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Job Trends for Nurse Practitioners

In 2014, 126,900 nurse practitioners were working in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Expected growth for the profession was 35 percent from 2014 to 2024, which translates to an additional 44,700 jobs for nurses who have chosen to get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become a nurse practitioner.

The BLS cited the main reason for NP job growth as the increased demand for healthcare services from both newly insured patients and aging Baby Boomers. Also, as states change laws concerning the practice authority of advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners can perform more services and fill more roles. The BLS reported NPs (along with nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives) worked in the following settings:

Physician offices 48%
Hospitals (state, local and private) 28%
Outpatient care centers 7%
Educational services (state, local and private) 3%
Offices of other health practitioners 3%
Other settings 11%

The Demand for Primary Care

NPs work in all areas of the healthcare system. However, the largest demand for NPs is in primary care, according to Stephen Ferrara, DNP, RN, FNP, executive director of Nurse Practitioner Association New York State and editor of the Journal of Doctoral Nursing Practice. Ferrara attributed much of that demand to fewer physicians going into primary care and an increased focus on preventive care.

Ferrara said family nurse practitioners are the largest NP specialty to provide primary care, followed by pediatric and gerontology NPs who provide care for those specialized populations. In fact, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reported 83.4 percent of NPs were prepared in primary care in 2016.

NPs provide primary care not only in physician offices but also in diverse settings that include community centers, women's health centers, skilled nursing centers, rehabilitation centers and schools. About half of the states in the U.S. let NPs practice without the supervision of a physician. The demand for primary care NPs is particularly high in rural areas and other locations underserved by physicians.

The Aging Population and Gerontology NPs

"Nurse practitioners are important providers of primary care services to Medicare beneficiaries," according to a fact sheet from the AANP. As more Baby Boomers become eligible for Medicare, the need for NPs with specialized gerontology knowledge increases. NPs can also be part of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) — groups of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers who coordinate care for Medicare patients.

An MSN in Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program, such as the one offered by the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), can prepare NPs to support the health, functional status and independence of older adults.

Acute care for older adults is also important. UTA's MSN in Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program gives NPs the clinical expertise -- including diagnostic reasoning, complex monitoring, and therapies -- to patients who are characterized as physiologically unstable, technologically dependent, and/or are highly vulnerable to complications.

Pediatric Care

Nurse practitioners are also increasingly important in providing both pediatric primary care and acute care. Although family nurse practitioners can provide pediatric care, a study found an increased need for pediatric nurse practitioners, saying, "Failure to address these pediatric health workforce concerns will affect pediatric care and will have long-term consequences for the health of the entire population."

UT Arlington's MSN in Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program prepares NPs to provide a full range of care, including health promotion, disease prevention and disease treatment, for children from birth to age 21. The MSN in Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner gives NPs the skills to provide care to children who are physiologically unstable, technologically dependent or highly vulnerable to complications.

Other Job Trends for Nurse Practitioners

A few other trends in the healthcare environment are affecting nurse practitioners. For example, outpatient care centers, retail clinics, urgent care centers and ambulatory surgery centers are growing and need NPs. In-demand specialties, such as diabetes care, mean an increased need for nurse practitioners. Also, NPs who want to teach will be in demand as nursing schools lose their aging nursing faculty members to retirement.

According to Staff Care, a healthcare staffing agency, "Further empowering the positive NP job outlook is the increase of team-based care and population health management," where NPs increasingly play a central role. The agency also notes NPs are more cost effective than physicians, an important consideration in efforts to cut healthcare costs.

While many factors contribute to job trends for nurse practitioners, uncertainty exists in the political arena of healthcare reform. For this reason, NPs must stay up-to-date and informed about the changes affecting them and their profession. Getting an MSN that provides solid knowledge and grounding in the profession is a great place to start.

Learn more about UTA's online MSN - Nurse Practitioner programs.

Related Articles


Nurse Journal: 7 Future Job Trends for Nurse Practitioners

American Association of Nurse Practitioners: Fact Sheet: Accountable Care Organizations (ACO)

American Association of Nurse Practitioners: NP Facts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Medscape: To Meet Demand for Pediatric NPs, Systems Must Change

Staff Care: NP Job Outlook: Nurse Practitioner Demand at All-Time High

Stephen Ferrara, DNP, RN, FNP. Phone interview.

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