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Why There Is a Growing Need for Family Nurse Practitioners

The role of the nurse practitioner began in the 1960s as an answer to a physician shortage. More than a half-century later, that shortage still exists and shows no signs of abating. The country will face a shortage of between 46,000-90,000 physicians by 2025, according to a recent report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Although the number of nurse practitioners has grown in the past years—from 60,000 in 1999 to 140,000 today—the goal is to swell these numbers to 244,000 by 2025.

Why there will be an increase in the number of family nurse practitioner job openings:

Several things have happened in this country to create the need for more primary care providers and more family nurse practitioner jobs:

  • The physician shortage persists, according to a report released in March 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Within this overall shortage, the report estimates there will be a shortage of 12,000-31,000 primary care physicians. This study is the first national analysis "that takes into account both demographics and recent changes to care delivery and payment methods."
  • Healthcare reform, enacted in March 2010, has increased by millions the numbers of adults and children – both well and chronically ill – who are now covered by health insurance.
  • The number of aging baby boomers grows daily (10,000 turn 65 years old each day). They will need increasing care for both acute and chronic health problems.
  • Many patients no longer see the nurse practitioner as a substitute for a physician but, rather, as their primary care provider of choice.

Family nurse practitioners are an essential part of the new care models

New care models, such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes, are built around the availability of family nurse practitioners and have created more family nurse practitioner jobs. They are needed to deliver primary and preventive care, to manage large populations with chronic health conditions, and to teach older patients how to stay in their homes and out of the hospitals.

Planners also see placing family nurse practitioners in primary care settings as a way to balance quality and cost. More than one study has proven that the quality of care delivered by nurse practitioners is equal to or sometimes better than physicians, and they often provide care at a lower cost.

Need for diversity among nurse practitioners

There also is a great need for diversity among nurse practitioners. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration's 2012 "National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners," about 86 percent of nurse practitioners were white and 93 percent female. Only 3 percent were Hispanic/Latino, 5 percent were black, and 6 percent other than non-Hispanic groups.

The Institute of Medicine 2010 report "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health" found that a diverse workforce leads to enhanced communication, greater healthcare access, higher patient satisfaction and fewer health disparities. In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration has stated that minority healthcare providers could increase access to care for underserved populations more than nonminority providers could.

Now is the time to enroll in an online nurse practitioner program

An online nurse practitioner program allows you to complete a master's degree while continuing to work and meet other social and family obligations. These online nurse practitioner programs make it possible for students to enroll in courses full or part time and to complete the program at the pace that matches their lifestyles.

The time has never been more opportune for nurses who want to complete a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program. Earning an advanced degree is a way to further a career, increase earnings, assume a leadership role and be an important part of a healthcare team that delivers high quality care for a growing number of patients.

Learn about the UT Arlington MSN – FNP online program.


Rains, Laura. "Nurse practitioners are the future of healthcare,"

Association of American Colleges. "New physician workforce projections show the doctor shortage remains significant," "Nurses for a healthier tomorrow coalition,"

American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Graphic,

Victoria Stagg Elliott. "Sharp increase expected in number of nurse practitioners,"

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions. "The Rationale for Diversity in the Health Professions: A Review of the Evidence."

Institute of Medicine. "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health"

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