Amid continued growth of most healthcare professions, the Nurse Practitioner (NP) sector has grown at unprecedented and explosive rates. In fact, new research finds the nurse practitioner workforce has more than doubled over a seven-year span, growing from 91,000 in 2010 to 190,000 in 2017. Helping to fuel the surge in NPs was an increase in educational programs, jumping from 356 in 2010 to 467 in 2017 – graduating nearly as many NPs as medical schools do physicians each year.
The increase in the number of NPs doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon, with growth projections at 6.8% from 2016 to 2030 – faster than physician assistants and physicians. There are projected to be two NPs for every five physicians in 2030, compared to less than one NP per five physicians in 2016.
NPs Filling Vital Primary Care Needs.
There is a primary care crisis in the United States today, and the projections are only gloomier. In 2013, 53% of U.S. states were already experiencing primary care physician shortages. By 2025, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) predicts the shortages will rise to include 72% of states. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage between 21,100 and 55,200 by 2032.
The shortage of primary care doctors is not the only problem. Patient demand for primary care is also increasing. By 2030, it will increase by 38% among the 65+ population and by 55% for those older than 75. For all age groups, demand will rise by 8%.
Nurse practitioners are well equipped to address and solve much of the physician shortage in primary care. Given their degree of training and education, as well as a focus on disease prevention and health management, these professionals can address the core tenets of primary care. In fact, 78% of NPs practice primary care, a far cry from the 33% of physicians to specialize in primary care. The bottom line is this – the use of NPs could reduce the primary care physician shortage by nearly 70%.
Addressing the Rural Health Care Crisis.
The primary care shortage impacts both rural and urban areas, although its effects are more concentrated in rural areas. Patients living in rural areas are five times more likely to live in a county with a primary care shortage compared to individuals living in urban or suburban areas.
Despite the aggressive efforts among industry leaders, government entities and academia to help solve the issue – from resident programs aimed at rural hospitals, a move to accept more medical school applicants from rural areas, to innovative rural recruiting programs – many physicians aren’t inclined to make this their first choice. A recent survey conducted by Cross Country Search found that only eight percent of primary care physician residents were open to working in a rural community.
However, the same survey found advanced practitioners, such as NPs, are three times more likely than physicians to be open to working in a rural community. Moreover, they are further motivated by independence and autonomy in a work environment, something increasingly found in rural healthcare facilities.
NPs Help Improve Patient Care and Facility Performance.
Primary care practices and other healthcare facilities are turning to NPs and other non-physician clinicians to not only fill physician vacancies, but to help improve a number of critical initiatives – from improving workflows and patient satisfaction to bolstering revenue generation. In fact, many stakeholders have aimed to boost primary care including states, payers and the CMS, which launched the Direct Contracting and Primary Care First models which encourage primary care practices to take on varying levels of risk.
Healthcare enterprises that use NPs and other non-physician clinicians see increased productivity and profitability, according to Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Even beyond these benefits, facilities can enjoy a range of improvements across the care spectrum, including:
Boost revenues. The costs of physician vacancies and turnover have been estimated by various organizations from between one-half to more than two million dollars per year per vacancy depending on specialization and facility. With an abundance of NPs in the market, hospitals and healthcare practices can hire these professionals instead of physicians to stop the bleeding.
Improve workflow. A recent American Medical Association (AMA) survey found that administrative burden, along with stress and lack of time, were top reasons reported for physician burnout. NPs can take over tasks like quality reporting and clinical documentation, significantly improving a facility’s workflow and lessening the administrative burden.
Improved patient satisfaction. Since having NPs on staff can ease administrative tasks, it can also improve wait times. While it may take weeks or months to get in to see the doctor, often, patients can get in to see an NP within hours. This improved wait time – both to get in for an appointment and to see a provider after arrival – contributes to overall patient satisfaction.
For more insight into how NPs and other advanced practice providers can improve your facilities’ performance, read the latest trend report from our direct-hire search partner Cross Country Search.
Tap into Flexible Recruitment Solutions.
Hiring decision-makers across most healthcare facilities know all too well the difficulty in attracting and hiring physician and advanced practice (AP) talent. Whether you’re looking for physicians or APs to fill a vacancy, staff up for seasonal variations or need coverage for unexpected absences, Cross Country Locums can meet any staffing demands. Contact us today to learn more.