Date of Award

Winter 1989

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Lawrence Hamilton


This exploratory study analyzed trends in American nursing from 1870-1988. The study used three kinds of graphical analysis (timeplots, scatterplot matrices and residual plots) to informally test fifteen hypotheses regarding nurse supply. Nurse supply was broken into two categories: nurse requirement, or the actual number of nurses employed in nursing at any one point in time; and nurse availability, or the potential number of new nurses needed to be produced or recruited. The hypotheses focused on two broad empirical research questions: "How many nurses are there?" and "How many nurses are enough?" Feminist conceptual frameworks were employed to inform the research by: suggesting explanatory social structural variables, which described women's labor force participation; and focusing the interpretation of the findings, so that they "take women into account". The major findings of this study, which considered nursing as "women's work", generally supported the hypotheses. The findings can be summarized into three major areas: (1) Nurse labor force participation parallels women's labor force participation; (2) RN salaries, overall female salaries, women's labor force participation, and women's educational attainment are good predictors of nurse requirement and availability; (3) The requirement and availability of nurses at different levels of educational attainment are affected by the availability of different worksites, worksite characteristics, and female labor force participation, stratified by age. The findings underscore the importance of the data, and the story that they tell us. This is the best way we have of knowing how many nurses there are, and how many are enough.