Kentucky nurses data: Fewer than 10% looking to retire in next five years 

By: - May 31, 2023 5:50 am

Registered nurses make up the largest chunk of Kentucky’s nursing workforce. Most Kentucky nurses are female, and most are white, according to data collected by the state Board of Nursing. (Getty Images)

About 40% of Kentucky’s nursing workforce has been on the job for less than a decade, new Board of Nursing data shows – and fewer than 10% are looking to retire in the next five years. 

For licensure renewal, the board required the state’s 89,558 nurses – including licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice nurses (APRNs) – to answer questions about their work last fall. 

The survey results were released this month. 

Audria Denker.

“Results indicate a generally stable workforce, but not surprisingly, with opportunities for improvement,” Audria Denker, the board president, said in a statement. “The numbers are encouraging in terms of the percentage of younger nurses in the workforce, while the number of nurses who have been in the field for more than 30 years involves a relatively smaller number of potential retirees than anticipated.”

The largest chunk of the state’s nursing workforce are RNs, with 44,252 working in-state. Most Kentucky nurses are female, and most are white, the data shows. 

About 41% of LPNs, 43% of RNs and 32% of APRNs have been on the job for less than a decade. About 19% of LPNs, 18% of RNs and 21% of APRNs have been working between 21 and 30 years. 

Respondents could choose whether or not to share salary information. More than half of LPNs who responded said they made between $40,000 and $60,000 annually. About 36% of RNs reported making between $60,000 and $80,000 and 34% of APRNs said they made between $100,000 and $120,000. 

More nurses work in “hospital inpatient” than other types of employment, the data showed. 

Of those licensed nurses who aren’t working in a nursing field, most (71%) cited home and family obligations as the reason. Fewer than 500 (8%) cited burnout. 

Board Executive Director Kelly Jenkins said in a statement that “accurate and reliable data is an essential tool to plan for the future.”

Jenkins added: “This nursing licensure survey data is highly valuable and important feedback offering a true representation of the status of the nursing profession in Kentucky, with mandatory input generating comprehensive and reliable feedback rather than projections based on optional surveys or limited sampling.”

A shortage of nursing students showed up in a KBN survey in January. “What is not fully understood is how wages and other considerations together influence the lack of nursing program applicants,” said Denker.

Pre-licensure and advanced nursing training programs monitored by the nursing board reported 5,257 “empty seats” for the spring 2023 semester. Denker said that “unfortunate number … may be due to lack of interest exacerbated by unfilled faculty and staff positions and a lack of availability for clinical practice experience.”

In the 2020-2021 academic year, total enrollment was 14,394 and it dropped to 13,423 in the 2021-2022 year, according to a KBN spokesperson. In the 2021-2022 year, there were also 453 fewer new students enrolling.

These survey results come on the heels of a legislative session that focused, in part, on addressing widespread reported nursing shortages in the state.

During the session both chambers passed – and Gov. Andy Beshear signed – House Bill 200, a bill with bipartisan support.

The bill will create a health care workforce fund through a private-public partnership administered by the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).

Most of the money in the fund will support scholarships for people seeking health care careers, including those interested in careers as nurses, nurses aides, mental health counselors, dental hygienist, emergency responders and others. It will not receive state funding in 2023, though funding could start from other sources.

Last August, a 2022 Kentucky Hospital Association’s workforce report reported more than 13,000 vacancies in the state’s hospitals. At the time of data collection, Kentucky had a hospital workforce vacancy of 17% at the time of the report. That report found licensed practical nurses and registered nurses were most needed.

“Nurses that are likely to retire in the next ten years,” the report said, “and discounting new and younger hires, is a demographic with potential to further exacerbate the existing shortage.”

In 2021, Kentucky hospitals hired 6,257 new nursing staff after 4,780 “separations,” most of which were because of people retiring.

In fact, 88% of those who separated in 2021 were retirees, that report said, which “altered the hospital workforce” and meant many workers were new hires.


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.