What’s Driving the Growing Demand for Nurse Practitioners?

Health | February 5, 2020, Wednesday // 11:24|  views


According to research carried out by healthcare recruiter Merritt Hawkins, the nurse practitioner role was ranking in the top ten most recruited medical field positions for 2013 - which was the first time the profession made the firm’s top twenty list. And since then, the nurse practitioner profession has met and even exceeded expectations to reach a 30% growth rate between 2010 and 20202; significantly faster than growth in primary care physicians which was projected at the time to be just 8% over the same timeframe.

So, what exactly is driving this demand for nurse practitioners?

Changing Demographics

According to a report by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMCO) in 2015, the US population is expected to grow around ten percent by 2025. And, the greatest level of growth will be seen in the senior demographic which is expected to grow by over 45%. On the other hand, the number of people aged under eighteen is only expected to grow by 5% in the same timeframe. Given that the senior age demographic tends to use healthcare services at a higher rate compared to others, it’s no surprise that this has driven a higher demand for skilled, specialized healthcare professionals.

The IMS Institute for Health Informatics carried out an analysis that suggested that the increasing need for specialist visits for chronic health conditions, which tends to be highest amongst older patients, increased by almost 5% between 2012 and 2013. And with this significant growth prediction in older patients, we can expect the demand for specialist healthcare, often provided and facilitated by nurse practitioners, to increase even further.

Physician Shortages

In addition to the increasing demand for medical professionals, the U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of primary care physicians that the AAMC predicts will reach numbers of around ninety thousand by 2025. Nurse practitioners, particularly those trained as adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, are well-positioned to fill this healthcare gap left by the shortage of doctors. Nurse practitioners can often step into the shoes of a doctor and offer services such as:

  • Diagnosis of medical conditions

  • Referrals for specialist treatment

  • Prescribing medications or other suitable treatments

  • Offering health and wellness advice

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

In 2014, it was projected by the Congressional Budget Office that some twenty-six million US citizens would gain access to affordable health insurance by 2017, due to provisions made by the PPACA. At the same time, the act also included a number of important investments that allowed the healthcare industry to further expand the nurse practitioner’s role in the delivery of care to patients. Between 2012 and 2015, million was invested in the development of outpatient clinics managed by nurse practitioners.

With these measures came the inevitable need to increase the supply of nurse practitioners in order to ensure that the growing demand for primary care delivery is met. The act also includes funding to universities and colleges in order to facilitate more enrollment in nurse practitioner programs and other advanced nursing programs such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice - DNP. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 90% of nurse practitioners receive training in primary care practice, which has helped to fill the widening gap in access to qualified healthcare professionals.

Retail Clinic Growth

In 2007, there were around three hundred retail health clinics, or mini-clinics, located at drug stores and pharmacies. But by 2014, the number had jumped to almost 2,000, according to the report by the AAMC. There were many factors that contributed to this astounding rate of growth, including:

  • After hours convenience

  • High deductible health plans

  • Increased coverage by private health insurance companies

MinuteClinic, for example, is a fast-growing health franchise that works in partnership with retailers like Target in order to provide health services to customers in-store. This brand hires nurse practitioners to head their clinics. According to MinuteClinic operational director Catherine L. Wisner this move:

[It] puts nurse practitioners out front and promotes MinuteClinic as primary healthcare providers; as being there and doing things more cost-effectively.”

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

For registered nurses and individuals hoping to pursue a lucrative career in nursing, there has never been a better time to train as a nurse practitioner. There are many reasons to choose this highly respected and sought-after career, not least:

  • High demand - speaks for itself; the high demand for nurse practitioners mentioned in this article, due to the aging population and a national shortage of primary care physicians, means that there’s no time like the present to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner in any specialty. And, the demand for nurse practitioners is only expected to continue growing over time.

  • Choice - when it comes to working as a nurse practitioner, there are several areas of specialty that you can choose from. Family nurse practitioners work with people of all ages and tend to be the ones running clinics or working alongside doctors, while adult-gerontology nurse practitioners work with adults of all ages. If you want a career working with children or babies then you can study to become a pediatric or neonatal nurse practitioner. And the choices don’t stop there; you can decide whether you’d prefer to work in a hospital or clinics, shift work or standard office hours, or with a certain area of medicine like oncology or anesthesiology.

  • Competitive rate of pay - while the salary might not be the main deciding factor in your decision to pursue the route of a nurse practitioner, there’s no denying that these healthcare professionals are paid handsomely, with the average nationwide salary at over 0,000.

  • Reward - finally, working as a nurse practitioner is one of the most rewarding careers that you can ask for. Not only is it stimulating and interesting with no two days or patients the same, but you will also be at the front line of healthcare and directly responsible for helping patients, which can be extremely rewarding and satisfying despite the challenges that you will often face.

The demand for nurse practitioners is one the rise - there’s no time like the present to train in this unique career path.