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Checking In On Nurse Practitioner Residency Programs

A variety of factors have led to an increase in demand for primary care—an aging population with greater healthcare needs, changes in insurance options for large numbers of previously uninsured people, accountable care models, and consumerism for starters. The increasing demand is tough to meet with the current supply of primary care physicians, so increasingly the solution seemed to be nurse practitioners. If anything the need for nurse practitioners continues to grow. Estimates have put the shortage of primary care physicians at about 45,000 by this year. However, much has changed in the years since the introduction of the Accountable Care Act, so are nurse practitioners still in high demand or has demand declined as the rolls of the uninsured have once again increased?

Quantifying Demand – Where Are We Now?  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that openings for nurse practitioners in the US will increase by 25% between 2018 and 2028 – a growth rate that far exceeds the estimated 7% growth rate across all other occupations as estimated by the bureau for the same time period. If the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections are correct, this will result in an increase of approximately 62,000 nurse practitioner jobs. You can read more of the bureau’s statistics on nurse practitioners by clicking here https://www.bls.gov/OOH/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

Additionally, there was a fairly rapid expansion of education programs to support nurses who wanted this and other advanced practice degrees.

What Contributes to High Demand for Nurse Practitioners?

There are some reasons to believe that the growing need for nurse practitioners will persist. These factors are contributory.

  1. As mentioned earlier there has been a persistent and significant shortage of primary care physicians as new physicians gravitate toward specialties that are more lucrative and potentially offer a better work life balance than primary care. This trend shows no signs of reversal making regular increases in demand for nurse practitioners and the programs that train them likely for the foreseeable future.
  2. There is also an increasing demand for primary care. As the supply of primary care physicians has shrunk, the demand for primary care has increased. The 2018 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) matched just 2,730 residents with primary care residencies; that included family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. That number enrolled in nurse practitioner residency programs is far exceeded by the deficit of more than 23,640 primary care physicians that is expected by 2025. Conversely, more than 80% of the graduates of nurse residency practitioner programs are prepared in primary care.
  3. Nursing has gained more respect as a career. Effective models of patient-centered care, nurse magnet programs, rapid-fire changes in technology and increasing demands for efficacy and efficiency in healthcare have helped elevate the profession and has led to better career and educational opportunities for nurses.
  4. Many services that were formerly hospital-based are now delivered in outpatient settings. Increasing pressures on the inpatient length of stay and financial pressures resulting in more cost-effective models of care have resulted in more procedures (and more healthcare jobs) being moved to outpatient settings.
  5. The senior age cohort uses healthcare services at a higher rate and this cohort is the fastest growing segment of the population. An older, sicker population will drive the need not just for additional primary care services, but those that specialize in gerontology.
  6. Retail clinics are a growing segment of the primary care market. In 2007, there were just 300 retail clinics. Now there are more than 2,000 clinics and the industry value is estimated to be approximately $7.5 billion. The streamlined, low-cost business model has had ups and downs with some players (CVS and Target) increasing their number of clinics and others (Walgreens) appearing to exit the market altogether. The clinics still have a large footprint in primary care and largely employ nurses and nurse practitioners.

These trends do not appear to be reversing which will likely result in an ongoing demand for nurse practitioners and programs to train them.

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