Implications Of The Rapid Growth Of The Nurse Practitioner Workforce In The US


David I. Auerbach, Peter I. Buerhaus, Douglas O. Staiger


Health Affairs


Concerns about physician shortages have led policy makers in the US public and private sectors to advocate for the greater use of nurse practitioners (NPs). We examined recent changes in demographic, employment, and earnings characteristics of NPs and the implications of those changes. In the period 2010–17 the number of NPs in the US more than doubled from approximately 91,000 to 190,000. This growth occurred in every US region and was driven by the rapid expansion of education programs that attracted nurses in the Millennial generation. Employment was concentrated in hospitals, physician offices, and outpatient care centers, and inflation-adjusted earnings grew by 5.5 percent over this period. The pronounced growth in the number of NPs has reduced the size of the registered nurse (RN) workforce by up to 80,000 nationwide. In the future, hospitals must innovate and test creative ideas to replace RNs who have left their positions to become NPs, and educators must be alert for signs of falling earnings that may signal the excess production of NPs.



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