Tomorrow’s Health Care: The Future of Nurse Practitioners

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A nurse practitioner in her white coat evaluates her patient in a medical office.

The face of primary care in the United States is changing. With a shortage of primary care doctors expected to increase in the coming decades, nurse practitioners — nurses who have completed a master’s or doctoral nursing degree and received advanced clinical training — are expected to fill this gap. Nurse practitioners are qualified to step in as primary caregivers to varying degrees in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, where they work directly with the patients they serve and with other nurses and doctors to ensure the most successful health outcomes possible.

If you’re looking to pursue a career in the healthcare industry and want to join a rapidly growing field that provides in-demand, high-quality patient care, then an advanced nursing degree could be the perfect fit for you.

The Trends Shaping the Future of Nurse Practitioners and Healthcare

What is your vision of nursing for the future? You may be aware of recent changes in the healthcare industry — from the aging American population that is creating more demand for qualified, experienced nurses and nurse practitioners, to the changing laws and technologies that affect the delivery of healthcare. All of these trends are impacting the role of nurse practitioners.

The future of nurse practitioners is evolving, and they are taking on new and more expansive responsibilities. Several trends in particular are impacting the role of nurses and nurse practitioners right now.

A Growth Industry

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of nurse practitioners to grow 36% between 2016 and 2026, adding more than 56,000 jobs to the field. That’s a growth rate well above the national average for jobs across the nation (7%), and higher than the expected growth rate for nurse anesthetists (16%) and nurse midwives (21%), both of which have smaller job pools at 41,800 and 6,500 total positions in 2016, respectively.

By 2026, the BLS projects that nearly half of all nurse practitioners (46.7%) will be working in doctor’s offices, a slight rise from in 2016 (44.2%). Another 25% will be working in hospitals, and 10% in outpatient care centers. But that still leaves about 20% of members of the profession working in alternate environments. In 2026, the BLS predicts that these employment areas will include insurance carriers, scientific research facilities, retail environments, educational facilities, and more, with hundreds of jobs opening in each of those professional settings.

The Expanding Role of the Nurse Practitioner

There is a growing shortage of doctors throughout the United States, which has led to the introduction of legislation on the state level that has expanded the role and the abilities of nurse practitioners in most settings. The Nurse Practitioner reports that, while 24 states require nurse practitioners to work under the supervision of a doctor, in 26 states and the District of Columbia, nurse practitioners may practice and prescribe medication without doctor oversight. In 13 of those states, nurse practitioners may only gain these responsibilities after completing a post-licensure period of collaboration, mentorship, or oversight with a doctor.

The growing number of states choosing to grant expanded responsibility to nurse practitioners is a testament to these professionals’ training and expertise. As a result of their extensive education, the many hours they spend earning certification, and the high standards of care expected of them, the healthcare community places significant trust in this role. It is likely that the laws will continue to evolve, especially in the face of a national shortage of physicians, affording those in this position more expansive opportunities.

How the Right Education Can Help

Maryville University’s Catherine McAuley School of Nursing teaches nurses how to view patients holistically, and to consider who they are as people — their background, occupation, and unique health needs. Maryville University students benefit from learning from professors who are also practicing nurse practitioners, who understand what it takes to be a nurse practitioner in the 21st century, and who can speak to how the profession is changing and what skills students must gain.

With an eye on the future of nurse practitioners, highly competent instructors and a robust curriculum can provide students with an understanding of foundational healthcare strategies, as well as innovative ideas and techniques. These include considering each patient on an individual basis, as well as staying abreast of technological developments in healthcare. This equips students with the abilities and knowledge they need to enter the thriving healthcare industry and take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to those with the right skills and experience.

Discover Your Role in the Future of Nursing

When you consider your own vision of nursing in the future, what does it look like? Do you envision yourself as a nurse practitioner? There’s no question that professionals in the role are leaders in the field of healthcare. They not only work directly with patients to provide compassionate, expert-level care, but they guide teams and help direct their units toward increased quality care and innovation.

By gaining an education that directly emulates the changes happening in the field of healthcare, you can prepare for a prospective career as a nurse practitioner that provides stability and opportunities for advancement. The 36% growth reported by the BLS is a strong indication that you will have the opportunity to enjoy a sustainable and rewarding future in this field. In addition, nurse practitioners earn an average of $103,880 per year, according to the BLS.

As you lean in to your own future in the field, consider enrolling in one of Maryville University’s online nursing degrees. The diverse curriculum at Maryville offers a variety of concentrations, including pediatric, family, psychiatric mental health, and adult-gerontology care. This affords you the opportunity to pursue your own unique areas of interest while gaining all the necessary skills to enter the workforce.

Sources:

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?”

American Association of Medical Colleges, “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013 to 2025”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Lexology, “Is There A Nurse Practitioner In the House? Doctor Supervision Not Required Under Certain Conditions With New Proposed Legislation”

Maryville University, Online Nursing Degrees

The Nurse Practitioner, 31st Annual APRN Legislative Update

U.S. News and World Report, Nurse Practitioner Overview