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The Number of Nurse Practitioners is on the Rise

Analysis  |  By Michelle Clarke  
   March 07, 2019

The number of nurse practitioners has grown exponentially in the last year.

The number of nurse practitioners (NPs) in the U.S. has grown substantially over the 10 years, according to survey results recently released by the American Association of Nurse Practioners (AANP). According to the survey, there are an estimated 270,000 licensed and practicing NPs in the U.S., which is slightly higher than the AANP’s projected 248,000 NPs from March 2018. This number is twice the number of practicing NPs in 2007 (120,000).

Licensed nurse practitioners have been treating patients since the 1960s, when their role was initially intended to address pediatric well visits in rural areas in Colorado.

According to the survey, the 2018 State of the Nurse Practitioner Profession, almost 70% of respondents hold a certification in family care, 12% hold a certification in adult care, and six percent hold a certification in adult-gerontology care. Only four percent of respondents have a certification in pediatrics. While the authors of the study acknowledge that many NPs hold more than one certification, they do not identify how many NPs hold multiple certifications.

"NPs are the providers of choice for millions of patients," said AANP President Joyce Knestrick, PhD, APRN, CFNP, FAANP, said in a news release. "Current provider shortages, especially in primary care, are a growing concern, yet the growth of the NP role is addressing that concern head-on. The faith patients have in NP-provided health care is evidenced by the estimated 1.06 billion patient visits made to NPs in 2018."

According to the survey, NPs work in a variety of communities. One in six of the 4,300 respondents practice in urban areas and practice in hospital outpatient settings. More than 15% of the respondents said they work in communities with a population of less than 10,000. Roughly 5%of respondents work in communities with a population of less than 2,500. In those rural areas, NPs typically practice in rural health clinics.

The study also shows that NPs are committed to the communities they practice in – almost 60% said they will remain in their community for six years or more and 44% anticipate remaining in their current practice long-term.

Job satisfaction amongst NPs is high – nearly 77% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their employment at their practice site.

In terms of practice settings, the top five settings NPs work include: hospital outpatient, hospital inpatient, private group practice, private physician practice, and community health center.

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