In 2022, 266,300 nurse practitioners (NPs) were working in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS projects employment of NPs will increase 45% from 2022 to 2032, making it one of the two fastest growing occupations in the U.S. This employment growth translates to an additional 118,600 jobs for nurses who have chosen to earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees and become NPs. The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) offers several online MSN degree programs designed for working nurses, including the MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program as well as four more NP specializations discussed below.
Why Is the NP Profession Growing so Quickly?
BLS cites the main reasons for NP job growth as the increased demands for healthcare services, emphasizing preventative care and care for the aging population (including the large Baby Boomer cohort). Also, as states change laws concerning the practice authority of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse practitioners can perform more services and fill more roles. As BLS states, “APRNs also are being recognized more widely by the public as a source for primary healthcare,” and changes in practice authority regulations increasingly enable this shift.
BLS reported NPs (along with nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives) commonly work in the following settings (with percentage distributions as of 2022):
- Physician offices: 47%
- Hospitals (state, local and private): 25%
- Outpatient care centers: 9%
- Offices of other health practitioners: 4%
- Educational services (state, local and private): 3%
The Demand for Primary Care
NPs work in all areas of the healthcare system. However, the need for increasing access to care is driving demand for NPs in primary care. The persisting physician shortage means fewer physicians are going into primary care, creating an overarching primary care shortage that NPs can help solve. The rising emphasis on preventive care also spurs demand for primary care NPs who excel in this area.
Family nurse practitioners are the largest NP specialty to provide primary care, followed by pediatric and gerontology NPs who provide care for specialized populations. In fact, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that nearly 90% of NPs are trained to deliver primary care.
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
AANP notes that “an increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries are seeing NPs for their primary care needs.” 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 fully online by 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 online MSN in Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program gives NPs the clinical expertise — including diagnostic reasoning, complex monitoring and therapies — to care for patients who are characterized as physiologically unstable, technologically dependent or are highly vulnerable to complications.
Nurse practitioners are also increasingly important in providing pediatric primary care and acute care. Although family nurse practitioners can provide pediatric care, the demand for NPs with specialized pediatric primary expertise grows.
UTA’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 program 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.
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.