Nurse practitioner workforce experiences rapid growth

The nurse practitioner workforce more than doubled over a seven-year span as the health care industry ramps up primary care, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data published by Health Affairs last week.

The number of NPs grew at an unprecedented rate across major professions from around 91,000 in 2010 to 190,000 in 2017. The outpatient setting represented the fastest-growing sector that employed NPs.

“The relative low growth in the physician workforce is creating a gap in primary-care access and these folks are filling that gap," said David Auerbach, lead author of the study and an adjunct faculty member at Montana State University.

According to Health Affairs, this growth in NPs occurred in every U.S. region and was driven by the rapid expansion of education programs that attracted nurses in the Millennial generation.

The number of NPs is projected to grow 6.8 percent from 2016 to 2030, much faster than physician assistants at 4.3 percent and physicians at 1.1 percent.

While some physicians embrace NPs, others are more hesitant to accept them, raising concerns about less training and care quality, even though that stereotype largely hasn't been supported by research.

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