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Clinical Systems Leadership

Nurse Practitioner Workforce Doubles Over Past Decade

Since 2004, the number of nurse practitioners has drastically increased in the U.S. Over the past 10 years, the number of NP licenses jumped from 106,000 to 205,000 at the end of 2014, according to a recent report from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

This growth comes as medical professionals are predicting a shortfall in the number of primary care providers needed to meet a growing demand. As more Americans are covered under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the general population grows in size and age, demand is expected to increase significantly. To meet this expected demand, many are advocating for NPs to take over more primary care responsibilities from doctors.

NPs and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can perform many of the same duties as doctors in many states. Many people see evidence like that shown in the AANP reports, and predict NPs can fill the gaps predicted in physician care in the next decade. NPs could become the primary care professionals to meet the demand.

AANP President Ken Miller, Ph.D., R.N., CFNP, FAANP, said that although promising, these results highlight challenges that can stop NPs from being as effective as possible for public health.

“The explosive growth of the nurse practitioner profession is a public health boon considering our nation’s skyrocketing demand for high-quality, accessible care,” Miller said in a statement. “The challenge now will be right-sizing state and federal laws such that all patients will have full and direct access to nurse practitioners, and these expert and dedicated clinicians will be able to provide care to the top of their education and clinical training.”

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The second-best job of 2015
While the growing need for health care providers is one reason for the significant growth between 2004 and 2014, another reason may be how desirable being an NP is. Not only have both NPs and physicians recommended a career as an NP more highly than they did a career as a physician, but U.S. News & World Report also rated being a nurse practitioner as the second best job in its 2015 “100 Best Jobs” list after dentist.

The news source used factors such as growth in the next 10 years, median salary, future job prospects, work-life balance, stress and employment levels to make its rankings. Being a nurse practitioner was also in the No. 2 spot on the list of Best Health Care Jobs. A U.S. News and World Report spokesperson explained that the lists could be used by college students or professionals looking for a career change to see which jobs offer the most room for success and growth in the near future.

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What it takes to become an NP
If you’re interested in an advanced nursing role, becoming a nurse practitioner may be the way to have a purposeful career that also has a large salary. An NP is a form of advanced practice registered nurse, who can prescribe medication, interpret test results and provide full care to patients, similar to how a doctor would.

To become a nurse practitioner, you need to get your bachelor degree and pass your exams to qualify as registered nurse. Then you must earn a graduate degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing or a doctorate in your chosen nursing field. This additional, advanced schooling is part of why nurse practitioners share some of the responsibilities and abilities of doctors.

After earning a graduate degree, people must pass further exams to be licensed as an NP. Even after you gain your license, there’s always more to learn. NPs are lifelong learners who frequently take classes to stay on the cutting edge of health care technology.

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