete picture of the nursing workforce.

Great! So you have all this research on nurses. What questions can be answered using the data?

Short answer – Soooo many.

Long answer – Below are just some of the questions nursing data analyzed by OCN can answer:

How will changing population demographics, economic conditions and the rapid pace of health system change affect nursing supply and demand?

Will the state have enough nurses in the right practice areas, employment settings and locations to meet future demand?

As the population ages and the demand for nursing services in community-based and home care settings increases, will the state have the nursing workforce needed to practice in home health, hospice and long-term care settings?

Are educational programs producing the workforce needed in the future?

What is the current breakdown of ADN versus BSN nurses? Where are BSN versus ADN nurses working?

Will the recent rapid increase in nursing enrollment be enough to meet demand? Will the enrollment expansion overshoot demand?

Does the racial/ethnic, geographic and specialty distribution of the workforce match population health needs?

What is the supply and distribution of primary care nurse practitioners relative to primary care physicians in the state, particularly in rural and underserved areas?

Does the gender, ethnic and racial diversity of the nursing workforce and education pipeline match the state’s population? Where are the gaps?research 4

What are the basic demographic and practice characteristics of the state’s nursing workforce and how are they likely to change in the future?

What is the age distribution of the current workforce? What are the possible effects of the projected exodus of experienced nurses over the next 5-10 years?

What percent of licensed nurses are actively working in the profession?

What settings have the highest vacancy and turnover rates?

Do nurses anticipate change in their employment over the next 2 years? Are they planning to increase hours worked? Decrease hours? Change jobs? Leave the nursing profession?

What additional value does OCN bring to nursing workforce research?

With more than 15 years of data collection experience, OCN has a deep understanding of nursing workforce data, collection methods, and access to historical data sets that can be used to track and monitor trends over time. As an independent organization, research and data from OCN is conducted without trying to support a preconceived answer. And, data prepared by OCN is available to all and free to access.

To ensure all Oregonians have access to a quality, highly educated nurse, Oregon needs correct and consistent data on the nursing workforce. And OCN is committed to provide the most accurate and unbiased information on the nursing workforce so Oregon has data they can trust.

Portions of this statement adapted from:
Fraher E, Gaul K, Spero J. (2013, Sept.). Why States Need to Build Better Nursing Workforce Data Systems. Retrieved from