9 Future Job Trends for Nurse Practitioners
Future advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) job trends will help meet the needs of a changing healthcare environment. The future trends are reflected in the growth figures of healthcare providers. This includes a growing shortage of primary care providers, a rising number of baby boomers who are retiring, and a large population of people with chronic diseases.
These factors have prompted changes in practice authority, telehealth, and team-based care. We discuss nine of these job trends in 2022 that nurse practitioners (NPs) can expect in the coming years. Knowing how the healthcare environment is changing may help you decide your career development and goals.
Future Job Trends for Nurse Practitioners
1. Primary Care Provider Shortage
The pandemic highlighted some of the deep healthcare disparities that exist in the current system. Alongside these challenges is the growing shortage of primary care providers.
According to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges published in 2021, more than two of every five practicing physicians will be 65 years or older within the next 10 years. The retirement decisions this population makes will significantly impact the magnitude of the estimated physician shortages.
Another forecast published in 2020 showed a total national deficit of 139,160 primary care and specialty physician jobs by 2030. Estimates are the shortages will be felt in many Western states, while the Northeast will have a surplus of physicians.
This is an excellent opportunity for primary care nurse practitioners to fill in the gaps. An increase in responsibilities is being met with support by the medical profession. One survey found doctors are recommending students pursue a degree as a nurse practitioner. They cite rising costs of medical school and increasing limitations on patient treatment.
2. More States Granting Full-Practice Authority
The need for primary care providers has also led to more states granting full-practice authority to nurse practitioners. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) maintains an interactive map for NPs to locate states that have granted full-, reduced-, or restricted-practice authority.
Nurse practitioners in full-practice states have the authority to diagnose, order and interpret tests, and initiate and manage treatments. This includes prescribing medications and controlled substances. In reduced-practice states, an NP must have a career-long regulated and collaborative agreement with a physician to provide patient care. States that have restricted practices require NPs to work under the supervision or team management of a physician.
Currently, there are 27 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, where nurse practitioners have full-practice authority. There are 13 states with reduced-practice authority and 11 with restricted authority. New York and Kansas adopted full-practice authority for nurse practitioners in 2022.
The president of the AANP calls this a "critical step forward in our country." The chief executive officer of AANP says it is a "necessary step to eliminate healthcare disparities, managing costs, and building the healthcare workforce."
3. High Demand for Higher Education
This has been a consistent trend over the past 20 years, as hospitals strive to meet the goal of employing 80% bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)-prepared nurses to its staff.
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of BSN-prepared nurses in:
- Improving patient outcomes
- Increasing competency
- Improving practice skills
There will be continued demand for nurses with higher education degrees to meet the need for nursing programs to fill their faculty positions and for clinical programs to meet the demand for primary care providers.
The nursing faculty shortage largely impacts nursing program's capability to produce enough nurses to fill the growing nursing shortage. This is triggered, in part, by a large population of retiring baby boomers, population growth, and an increasing need for healthcare.
4. Reliance on Telehealth
Advances in digital technology were increasingly used during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus. This allowed patients to stay home and "see" their primary care providers using video chat. Nurse practitioners have been at the forefront of this innovative application in patient care.
Some of the benefits of telemedicine are:
- Lowered healthcare costs
- Greater access to healthcare in rural areas
- Improved management of chronic diseases
One survey of 1,200 nurses found telemedicine improved collaboration, job performance, and communication.
5. Rising Demand for Outpatient Care
The increasing number of retired individuals also increases the demand for primary care and management of chronic illness. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the combined job outlook for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and midwives is 45% growth until 2030, much faster than the average growth for other jobs.
Additionally, hospitals are under increasing pressure to discharge their patients more quickly than before. Yet, these patients continue to need follow-up care to lower the rate of readmission. Outpatient care helps to fill the gap in care after hospital discharge.
6. Team-Based Model of Care
Team-based care is an integral part of providing supportive, positive care to patients and their families. The industry is increasingly moving toward value-based care, largely motivated by the insurance industry and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service.
This is an effective care model to maximize the complementary skill sets of all the healthcare providers involved in the patient's care. It can help improve patient outcomes and reduce clinician burnout.
Nurse practitioners can lead these teams by providing a clear, common goal and promoting a culture of collaborative teamwork within the organization.
7. Nurse Practitioners Recognized as Key Members of Healthcare
There are several ways NPs have become key players in healthcare. The increasing responsibility is a function of a lack of primary care physicians and the ability of nurse practitioners to appropriately fill the role cost-effectively and efficiently.
Nurses and APRNs have a long history of providing patient-centered care. This fits well with reducing healthcare costs while simultaneously improving patient outcomes.
According to the AANP, 89% of all NPs are prepared as primary care providers, and 75% continue to practice in primary care. Nurse practitioners are essential patient advocates and play an important role in developing healthcare policy. Their educational background and clinical expertise mean they can present a strong case for passing patient-centered legislation.
8. Primary Care in Rural and Underserved Areas
Another APRN job trend in 2022 is the provision of care in rural and underserved areas of the country. The growing demand may be associated with the physician shortage in these same areas. According to the BLS, the projected job growth for nurse practitioners is 52% until 2030.
Healthcare disparities in rural America affect 20% of the country's population and result in worse healthcare than in urban or suburban areas. These disparities are rooted in socioeconomic factors that intensify the healthcare challenge. One growing trend for nurse practitioners is the need to provide care in these areas.
9. Lower Healthcare Costs
According to the AANP, nurse practitioners in a physician's office may lower the cost of healthcare by one-third, especially when the NP can see patients independently in a full-practice authority state. Several factors contribute to a lower cost, including:
- A lower cost of educational preparation
- A lower number of patient office visits and lab tests
Lower healthcare costs can also be attributed to a lower number of hospitalizations and management of complex medical conditions.
In many instances, the simple act of giving patients more time in their appointments for questions and education may improve patient compliance with treatment plans and lower unnecessary costs.
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