Nurse practitioners have been delivering quality healthcare for nearly half a century. Over the year, the nursing role has evolved in response to changing healthcare needs, creating this expanded role. Nurse practitioners are qualified to take patient histories, perform physical exams, order labs, prescribe medicines, authorize treatments and counsel patients on continued care.

Similar to other clinical professionals who focus on patient care, nurse practitioners might also have a “population” they specialize in, such as families, adults, pediatrics or geriatrics. They also might concentrate on providing care in a specific area, such as cardiology, dermatology, oncology and orthopedics, among others.

For a look at the growing demand for nurse practitioners, required education and current healthcare trends pertinent to this role, we turn to this week’s Talent Acquisition Fast Facts:

As the population continues to increase, baby boomers grow older and an estimated 25 million people gain access to health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the number of nurse practitioners is expected to rise dramatically over the next 9-10 years.

These same factors, along with the demand for primary care services, also increase the need for primary care physicians. However, demand will grow more rapidly than the physician supply—resulting in nurse practitioners’ potential to alleviate this shortage. In fact, according to the AANP, nurse practitioners are choosing primary care more than physicians and physician assistants.

  • In 2012, more than 80% of nurse practitioners were prepared in primary care programs, while only 46% of physicians entered a primary care residency.

  • The areas of primary care preparation include:
    • Family (49%)
    • Adult and Geriatrics (22%)
    • Women’s Health (8%)
    • Pediatrics (8%)

  • 3 out of 4 nurse practitioners practice in at least one primary care setting.

With this increased need and focus on primary care services, many believe that revising the state laws that govern nurse practitioners’ scope of practice is a way to increase the capacity. The AANP also states:

  • 2 out of 3 patients support legislation for greater access to nurse practitioner services.

  • 17 states and the District of Columbia have removed restrictions and granted independence to nurse practitioners, allowing them to work without a supervising physician.

According to the 2014 U.S. New's Best Healthcare Jobs report, nurse practitioners rank No. 2 on the list of best health positions; overall, they rank No. 4 on the 2014 U.S. New's 100 Best Jobs report, citing their array of capabilities and coupled with the fact they can work independently of physicians when treating patients.

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  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 37,100 new positions for this field between 2012 and 2022, growing at a rate of 33.7%—much faster than the average for all other healthcare occupations.

Education requirements to practice as a nurse practitioner include:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

  • Registered Nurse License

  • Graduate Nursing Education

  • National Board Certification

  • State Nurse Practitioner Licensure/Registration

Nurse practitioners are the providers of choice for millions of patients and have proven their value in delivering high quality, lower cost healthcare services. The demand for this role will continue for at least the next ten years. At Cielo Healthcare, we have already placed 35% more nurse practitioners in 2014 than we had at this time last year.

While there’s still some uncertainty on the impact of the Affordable Care Act and healthcare delivery, it is evident that nurse practitioners will play an important role in the future of delivering quality healthcare.

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