Share this

The U.S. Nursing Shortage: A State-by-State Breakdown


Updated November 10, 2023 · 2 Min Read

To understand the nursing shortage on a national scale, review the most recent data showing the number of nurses in each state compared to state populations.
The U.S. Nursing Shortage: A State-by-State Breakdown
AJ_Watt / Getty Images
  • Nursing shortages continue to affect every state, especially in the southwestern U.S.
  • A lack of educators, more nurses leaving the workforce, and the rising demand for healthcare is driving the shortage.
  • These factors combine to create a cycle, with overwork leading to more burnout.

The nursing shortage in the U.S. is still a concern. A lack of nurse educators keeps nursing schools from being able to admit enough students to address the shortfall. A shortage of nurses means more burnout and more nurses choosing to leave the profession, contributing to the shortage.

In addition, the aging of Baby Boomers means that more nurses are retiring at a time when an aging population has a greater need for healthcare providers. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the nursing shortage. Learn more about the nursing shortage by state and what legislators are doing to address it.

To best understand the shortage on a national scale, we gathered the most recent available data on the number of registered nurses employed in each state from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We then compared these figures to state population estimates to illustrate the nursing shortage on a state-by-state basis. The table below provides a ranking of states, starting with those with the lowest nurse-to-state population ratios.

U.S. Nurse-to-State Population Ratio
Location Employed Registered Nurses (2022) State Population (2022) Nurses Per 1,000 Population
United States 3,072,670 333,287,557 9.22
Utah 22,830 3,380,800 6.75
Idaho 13,680 1,939,033 7.06
New Mexico 15,910 2,113,344 7.53
Oklahoma 30,320 4,019,800 7.54
Nevada 23,970 3,177,772 7.54
Georgia 82,970 10,912,876 7.60
Arizona 56,040 7,359,197 7.61
Texas 231,060 30,029,572 7.69
Virginia 69,510 8,683,619 8.00
Maryland 49,790 6,164,660 8.08
Hawaii 11,800 1,440,196 8.19
South Carolina 44,030 5,282,634 8.33
Washington 64,920 7,785,786 8.34
California 325,620 39,029,342 8.34
New Jersey 78,340 9,261,699 8.46
Tennessee 60,840 7,051,339 8.63
Wyoming 5,070 581,381 8.72
Oregon 37,400 4,240,137 8.82
Florida 197,630 22,244,823 8.88
Montana 10,020 1,122,867 8.92
Colorado 52,390 5,839,926 8.97
Alaska 6,730 733,583 9.17
Arkansas 28,490 3,045,637 9.35
Connecticut 34,290 3,626,205 9.46
Louisiana 43,790 4,590,241 9.54
New York 190,470 19,677,151 9.68
New Hampshire 13,510 1,395,231 9.68
Alabama 49,370 5,074,296 9.73
North Carolina 104,300 10,698,973 9.75
Indiana 67,350 6,833,037 9.86
Kentucky 44,970 4,512,310 9.97
Mississippi 29,370 2,940,057 9.99
Nebraska 19,870 1,967,923 10.10
Michigan 101,470 10,034,113 10.11
Rhode Island 11,190 1,093,734 10.23
Illinois 129,390 12,582,032 10.28
Wisconsin 61,100 5,892,539 10.37
Kansas 30,520 2,937,150 10.39
Maine 14,610 1,385,340 10.55
Pennsylvania 137,970 12,972,008 10.64
Iowa 34,050 3,200,517 10.64
Vermont 6,930 647,064 10.71
Ohio 130,370 11,756,058 11.09
Minnesota 63,800 5,717,184 11.16
Delaware 11,490 1,018,396 11.28
Missouri 70,440 6,177,957 11.40
West Virginia 21,110 1,775,156 11.89
Massachusetts 94,100 6,981,974 13.48
North Dakota 11,300 779,261 14.50
South Dakota 14,360 909,824 15.78
District of Columbia 11,820 671,803 17.59
Sources: BLS, U.S. Census Bureau

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Local Nurse Employment vs. National Nurse Employment

Major cities with higher populations tend to always need more nurses, with most city hospitals offering many open positions. According to data from the BLS, the following five states have the lowest local concentrations of nurse employment vs. national nurse employment:

  1. Utah (0.68 location quotient)
  2. District of Columbia (0.82 location quotient)
  3. Nevada (0.82 location quotient)
  4. Idaho (0.83 location quotient)
  5. Texas (0.86 location quotient)

Metropolitan areas tend to maintain the highest location quotients of local nurse employment to national nurse employment:

  1. Bloomsburg Berwick, Pennsylvania (3.14 location quotient)
  2. Morgantown, West Virginia (2.90 location quotient)
  3. Rochester, Minnesota (2.77 location quotient)
  4. Ann Arbor, Michigan (2.37 location quotient)
  5. Iowa City, Iowa (2.26 location quotient)

From the BLS data: The location quotient is the ratio of the area concentration of occupational employment to the national average concentration. A location quotient greater than one indicates the occupation has a higher share of employment than average, and a location quotient less than one indicates the occupation is less prevalent in the area than average.

Larger cities tend to suffer more from nursing shortages due to higher population densities. Simply put, there needs to be more new nurses entering the field to properly manage the volume of people who need healthcare within most large cities.

Factors Contributing to the National Nursing Shortage

According to StatPearls there are many factors contributing to the national nursing shortage, including:

  • Lack of educators and schooling: Nursing school enrollment hasn't kept up with projected demand. There's also a need for more nursing school instructors. Without enough teachers, thousands of people interested in joining the nursing workforce are unable to do so without degrees.
  • High turnover: For years, nurse turnover has climbed at a steady rate. In some cases, nursing graduates quickly enter the workforce and find that the profession is not what they anticipated. In other scenarios, nurses may work for a while, experience burnout, and leave the profession.
  • An aging workforce: The rate of retirement for nurses is growing rapidly, as over half of the RN workforce is currently over 50 years old.

State legislators are addressing the nursing shortage. Hospitals and schools are also taking action to combat the nursing shortage and prevent a future deficit.


Bernstein, L. (2021). As covid persists, nurses are leaving staff jobs -- and tripling their salaries as travelers. Washington Post

Haddad, L, et al. (2022). Nursing shortage. National Library of Medicine

Nursing shortage. (2020). AACN

Registered nurses. (2021). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Registered nurses. (2021). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics.

mini logo

You might be interested in


6 Proven Strategies From Nurse Execs to Combat the Nursing Shortage


Updated November 10, 2023


The Need For Public Health Nurses On The Rise


Updated October 3, 2023 · 2 Min Read

Nurse Spotlight

7 Key Challenges Faced by Nurse Educators Today


Updated January 11, 2023

check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.