It seems that everywhere I turn, I encounter an RN returning to school for a nurse practitioner degree. Working in the emergency department the other day, I heard from more than one nurse out of the handful on my shift that they were planning to return for a master’s degree. The same holds true for PAs. The paramedics in the emergency department where I work seem to be applying to physician assistant programs in greater numbers. This prompted me to wonder, just how many NP and PA students enter the job market each year?
Although some job markets are saturated when it comes to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, overall the demand for healthcare providers is high. An aging population in our country means a requirement for more healthcare services. In addition, with healthcare reform, millions more Americans have received health coverage and are using the healthcare system more readily than in previous years. In turn, a greater number of MDs, NPs and PAs will be required to meet these demands.
Curious about the supply of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, I checked out surveys from organizations for each profession. Here’s what I found:
The number of nurse practitioner graduates is steadily increasing by 3,000 to 4,000 students each year. The number of physician assistant graduates, in contrast, remains relatively steady from year to year. This is likely do to the increasing number of programs offering online nurse practitioner education which can accommodate more nurse practitioner students. Physician assistant programs haven’t jumped onboard the online trend to the same extent.
Once demand for healthcare providers is met, the number if NP graduates will likely stabilize to balance supply with demand. We have seen this with the ebb and flow of nurses over the past several decades. Waves of nursing shortages hit, then the tide turns, and the supply of nurses begins to outpace demand.
How have you seen the number of nurse practitioner graduates affect the job market in your area?