As a leading educator, Frontier Nursing University strongly advocates for nurse practitioners and the important role they play in improving access to healthcare. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), there are currently 234,000 nurse practitioners in the United States and that number is projected to grow to 244,000 by 2025. Several studies show that patient satisfaction and health outcomes under nurse practitioner care can be better in specific instances than care provided by physicians, particularly in rural areas.
This is important as we face a health care professional shortage. The Health Resources and Service Administration predicts a shortage of 23,640 primary care physicians by 2025. While the number of nurse practitioners will increase by 2025, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the number of nurse practitioners in rural areas is decreasing while the number of people living in rural areas remains steady at about 19 percent of the U.S. population.
Educate Nurse Practitioners in Their Communities
Nurse practitioners in primary care do not replace physicians, but studies have shown that nurse practitioners can manage 80 to 90 percent of care provided by primary care physicians (Rohrer, et. al. 2013). Therefore, it is important that nurse practitioners – particularly in rural and underserved areas – be educated in their home communities if they wish.
Nurse practitioners are more likely to stay and practice in their home community if they are educated there, and their patients are more likely to seek their care because they know and trust them. Frontier Nursing University is working to increase not only the number of nurse practitioners, but also diversity among those who provide care in rural and underserved areas through our distance education model.
Nurse Practitioners Should Advocate on Important Issues
It is also important that nurse practitioners get involved with their state advance practice groups and advocacy efforts. Only 24 states have full scope practice for nurse practitioners (AANP, 2017). This is legislation we can work together to change. Our elected representatives need to hear our voices and understand that we need to practice at the highest extent of our education and licenses. There are fewer nurse practitioners in states with restricted practice, and health outcomes are worse in those states.
Additionally, nurse practitioners should be reimbursed for their work. Medicare reimbursement remains at 85 percent of physicians’ fee schedules. Medicaid, the top payer in many areas, varies by state, and some states do not recognize nurse practitioners as primary care providers (National Governors Association, 2012).
Nurse Practitioners Improve Quality and Efficiency of Care
When nurse practitioners have their own panel of patients, the result is a more efficient practice and better continuity of care. While some providers may not allow nurse practitioners to have their own panels, we encourage nurse practitioners to ask.
We also recommend that health care providers and management teams provide nurse practitioners with the necessary resources and support to deliver care using their advanced practice skills. This includes a commitment to diversity in the health care organization. A racially and ethnically diverse workforce that represents the patient population leads to better health outcomes, better patient satisfaction and better use of services.
Diversity, teamwork and a shared vision of care creates a supportive work environment and that has a positive effect on healthcare outcomes. Patients come back, they get well, and by increasing access to care, nurse practitioners make a significant difference in their communities.
- American Association of Nurse Practitioner (2017) NP Fact Sheet https://www.aanp.org/all-about-nps/np-fact-sheet
- US Census Bureau (2015) Statistical abstract of the United States. Washington, DC; Author
- Institute of Medicine, 2010
- US Department of Health and Human Services (2016) National and Regional Projections of Supply and Demand for Primary Care Practitioners: 2013-2025. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2002
- National Governors Association (2012) The Role of the Nurse Practitioners in Meeting Increasing Demand for Primary Care. Retrieved https://www.nga.org/cms/home/nga-center-for-best-practices/center-publications/page-health-publications/col2-content/main-content-list/the-role-of-nurse-practitioners.html
- Hansen-Turton Poghosyan,l. & Carthon, J. (2017) The untapped Potential of Nurse Practitioner Workforce in Reducing Health Disparities. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice 2017, Vol. 18 (2) 84-94
- Rohrer, J. E., K. B. Angstman, G. M. Garrison, J. L. Pecina, J. A. Maxson. (2013) Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Are Complements to Family Medicine Physicians. Population Health Management 16(4):242-45