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Geospatial Data Warehouse

About the Data

National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses

The Survey has been conducted approximately every four years since 1977. For each survey year, HRSA has prepared two Public Use File databases in flat ASCII file format, without delimiters.

About NSSRN Data

The objective of the Survey is to sample and model nurses in the workforce. Nurses may hold licenses in more than one State. Registered nurses sampled answer questions on their education and training in nursing, professional nursing certifications, education and workforce participation prior to becoming a registered nurse, current and recent workforce participation, income, demographic characteristics, and States in which they hold current licenses.

The sample design used since 1977 comprises a complex, nested sample frame, with equal probabilities of selection of nurses sampled in each State. The samples are selected from the universe of current licensure lists in each State. Sampling weights for each State have been calculated and added to the record of each nurse in the respective data base files, with adjustments being made in these weights for nurses who have multiple licenses. Even though some nurses may be sampled in sequential surveys, this is a cross-sectional database and no attempt is made to track the same nurse's career over time.

Links to other reports on the NSSRN surveys of 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 may be found at the Health Professions Workforce Nursing Reports page.

About NSSRN Public Use Files

General Public Use Files are State-based and provide information on nurses without identifying the County and Metropolitan Area in which they live or work. Most users will prefer these files for general use applications that are national or State-level research.

County Public Use Files provide most, but not all, the same information on the nurse from the General Public Use File, and also identifies the County and Metropolitan Areas in which the nurses live or work. Information likely to point to an individual in a sparsely-populated county has been withheld.

Tables have been prepared which crosswalk the various quantities from the surveys against the variable name used in each survey and the respective data base files (i.e., In-House, General Public Use, or County Public Use) in which that variable is located for the respective survey year.

NSSRN data are to be used for research purposes only and may not be used in any manner to identify individual respondents.

Two zipped directories are created for each NSSRN year: and (where "xx" represents the year). Each zipped directory contains data and documentation files in subdirectories. Subdirectories range in size from 3 to 14 MB. Unzipped, files will be substantially larger. SAS syntax auxiliary files are included. SPSS auxiliary syntax files have been newly added as of August 2008 to the set of documentation files for each of the respective 1977-2004 NSSRN survey public use file groups. This will give users the ability to generate their own SPSS-encoded data files.

The user may not merge the General and County databases into one aggregate database covering all attributes together with extensive geographic information. There are no common, unique identifiers for each surveyed nurse across these two database files.

Files named RNxxPUBL.txt and RNxxCNTY.txt refer to the public use database files for each survey. The xx is coded for each survey as the last two digits of the year of the survey; e.g., 04 for the 2004 survey. The .txt format is ASCII flat file data which is formatted without delimiters. The SAS auxiliary syntax files are in the form of .txt files. SPSS auxiliary syntax files are encoded as .sps files even though they are text files in nature. SPSS users will need to pay heed to the second line of each of the SPSS 'LOADNLABELS' files which contain a '/FILE' statement with a file name and drive location. The user must substitute their own file name and location for the raw data in text format for each respective public use file; the default location originally indicated on the downloaded file must be replaced.

Users may attempt to import the ASCII versions of the database files into EXCEL; however, extreme caution must be taken in the use of the EXCEL Import Wizard for parsing the database with the hundreds of non-delimited fields. It is especially critical in counting columns to the end of each field and in not exceeding the maximum number of columns in any EXCEL spreadsheet. The documentation in the Codebooks will indicate the length of each field. One trick that can be undertaken so as not to exceed the maximum number of columns in an EXCEL spreadsheet is to mark off up to 255 columns of the ASCII file as one text field among fields that you are sure that you will not be further analyzing. Then, to conserve space in the spreadsheet, subsequently delete each such text field which is not of further interest. In order to make use in EXCEL of the published weights for each nurse, the user must individually introduce new spreadsheet columns for generation of crossproducts necessary for obtaining properly-weighted sums and averages. We believe that users who only possess EXCEL can successively perform simple and meaningful analyses of the data if the above steps are undertaken, though tedious to perform.

Readme files are the central listing for summarizing the various files and documentation in each respective zipped directory. It is suggested that you use the subdirectory names as provided without overriding these names.

Files such as RN04CDOC.pdf and RN04PDOC.pdf constitute the main documentation manuals for each of the respective General and County public use databases and include:

  • background of the survey
  • layout of the documentation manual
  • technical and programmer's information
  • naming conventions for variables in the questionnaire
  • constructed (derived) variables based on formulae using the responses to the original questions of the survey
  • definitions of the derived variables
  • sample variance estimation and design notes, and
  • a Codebook, which includes
    • documentation identifying locations of each field/variable on the data base file
    • category levels for each field/variable, and
    • marginal distribution information for the response categories used in that survey.

Attachments to the documentation manual also include:

  • appendxa.pdf, a scan of the original questionnaire survey instrument
  • appendxb.pdf, adescription of the statistical sampling methodology
  • appendxd.pdf to appendxg.pdf, a set of appendices identifying the numerical codes for various geographic entities, such as State, Foreign Country, Federal Region, County, or Metropolitan Area. In 2004, appendxh.pdf also provides information on Metropolitan Areas. Files that relate only to the county or metropolitan data are not included in the documentation for the General data.
  • appendxc.pdf, appCGuid.doc (in 2004, appCGuid.pdf) and appCXwlk.doc (in 2004, appCXwlk.pdf), a crosswalk spreadsheet showing the evolution of the various questions by topic, tracks which variables have been available in the General (State) File, the County File, or only in HRSA's in-house file. Accompanying the spreadsheet is a file that identifies and explains the coding of these variables in the columns of the crosswalk to reflect the various combinations of being available both in-house and on both public use files, being available on the in-house and General Public Use Files, being available on the in-house and County Public Use Files, and being available only on the in-house file.
  • Appendxi.pdf (new in 2004), a list of the Priority State orderings which are used in the sampling and weighting processes of the survey.
  • Two auxiliary text files for use in conjunction with SAS (names starting with "sas") and two auxiliary files for use in conjunction with SPSS (names with file type ".sps") provide formatting, inputting, and labeling information for the variables and categories found on the ASCII databases. Each pair of files, for SAS or SPSS respectively, can be used to identify the data base input stream variables on the records, labels for each variable and variable value, and a data format listing for each field. These files are to be used in conjunction with the ASCII files of the public use data from the survey.

NSSRN Data Files by Downloading or on CD

Public Use data files and documentation for any of the NSSRN surveys may be downloaded from this web site. To download, visit the NSSRN Data Download page. If you are unable to download the files from the HRSA Geospatial Data Warehouse, you may request a CD that includes all of the General and County Public Use Files over the 1977-2004 NSSRN surveys with documentation by e-mailing the following information to with the subject line NSSRN PUF CD:

  • which files you want: General Public Use, County Public Use or both
  • which/all of the surveys from 1977 to 2004 you want
  • your full mailing address, including number, street, city, state and zip code

There is no charge for the CD or shipping.

Should you have questions on the use of the files, you may also send your inquiry to

Other Data Sites
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