Cover: Will the NP Workforce Grow in the Future?

Will the NP Workforce Grow in the Future?

New Forecasts and Implications for Healthcare Delivery

Published in: Medical Care, v. 50, no. 7, July 2012, p. 606-610

Posted on 2012

by David I. Auerbach

Research Questions

  1. How is the size U.S. nurse practitioner workforce likely to change in coming decades?
  2. What are the implications for the future health care workforce?

BACKGROUND: The nurse practitioner (NP) workforce has been a focus of considerable policy interest recently, particularly as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may place additional demands on the healthcare professional workforce. The NP workforce has been growing rapidly in recent years, but fluctuation in enrollments in the past decades has resulted in a wide range of forecasts. OBJECTIVES: To forecast the future NP workforce using a novel method that has been applied to the registered nurse and physician workforces and is robust to fluctuating enrollment trends. RESEARCH DESIGN: An age-cohort regression-based model was applied to the current and historical workforce, which was then forecasted to future years assuming stable age effects and a continuation of recent cohort trends. SUBJECTS: A total of 6798 NPs who were identified as having completed NP training in the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses between 1992 and 2008. RESULTS: The future workforce is projected to grow to 244,000 in 2025, an increase of 94% from 128,000 in 2008. If NPs are defined more restrictively as those who self-identify their position title as "NP," supply is projected to grow from 86,000 to 198,000 (130%) over this period. CONCLUSIONS: The large projected increase in NP supply is higher and more grounded than other forecasts and has several implications: NPs will likely fulfill a substantial amount of future demand for care. Furthermore, as the ratio of NPs to Nurse Practitioners to physicians will surely grow, there could be implications for quality of care and for the configuration of future care delivery systems.

Key Findings

The U.S. nurse practitioner workforce is expected to grow dramatically in coming decades.

  • The nurse practitioner workforce in the U.S. is expected to grow from 128,000 in 2008 to 244,000 by 2025, an increase of 94 percent.
  • This increase is much larger than predicted by previous forecasts.

Nurse practitioners are likely to fulfill an increasing amount of future demand for health care.

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