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VOLUME 51 | NUMBER 2 | APRIL 2016


The Nursing Profession, Diversity, and Wages

Registered nurses (RNs) are the largest group of health professionals in the United States and provide care in every setting of the U.S. health care system (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS] 2013). The RN profession remains less diverse than the U.S. workforce as a whole. In 2013, nearly 75 percent of the RN workforce was white non-Hispanic, as compared with 65 percent of the overall U.S. workforce (author's calculations from the American Community Survey 2013 [US Bureau of the Census, 2014] and Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014). The lack of diversity in the nursing profession has received increasing attention due to the importance of health workforce diversity in addressing health disparities. Greater diversity of the health care workforce is associated with access to and quality of patient care (Cohen, Gabriel, and Terrell 2002, Institute of Medicine 2004; Bureau of Health Professions 2006).

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