What’s Driving the Growing Demand for Nurse Practitioners?


Healthcare recruiters Meritt Hawkins conducted research with the findings that nurse practitioners were the most recruited healthcare role in the industry for 2013; this was the first time that nurse practitioners climbed into the top twenty, and the demand for them has only risen further since. Over time, nurse practitioners experienced a huge 30% growth between 2010 and 2020, with demand expected to continue on this trajectory into the future. The growth of nurse practitioners as a primary healthcare role has exceeded that of primary care physicians, but why has this happened?

Shifting Demographics:

A report conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMCO) in 2015 found that by 2025, the US population is expected to grow by around 10%. The largest amount of growth is expected to be seen in the senior demographic, with the country expected to have around 45% more older people in the next 4-5 years. On the other hand, the number of people under the age of 18 will only grow by around 5% during this same period of time. Given that the senior demographic tends to require more medical care compared to other generations, it’s not surprising that the increasing demand for skilled healthcare professionals such as nurse practitioners has been in part driven by an increasingly aging population. Studies suggest that specialist visits for chronic health conditions in older people are on the rise, causing the need for nurse practitioners to grow.

Growing Popularity of Retail Clinics:

Around the country, retail health clinics are becoming more and more popular. In 2007, there were only a few hundred retail clinics across the US, compared to thousands in 2014, and even more have been opened since then. Mini clinics such as these are located in a wide range of places from pharmacies and drugstores to supermarkets, providing patients with an easier and more convenient way to get non-urgent medical attention for a variety of healthcare concerns. Retail clinics typically offer after-hours convenience and are increasingly covered by several private health companies with high deductible health plans, which are just some of the reasons why they are growing in popularity.

For example, MinuteClinic is one well-known health clinic that you can typically find at stores like Target and Walmart. They provide health services to customers in-store and work with collaborating physicians, allowing people to access health services and advice as they go grocery shopping. You will often find nurse practitioners heading this brand, and will often be leading the clinics in states where they are permitted to do this without the supervision of a primary care physician. The growth of retail clinics across the US is putting nurse practitioners in an increasingly central and leading role as healthcare professionals.

Shortage of Primary Care Physicians:

Along with a shortage of nurses in general, the country’s numbers of all medical professionals is exceedingly low, a situation that has been further highlighted by the events of the COVID19 pandemic. A shortage of primary care physicians, coupled with the aging population causing a greater demand for healthcare services, has led to an increased need for nurse practitioners who can fill the gap. As advanced healthcare professionals, in many states nurse practitioners are able to take on many of the same duties and responsibilities as a primary care doctor including prescribing medication, diagnosing conditions, and referring patients for further treatments. With the research suggesting that by 2033, the numbers of primary care physicians is likely to drop even further by a huge 139,000 doctors, nurse practitioners are headed into a higher level of demand than ever before. Click here to learn more about how nurse practitioners are an important answer to the primary care physician shortage in the US.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):

In 2014, the Congressional Budget Office stated that, by 2017, affordable health insurance would be much more accessible to millions of US citizens as a result of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Act included various important investments that allowed the healthcare system to further expand the role that nurse practitioners have when it comes to patient care. Since then, millions of dollars have been invested into outpatient clinics and a number of other healthcare facilities that tend to be primarily managed by nurse practitioners. As a result of this, the need to increase nurse practitioner numbers in the healthcare industry began to grow even further. To ensure that this growing demand for primary care delivery could be met, the Act also provided additional funding to nursing schools, universities, and colleagues to encourage greater interest and enrollment in nurse practitioner degree programs and training courses. Online nurse practitioner training has received a lot more investment as a result of this growing demand, allowing more nurses the access and flexibility that they need to further their careers while continuing to work in their careers.

Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?

Whether you are already a nurse or are considering a future career in nursing, there are plenty of reasons why becoming a nurse practitioner is a hot career choice right now. Trained nurse practitioners are enjoying a higher level of demand than ever before and this is only set to increase as the population ages and numbers of primary care physicians decrease even further. Nurse practitioners get to enjoy working with patients in the role that they love while being offered a greater degree of autonomy and responsibility in their role. There is a variety of options when it comes to potential workplace environments; nurse practitioners may work alongside primary care physicians, in retail clinics, their own clinics, hospitals, research facilities, outpatient clinics, and many more. Due to the growing demand for nurse practitioners in the US, the role offers a very generous, competitive rate of pay and enviable workplace benefits including health insurance and more.

Over the past few years, the demand for nurse practitioners in the US has risen massively. There are various reasons for this, including an aging population coupled with a shortage of primary care physicians at the same time.

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