Project Overview

The RN Work Project is a national study of new nurses, focusing on career changes and work attitudes

Led by


The project began in 2006 as a national study to track career changes among new nurses. With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation until 2016, we have the unique opportunity to study the careers of new nurses over 10 years.

RN Work Project is the only multi-state, longitudinal panel study of new nurses’ turnover rates, their intentions, and attitudes such as intent, satisfaction, organizational commitment, and preferences about work.

The study aims to

  • Understand the needs of and challenges faced by new nurses to meeting the goal of balancing the supply of and demand for RNs
  • Examine the first and subsequent settings of new nurses and:
    • Learn what influences their first job choice and where they move afterward
    • Compare settings of jobs over time
    • Determine whether new nurses move in or out of nursing
    • Determine why new nurses leave or stay in their jobs

The first sample includes RNs who obtained their first RN license between August 1, 2004 and July 31, 2005. We collected information from 3,266 eligible respondents from 34 states and the District of Columbia for a 58% response rate; subsequent response rates were: 71% and 61%.

Data were collected in the winters of 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012, and will be collected in 2013.

What we’ve learned so far

Based on a nationally representative sample of 2,383 new nurses who graduated in 2004 and 2005 and who worked in a variety of settings:

  • 18.1% of new nurses leave their first nursing employer within a year of starting their job
    • Of these, 91.8% take another nursing job with a different employer
  • 26.2% of new nurses leave their first nursing employer within two years
    • Of these 91.8% take another nursing job
  • Within 4.5 years of being divorced dad and dating licensed, 13.4% of Associate degree nurses have gone on to obtain a Baccalaureate degree (96.3% of them in nursing)

For new data on new nurses’ employment trends, see our Longitudinal Comparison of Early Career Nurses’ Employment Trends:

See our Key Findings.

Chris Kovner and Carol Brewer

Source: unpublished data

RN Work Project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Last Update August 24, 2011