Nurse practitioner workforce doubles amid primary-care push

The nurse practitioner workforce more than doubled over a seven-year span as the healthcare industry ramps up primary care, according to new research.

The number of NPs grew at an unprecedented rate across major professions from around 91,000 in 2010 to 190,000 in 2017, an analysis of U.S. Census data that Health Affairs published Monday revealed. The outpatient setting represented the fastest-growing sector that employed NPs. Meanwhile, that employment shift may have drawn up to 80,000 registered nurses from their practice, leaving hospital executives to grapple with higher turnover rates.

"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, adding that it's a lot easier to expand NP education than physician education. "This has big implications for primary care."

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