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A recent study in JAMA Health Forum analyzing national data on registered nurses (RNs) revealed a recent recovery in the size of the nursing workforce following the substantial drop recorded during the pandemic. Despite a drastic decline of more than 100,000 RNs in 2021, the workforce saw a resurgence in 2022 and 2023. This recovery indicates a promising trajectory with forecasts indicating that by 2035, the workforce will reach 4.56 million nurses, adding an estimated growth of 1.2 million full-time RNs, which aligns closely with prepandemic predictions. Additionally, the total number of full-time RNs in 2022 and 2023 exceeded prepandemic levels by 6%. The study predicts that RNs aged 35 to 49 will comprise nearly half (47%) of the workforce by 2035. It was based on data from the US Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey and a retrospective cohort analysis of 455,085 RNs.

Plans are back on: The data implies that the pandemic’s effects on RN staffing levels are less likely to hamper future expansion than most provider organizations may think. Even so, the authors note, “there is uncertainty about the future demand for RN labor.”

Nursing Workforce Recovering After Pandemic