Celebrating Nurses Week: Hats Off to All the RNs

— Here are some facts about my invaluable colleagues

A graphic which reads: NATIONAL NURSES WEEK
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    Jeremy Faust is editor-in-chief of ľֱ, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and a public health researcher. He is author of the Substack column Inside Medicine.

This week is in the U.S., and Sunday is .

I'll just say it right up front: without registered nurses (RNs), I couldn't be remotely effective as an emergency physician. So, to celebrate and highlight my colleagues, I'll share a few facts and figures in a moment.

But as an ED doctor, there's something that no infographic or data can ever capture, which I want to share first -- and that is this: there is no piece of information as valuable to me as when an ED nurse approaches me to express concern about the clinical status of a patient under our mutual care. In almost all cases, I will stop whatever it is I am doing and immediately follow that nurse directly back to the patient's room. ED nurses are particularly amazing because they have so much experience with patients across the spectrum of illness severity that they truly know when (and, frankly, when not) to sound the alarm. Indeed, they pick up on subtle changes early and often, and they rarely "cry wolf." In statistical terms, when an ED nurse comes to me to voice a worry about a patient's status, both the sensitivity and specificity of that alert are very high.

Five Facts About Nurses

They're the largest part of the workforce.

At 4.7 million RNs in the U.S., nurses make up the largest percentage of the healthcare workforce. The pandemic saw a drop in the nursing workforce, but there has been a recovery.

Nurses are the most trusted.

Patients like nurses too. In fact, in surveys, U.S. adults consistently rate nurses as among the most trusted of professionals -- not just in healthcare, but overall. Here are the results from a 2023 Gallup poll (I included all healthcare categories they listed, plus a few others for context).

Am I a little jealous? Maybe!

The gender/sex imbalance is changing.

Women make up nearly 90% of nurses in the U.S., but the in the nursing profession has increased, most recently from 9.4% to 11.2% (from 2020 to 2022).

Nurses are highly educated.

Nearly 72% of nurses in the U.S. have a college degree or higher for nursing, 17.4% have a master's degree, and 2.7% have a doctoral degree.

Nursing continues to be a source of employment.

According to the , nursing jobs are expected to grow by 6% in the coming decade (which is faster than the average profession). And nursing is reasonably well compensated, with a median pay of $86,070 per year. (I say "reasonably" because nurses work really hard and they should all get a raise, if I have anything to say about it.)

That said, for anyone considering nursing school, I highly recommend looking into the success and stability of any training institution. As ľֱ has reported, there are some for-profit mills that are more than happy to take student money but not deliver adequate results. But there are plenty of excellent programs out there.

Happy Nurses Week! And to any RNs reading this: Thanks! You're a lifesaver!

This post originally appeared in .