Did you hear? The nurse practitioner workforce more than doubled in the last decade and grew far more rapidly than that of the physician workforce! The numbers are not only fantastic news for the future of the NP profession but provide hope amidst multiple challenges in healthcare.
According to the AANP, as of January 2019, it was estimated that there were more than 270,000 nurse practitioners licensed to practice in the US; a substantially higher number than the estimated 120,000 NPs in 2007. Furthermore, the AANP reflects that 89 percent of NPs are prepared in a primary care focus. Don’t expect these numbers to slow down anytime soon either; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the NP role will grow 36% by 2026, as compared to only an estimated 13 percent growth for physicians (excluding anesthesiologists and surgeons).
What’s more is that compared to other primary care disciplines, NPs are more likely to practice in rural communities. Research reflects that 18 percent of NPs practice in rural communities with a population of fewer than 25,000 residents; and in states with a more favorable regulatory environment and a larger percentage of rural residents, they are even more likely to practice in rural healthcare settings. For example, Vermont has reported that 56 percent of its NPs practice in rural settings.
Advanced practice providers are also able to address challenges like healthcare costs without the sacrifice of quality care. Substantial evidence suggests that when it comes to patient outcomes on satisfaction with care, health status, functional status, number of emergency department visits and hospitalizations, blood glucose, blood pressure, and mortality, the statistics are similar for NPs and MDs. Meanwhile, when considering the productivity measures, salaries and costs of education, NPs are certainly the more cost-effective providers.
As evidenced by the estimated 1.06 billion patient visits made to NPs 2018 alone, NPs are proving to be the providers of choice for millions of patients across the U.S. With provider shortages being a major concern for primary care, especially in aging populations, these favorable statistics for the NP profession will hopefully not only fill the primary care gaps in the decade to come but help alleviate current and future issues in healthcare.