Monitoring Health Care Needs in New Jersey: Assessing the Nurse Workforce

Aug 6, 2012, 12:00 PM, Posted by

By Jeannie P. Cimiotti, DNSc, RN, Executive Director, New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing, Associate Professor, Rutgers University College of Nursing


For decades, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has employed experts in sampling and statistical analyses in its attempt to monitor the registered nurse workforce through the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (NSSRN). Though the NSSRN has been used widely to estimate the supply and demand of registered nurses nationwide, it is often criticized in that states appear to be underrepresented. 

In New Jersey for example, it was reported that less than 1 percent of our registered nurses participated in the 2008 NSSRN.  To address New Jersey’s issue of monitoring the nurse workforce, the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing (NJCCN) has instituted a number of initiatives, including three surveys developed by the Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers.  These surveys assess New Jersey’s supply and demand of nurses, and the educational capacity of our nursing programs.

Even before the release of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which recommends an infrastructure for collection and analysis of workforce data, NJCCN was collecting data on the educational capacity (registered nurse and licensed practical nurse) of all nursing programs statewide.

These data include numbers on nursing applications, enrollments, and graduates, as well as demographic details on nursing students and faculty.  In 2011, in collaboration with NJCNN, the New Jersey Board of Nursing began to collect data on demographic characteristics, licensure and the employment intentions of all nurses licensed in our state.  These data are collected during re-licensure, which is a completely electronic process. 

At the present time, NJCCN is in the process of implementing a survey to estimate the demand for nurses in New Jersey. This survey will assess the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) nursing (registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, nursing assistant, and advanced practice nurse) positions in our state that are occupied and/or vacant in all hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, and Medicare/Medicaid-certified home health agencies. It will also assess the number of full-time, part-time and per-diem nurses; those employed through private agencies; the number who have left health  care organizations; and the expected number to be employed in the coming year.

Many are mourning the loss of the NSSRN, but we in New Jersey are prepared for the future. New Jersey has a unique data set that will allow us to monitor health care needs statewide.  At a time when more than 1.3 million newly insured patients are entering our state’s health care system, we can be confident that we will have the capability to ensure that quality nursing care is available to all in need.

To read more on the effort to get more and better data on the nursing workforce, click here. To learn more about nursing in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Nursing Initiative’s website.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.