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CHI survey finds Colorado RN workforce older than state workforce overall.

Nearly one-third of Colorado's registered nurses are 55 years or older, almost twice the percentage of the state's overall workforce, according to findings from a 2008 survey of Colorado's registered nurse (RN) workforce.

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) found that 32 percent of RNs are at least age 55 compared to 17 percent of all employed Coloradans. One in 12 RNs (8%) is age 65 years or older, also twice the percentage of the overall Colorado workforce.

The survey also found that the diversity of the RN workforce as to gender and race differs from that of Colorado's overall population. The majority of RNs are White, non-Hispanic (93%) compared to only 70 percent of Colorado's population. Only 3 percent are Hispanic while 20 percent of Colorado's population is Hispanic. Blacks make up less than 1 percent of the state's RNs but are percent of the state's population. Only 7 percent of Colorado's RNs are male, although males represent half of Colorado's population.

Half of RNs indicated they are the primary wage earner in their family with 57 percent earning $50,000 or more per year. Overall, RNs working in a rural setting earn less than their urban counterparts--59 percent of nurses working in urban areas earn at least $50,000 compared to 47 percent of rural RNs. A number of RNs reported working extra jobs, although supplementing their income was not always the main reason.

Overall, 14 percent of Colorado RNs have master's degrees in nursing and 16 percent reported their highest degree is a bachelor's in nursing. Only 4 percent indicated they were pursuing higher degrees at the time of the survey. The primary reason for not seeking additional education in nursing is lack of time (68%). More than half (52%) say they already have the highest degree they want and nearly half (49%) point to cost as a reason for not pursuing more education. Approximately one-third (36%) say they have no interest in obtaining additional education.

When asked specifically about their interest in becoming a nurse faculty member, 17 percent said they are interested, whereas 56 percent have no interest and 24 percent are undecided. Asked to rate incentives that would entice them to become nurse faculty member, almost all (95%) of the RNs who said they are interested or undecided listed flexibility to balance studies and work. Tuition assistance was cited by 86 percent and more scholarship opportunities by 82 percent.

Approximately 13 percent of RNs report they are planning to leave their nursing position within the next year with low wages, stress and lack of respect the primary reasons for that decision.

The survey findings point to several policy options that policymakers may want to consider in addressing nursing shortages:

* Focused retention strategies such as nurse recognition programs, salary market surveys with options to correct inequities and the development of interdisciplinary care models that allow nurses to practice at the top of their licensure authority;

* Accelerating opportunities for RNs with graduate degrees in other disciplines to become nursing faculty;

* Well-articulated career ladders for licensed practical nurses to move up the professional ladder; and,

* Expanded tuition reimbursement, flexible scheduling and scholarship opportunities.

The CHI survey was mailed to a stratified random sample of 3,000 RNs licensed to practice in Colorado as of October 2008. More than 49,000 people practice as registered nurses in Colorado.

The RN survey and summary of findings is available at http://www.coloradohealthinstitute. org/Global/Publications/2009/10/RN08-findings. aspx.

Profile of Colorado RNs in 2008

* 92.8% were female

* 61.8% were 45 years or older

* 92.7% were White

* 86.2% resided in an urban area

* 83.3% were employed as an RN requiring an active license

* 57.5% were earning $50,000 or more per year

* 17.9 years was the average number of years working as an RN
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Publication:Colorado Nurse
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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