The number of nurse practitioners (NP) in the United States has surpassed 270,000, according to a survey from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
The data from the AANP shows that the number of NPs has grown 9% in less than a year from 248,000. The number of NPs has doubled from 120,000 in 2017.
NPs offer considerable experience, as 95% have graduate degrees and 18% have doctorate degrees. The average NP has been in practice for at least a decade.
The demand for NPs continues to grow. These nurses hold advanced degrees that allow them to diagnose medical conditions, prescribe medications and conduct physical exams. NPs are the primary care providers in retail health clinics run by CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance. They’re also taking on greater roles in hospitals and health systems.
Private clinics are the primary setting for NPs, with 24% claiming to belong to a private practice. But NPs also work in other settings: 14% in hospital outpatient clinics, 12% in inpatient hospital units, 3% in emergency departments, 4% in urgent care clinics, and 8% in Federally-Qualified Health Centers.
Some NPs are coming into the field with less experience. One-third of survey respondents said they had been in practice for five years or less. The AANP also revealed that more than 26,000 NPs completed their educational practice between 2016 and 2017, and 87% of new graduates focused on primary care.
Studies have shown that NPs are increasingly becoming the main or sole primary care providers in rural communities. They account for 1 in 4 medical care providers in rural areas of the United States.
More males are also putting on their scrubs and lab coats to serve as NPs, although the number of female NPs far outweighs males. According to data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, there are 13,167 male NPs in the U.S.
The influx of NPs is primarily fueled by the growing shortage of primary care providers. By 2030, the U.S. is expected to see a shortage of 42,600-121,300 physicians.
A study from United Health Group found that employing more NPs and physicians’ assistants could fill the patient care access cap by 70%.
Despite the perceived value that NPs bring to the health care setting, these medical professionals face an uphill battle. NPs often have a difficult time winning over patient trust, and some organizations are not convinced that having a non-physician clinician will help with care access issues.