How Nurse Practitioners Can Close the Gap in Healthcare

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If there’s one thing health care professionals can count on in their field, it’s change. The heath care system, particularly the nursing field, is growing exponentially and evolving to fit an aging population, new insurance models, and shifting supply and demand. This outlook is very exciting for Nurse Practitioners who are taking on more primary care roles in a host of settings. Job projections highlight this: the profession is expected to grow by more than 30% within ten years.

Almost half of the states allow NPs to work without the supervision of an MD, and this number is rising every year. NPs can fill the gap caused by the emerging physician shortage, and this can provide lower-cost access to high-quality health care for millions of Americans.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Regis College’s Online Master of Science in Nursing program.

How Nurse Practitioners Can Close the Gap in Healthcare

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Increased Demand for Nursing in Health Care

Health Care Spending is a Significant Part of the US Economy

Health care spending makes up a healthy chunk of the U.S. economy, and it’s on the upswing. The U.S. spent $3.3 trillion on health care in 2016, which represented a previous rise of 4.3% from the previous year. This spending amount is projected to increase to $5.7 trillion by 2026. This increase represents an average projected annual rise of 5.5%.

Currently, healthcare spending accounts for nearly 18% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). This translates to $10,348 per person. Yet despite outspending comparable high-income nations, the U.S. health care system ranks last or close to last on measures concerning health, quality, access, and cost.

There is a Growing Need for RNs, with a Projected Shortage in Some States

Nursing is the single largest profession in the entire U.S. health care workforce, with 2.86 million nurses currently in the workforce. However, it’s projected that there will be a need for 3.44 million nurses by 2022, representing a 20.2% increase in the workforce. This growth rate is faster than the average growth rate for any other occupation.

Additionally, there is a projected shortage in certain states. Seven states – Alaska, California, Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas – are all projected to have a nursing deficit in 2030. Not all the news is bad when it comes to states, however. In 2014, RN shortages were projected in 34 states with a total deficit of 808,000, but 2017 reports show a turnaround.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) Profession Snapshot

Entering the workforce as an NP is an excellent choice. In 2017, NPs ranked third on a list of best health care jobs, and fourth on a list of best overall jobs. It’s a well-paying position, as well: the mean full-time base salary of NPs in 2017 was $105,546.

NPs are also responsible for numerous tasks. Studies indicate 95.8% of NPs prescribe medicine and 77.8% deliver primary care. The studies also show 49.9% of NPs hold hospital privileges and 11.3% of NPs carry long-term care privileges.

The average NP has been in practice for 11 years and is 49 years old. They tend to avoid the legal headaches that can plague MDs, as only 1.9% of NPs have been named as a primary defendant in a malpractice case. NPs also typically outscore MDs when it comes to patient satisfaction. They’re definitely needed in the workforce – there’s a projected 31% growth within the position by 2026, which is much faster than average.

NPs Will Help Fill in Projected Gaps in the Health Care System

An aging population will increase health care spending, and this will account for about 20% of the economy by 2024. However, the U.S. is facing a shortage of physicians. This shortage is projected to be between 61,700 and 94,700 by 2026, and this projected shortage will be substantial in many surgical specialties.

In contrast, the workforces of NPs and physician’s assistant are projected to grow rapidly. NPs expand access to care, improve patient health outcomes, provide a boost to rural health care, lower primary care costs, and lower emergency room admissions. If NPs are fully integrated into team-based care, it will offset the physician shortage.

Daily Difference Makers

What Does an NP Do in Daily Practice?

NPs provide a full range of primary, acute, and specialty health care services. These include educating patients on wellness, managing patients’ overall care, prescribing medications, ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests, diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions, and counseling.

NPs can be involved in a wide range of settings to carry out their practice. Roughly 22% of NPs are involved with private physician practice, making it the most popular setting. The second most popular setting is at a hospital outpatient clinic, which holds approximately 13% of NPs, and the third most popular setting is community-based primary care at around 11%. Other typical settings for NPs include clinics, hospitals, ERs, urgent care facilities, private physician or NP practices, nursing homes, schools, colleges, and public health departments.

NPs average 1,020,000,000,000 patient visits per year. They also work an average of 37 hours per week. This time is spent contributing to health care across a variety of specializations and in a host of roles. Some of the specialty areas include acute care, gerontology, psychiatric, oncology, and neonatal. These areas are spread across various demographics, such as pediatric, adult, family, and women.

NPs can be found in multiple areas of practice. 95% participate in clinical practice, 57% have at least one sub-specialty, and 8% are in acute care. 55% are family NPs, 19% of NPs are associated with adult care, and 21% have two or more practice roles. 12% of NPs are faculty, 11% are involved in administration, and 6% are involved in research.

Deciding to Pursue an NP Career

Educational Requirements

A Master of Science, or MSN, degree is the minimum degree required to become an NP. It’s the most common degree in the field. However, there is a growing number of programs that require a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or DNP, degree.

To become an NP, students will need to graduate from an accredited nursing program with a four-year Bachelor’s degree. They will also need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination, obtain a state licenses, and gain experience as an RN. Finally, they will need to obtain a graduate degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

NP Certification and Licensing

To become a licensed NP, students will need to first pass a national certification exam. Next, they will need to accrue necessary supervised clinical hours. Once the hours are completed, the can obtain a license, and they can then continue studies in specialization if they wish.

Nurse practitioners can expect change in these certification requirements, as these requirements are currently set at the state level. Once licensing is obtained, what the NP can do independently depends on the state. As of August 2017, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Main, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming grant NPs full practice authority. The other 27 states only allow NPs to practice their profession under the oversight of physicians.