HEPC health sciences leader sees positive trends in nursing data report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Center for Nursing has released Registered Nurse (RN) and Advanced Practiced Registered Nurse (APRN) supply data for 2021 and educational leaders are calling the figures a positive trend.

The annual report revealed that in 2021, while the number of RNs licensed in West Virginia has decreased by 1.6% from 2020-2021, the number of RNs working in West Virginia has increased by 2% during the same period.

West Virginia currently has 29,817 RNs and 4,692 APRNs licensed in the state.

The data also showed that more than 13.6% of nurses licensed in West Virginia work in the contiguous states of PA, OH, VA, KY, and MD. The West Virginia Center for Nursing (WVCN) said the state should consider additional ways to retain nurses in West Virginia and recruit out-of-state nurses who are already licensed in West Virginia to join the state’s nursing workforce.

Cynthia Persily, the Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences for the state Higher Education Policy Commission told MetroNews that multiple programs in place right now are working to attract more people into the nursing industry in West Virginia including the WV Nursing Scholarship Program and Gov. Jim Justice’s Nursing Expansion Initiative.

Persily said the participants in the scholarship program are required to work in the Mountain State after graduation for a service period. She said that five years after their service period, around 88% of nurses remained in West Virginia. Persily said there were 657 scholarship applications as of Wednesday, up more than 100 from that time last year.

For the governor’s program, Persily said the relocation bonus is providing nurses an additional incentive to come to the state. She said as the campaign for the program just got off the ground in May, there were thousands of hits on the first social media posts.

Cynthia Persily

“All of the things we have put into place will help us to keep moving in that right direction. With more nurses working in West Virginia, with more graduations coming out, we will see payoffs pretty quickly in these new programs,” Persily said.

The data also revealed that among RNs and APRNs working in West Virginia, the percentage of RNs and APRNs under 50 years of age grew from 63% in 2020 to 65% in 2021. During the same period, the percentage of those 51 years of age or older fell from 37.3% in 2020 to 35.2% in 2021.

WVCN said that means efforts to encourage new nurses to enter the nursing workforce as the nursing workforce ages have started to see returns.

Persily said there must be a continuation of replacing retiring nurses but she said another key would be to keep the veteran nurses around.

“How do we use those nurses who may be aging out of the direct care population, but want to stay and contribute. How can they do that within current healthcare facilities,” she asked.

The data also revealed that the share of baccalaureate degree-prepared nurses continues to grow, increasing 1.21% in 2021. Additionally, when comparing entry nursing education to the highest nursing education, at least 411 nurses working in West Virginia have completed RN-BSN programs compared to 256 in 2020.

WVCN said this information will allow the state to assess the strength of West Virginia’s nursing workforce and inform stakeholders as they continue planning around nursing workforce development.

To view the RN and APRN Tableau Data Dashboards and the Center’s other data sets, visit HERE and click through the “Supply and Compensation Dashboards.”