Results of survey of Colorado RNs reflect an aging work force

Nearly a third of registered nurses in Colorado are 55 years or older, almost twice the proportion of the overall work force in the state, according to findings from a survey of RNs.

The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) found that 32 percent of RNs are at least age 55 compared to 17 percent of all employed Coloradans. About 8 percent of RNs are age 65 or older, also twice the percentage of the overall work force.

The CHI is a nonprofit health policy and research group based in Denver. The 2008 survey was mailed to a random sample of 3,000 RNs licensed to practice in Colorado as of October 2008. At that time, there were more than 49,000 registered nurses in the state.

The survey also found that 50 percent of RNs indicated they’re the primary wage earners in their families — with 57 percent earning $50,000 or more a year. Overall, RNs working in a rural setting earn less than their urban counterparts: 59 percent of nurses working in urban areas earn at least $50,000 compared to 47 percent of rural RNs.

A number of RNs reported working extra jobs, although supplementing their income was not always the main reason. About 12 percent of RNs working in urban areas and 20 percent working in rural areas indicated they have other paying jobs.

The survey found that 8 percent of Colorado RNs are advanced practice nurses (APN), which requires a master’s degree in an APN specialty area. Of those, only 6 percent — about 660 nurses — were primary care nurse practitioners. APNs were more likely to be employed in a nursing position and earn higher salaries than RNs without the extra training. Half of APNs earned at least $75,000 a year compared to 13 percent of other RNs. APNs also were more likely to express satisfaction with their jobs than other RNs.