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Why the Need for Nurse Practitioners is Growing


According to healthcare recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins, nurse practitioners ranked in the top 10 most heavily recruited positions in 2013, the first time the profession appeared in the firm’s top 20. In fact, the government’s Health Resources and Services Administration projects that growth in primary care nurse practitioners will reach 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, much faster than growth in primary care physicians, projected at just 8 percent. What’s driving the demand for nurse practitioners?

Changing Demographics

According to a 2015 report by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), the United States population will grow about 10 percent between 2013 and 2025. The greatest growth will be seen in the senior demographic, which will grow by 46 percent. In contrast, the number of people under age 18 will only grow 5 percent. The senior age cohort uses healthcare services at a higher rate than other demographics, driving the demand for skilled and specialized medical professionals. Analysis conducted by the IMS Institute for Health Informatics suggests that the demand for specialist visits for chronic disease, which is highest among older patients, increased by 4.9 percent from 2012 to 2013. With significant growth predicted in the older demographic, we can expect the demand for specialist health visits, often facilitated by nurse practitioners, to further increase.


At the same time the demand for medical professionals is increasing, the AAMC projects that the U.S. will see a physician shortage of some 90,000 by 2025. According to AAMC president Darrell G. Kirch, “An increasingly older, sicker population, as well as people living longer with chronic diseases, such as cancer, is the reason for the increased demand.” Nurse practitioners, specifically adult-gerontology NPs, are well positioned to fill the care gap.

The Effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

In 2014, the Congressional Budget Office projected that some 26 million Americans would gain access to health insurance by 2017 due to provisions in the PPACA. At the same time, the act also includes investments to expand the role of the nurse practitioner in care delivery, including $65 million for developing nurse practitioner managed outpatient clinics between 2012 and 2015.


Implicit in these measures is the need to increase the supply of nurse practitioners to meet the demand for primary care delivery. To that end, the act also includes grants to colleges and universities to increase enrollment in nurse practitioner programs. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 90 percent of nurse practitioners receive training for primary care practice, helping fill the gap in access to qualified healthcare professionals.

Growth of Retail Clinics

In 2007, there were about 300 retail health clinics, such as mini-clinics, at pharmacies and drug stores; by 2014, that number jumped to over 1,800 according to the AAMC report. Many factors contribute to this remarkable growth: High deductible health plans, after-hours convenience, and increased coverage for these facilities by private insurance companies.


MinuteClinic, a rapidly growing health franchise that partners with retailers such as Target to provide in-store health services, hires nurse practitioners to run their clinics. Catherine L. Wisner, Ph.D., RN, CNP, the company’s operational director, says, “It puts [nurse practitioners] out front and promotes us as primary health care providers, as being there and doing things in a much more cost-effective way. I think we truly are going to help slow the rise in health care costs.”


Structural changes in the PPACA, changing demographics, and the coming physician shortage are all driving significant changes in the healthcare landscape which will see the demand for skilled nurse practitioners continue to grow. Visit Maryville University’s website to learn how to gain the qualifications you need to take advantage of this growing market need.

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