A survey conducted by healthcare recruiters found that the role of nurse practitioner was ranking in the top ten most recruited healthcare positions back in 2013. At this point, this was the first time that this career made the top twenty list.
In the eight years that have passed since, the demand for nurse practitioners has grown even further and the profession has not only met, but exceeded, the expectations for it to grow by 30% between 2010 and 2020. Currently, the nurse practitioner role is growing significantly faster than many other healthcare professions, including primary care physician roles.
So, what exactly is behind the booming demand for nurse practitioners, and what can nurses do to get into this exciting, fast-paced, and beneficial position?
Changes to the population are behind the growth of nurse practitioner roles in a big way. A report carried out by the American Association of Medical Colleges in 2015 found that the population is expected to grow around 10% by 2025.
However, this is likely to lead to an even more aging population with the greatest level of growth expected to be seen in the senior demographic, which will naturally drive the demand for more primary care and advanced healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners.
The senior demographic is expected to have grown by more than 45% by 2025, while in comparison, the number of people aged under eighteen is only expected to grow by 5% in the same time period. According to an analysis carried out by the IMS Institute for Health Informatics, this increase in the senior demographic is leading to a greater need for specialist visits for chronic health conditions, which tend to be higher among older patients.
Since specialist healthcare is often facilitated and provided by nurse practitioners, we can expect this demand to grow even further as the population gets older.
Shortage of Primary Care Physicians:
Along with the increase in demand for specialist medical professionals, there is currently a shortage of primary care physicians across the US that is driving the need for more family nurse practitioners to step up and fill the gap that this has left.
According to the AAMC, the physician shortage is likely to reach around 90,000 by 2025, with fewer medical students deciding to go into primary care. Family nurse practitioners and adult-gerontology nurse practitioners have the training, knowledge, and skills to fill this gap in the healthcare system.
Research has found that nurse practitioners offer a standard of care that is equal to that offered by a physician, and in many states, these professionals are permitted to diagnose medical conditions, provide referrals for specialist treatment, and prescribe medication without the supervision of a medical doctor required.
Studies have found that patients who visit a nurse practitioner as their primary healthcare provider tend to enjoy more health benefits including a lower mortality rate, decreased number of ER visits, lower rates of readmissions to hospital, and greater patient satisfaction due to the holistic, patient-centered care that most nurse practitioners offer.
Growth of Retail Clinics:
Since 2007, the retail clinic industry in the US has been growing rapidly. Back then there were only around three hundred retail health clinics located in pharmacies, superstores, and drugstores across the country.
Seven years later, this number had seen a massive increase with around two thousand clinics opened. And today in 2021, retail clinics are becoming an increasingly popular sight. Since retail clinics are often run by nurse practitioners, it makes sense that they are one of the main reasons driving the demand for more professionals to fill these roles.
One example is MinuteClinic, a rapidly growing health franchise that you will find at popular retailers such as Target, where nurse practitioners are available to provide health advice and services to customers in-store. Retail clinics are growing in popularity among patients as they offer several benefits including increased coverage by private health insurance companies, high deductibles, and after-hours convenience.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:
When the PPACA was passed, the Congressional Budget Office projected that around 26m American citizens would gain access to affordable health insurance in the next three years as a result of the provisions put in place by the Act.
In addition, the PPACA also included a number of investments that made it possible for the healthcare industry to further expand the role of nurse practitioners in order to ensure that they were prepared for the demand that this would cause.
Around $65m was invested between 2012 and 2015 into the development and improvement of clinics that are run and managed by nurse practitioners. With these new measures in place, it was inevitable that the number of nurse practitioners would need to be increased in order to meet the growing demand for primary care delivery from patients who were now able to access the affordable care that they needed.
The Act included additional funding to nursing schools and colleges in order to facilitate more opportunities for nurses to enroll in nurse practitioner training programs and other advanced nursing programs in order to prepare for this role.
Why Consider a Career as a Nurse Practitioner?
Aside from the high demand, there are many reasons why nurses decide that a role as a nurse practitioner is the right choice for their professional life. Compared to many other advanced nursing career types, working as a nurse practitioner is unique in many ways, including the fact that it allows nurses to remain at the bedside and put delivering patient care first.
For nurses who are passionate about advocating for their patients and improving the healthcare system from the inside out, this role can be an ideal choice since nurse practitioners often have the chance to campaign and get involved with healthcare politics and major industry decisions, allowing them to influence healthcare in favor of what their patients want and need.
Some of the main reasons to consider training as a nurse practitioner include:
More Education Options:
Due to the PPACA and its investment in nurse practitioner training programs, getting qualified as a nurse practitioner is now much easier for registered nurses compared to in the past. Scholarships and other financial aid packages have become increasingly available in order to help nurses financially when it comes to meeting their career goal of working as a nurse practitioner.
And, more and more employers are now offering help financially with education as more nurse practitioners in the workforce is often a win-win situation for them.
In addition to this, the logistics of training as a nurse practitioner are also easier to navigate for many nurses. Compared to in the past where a nurse would need to juggle working full-time with attending nursing school classes on campus, family nurse practitioner programs are now increasingly available to take online, offering a more flexible approach for nurses with busy lives. Learn more and check out the online FNP programs from Texas Woman’s University.
More Autonomy and Independence:
The higher level of career autonomy and independence that comes with working as a nurse practitioner is often one of the most attractive parts of this career.
In many states, training as a nurse practitioner gives these advanced nurses the option to offer the same level of care as a primary care doctor without the need to go to medical school for several years. In some states, nurse practitioners are permitted to run their own independent clinics and do not need to get the supervision or sign-off of a medical doctor when it comes to the decisions that they make for their patients.
With the current shortage of primary care physicians plaguing the healthcare industry in the US right now, family nurse practitioners in particular are seeing a higher demand for their skills and expertise in positions where they are replacing medical doctors to offer patient care.
Explore More Specialty Areas:
Nursing is a career path that is needed in all areas of healthcare, and as a result, there are lots of different specialty areas that nurses can train in whether they are interested in working with a certain patient demographic or want to spend their time treating patients with certain conditions and diseases. As a nurse practitioner, you will enjoy even more opportunities to specialize.
Family, adult-gerontology, neonatal, and psychiatric nurse practitioner roles are some of the most popular, and each of these offers a range of sub-specialization areas where you can focus more on a certain area of healthcare for that group such as women’s health or oncology.
Working as a nurse practitioner gives you the chance to significantly increase your earnings compared to a career as a registered nurse.
Nursing, in general, is a very competitive career today and nurses are often offered generous salary and benefits packages in order to provide an incentive for more people to get into this career during a shortage. Registered nurses in 2021 earn an average of $80k per year, and nurse practitioners have the option to earn significantly more, usually a minimum of $100k depending on their state, specific role, and area of specialty.
Further Career Progression:
As a nurse practitioner, your career progression does not need to stop here. Nurse practitioners will need to have earned a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing in order to start working in this role. This qualification can also be used to prepare you for a wider range of advanced nursing roles including management, leadership, and even executive roles.
With nurse practitioner experience behind you, there are several opportunities to consider if you want to climb the career ladder further and your education does not have to stop here either, with several training programs and another more advanced doctorate degree option available for those who want to take their career even further.
Some nurse practitioners go on to become nurse educators, a position that is in increasing demand right now as a lack of educators is one of the main reasons why the nursing shortage is so severe.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner:
If the high demand and many other benefits of this career sound appealing to you, it’s a good idea to get clear on the steps that you will need to take to start working as a nurse practitioner. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need the following:
A bachelor of science in nursing is typically the minimum requirement for entry to nurse practitioner training programs. If you have an associate degree in nursing you can use an ADN-BSN program to get this qualification faster.
If you are just starting out in your journey to become a nurse practitioner, a typical BSN will take four years to complete. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a different subject might want to consider the accelerated BSN program which lasts around 2-3 years.
A master’s degree in nursing is usually the minimum requirement to work as a nurse practitioner. If you have an MSN, then you might be required to undergo further nurse practitioner training before you can apply for your license and start working in this role.
The best way to get into this profession after getting your BSN is to enroll on a nurse practitioner-based master’s degree in nursing, such as the family nurse practitioner degree which is specifically designed to prepare nurses for this role.
Similar to the NCLEX exam that you will have had to pass to become a registered nurse and start working in your state, there are further exams designed for advanced nurses to take to get the appropriate licensing to begin work as a nurse practitioner. It’s important to research your state’s requirements for getting this license and prepare for it in good time. Once you are licensed, your registered nurse license is not affected allowing you to continue working in either role.
The healthcare industry is changing significantly, and with an aging population coupled with fewer primary care physicians, nurse practitioners are taking over as primary care providers in the US.