The vast preponderance of the nation’s registered nurses are women. In the 1980s and 1990s, a decline in the number of women ages 23–26 who were choosing nursing as a career led to concerns that there would be future nurse shortages unless the trend was reversed. Between 2002 and 2009, however, the number of full-time-equivalent registered nurses ages 23–26 increased by 62 percent.
If these young nurses follow the same life-cycle employment patterns as those who preceded them—as they appear to be thus far—then they will be the largest cohort of registered nurses ever observed. Because of this surge in the number of young people entering nursing during the past decade, the nurse workforce is projected to grow faster during the next two decades than previously anticipated. However, it is uncertain whether interest in nursing will continue to grow in the future.