Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

Shortage of Primary Care Physicians

There is a shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, from urban areas to rural communities with a long-standing history of being underserved. Conversely, the demand for primary care practitioners by health care providers continues to increase. 

By 2030, it’s projected that California will experience a shortage of 32,669 primary care physicians, according to a 2020 article in Human Resources for Health. Similarly, Texas will experience a shortage of 20,420 physicians, and Florida will experience a shortage of 21,978 physicians. The disparity in demand and supply in these three states and others can be attributed in part to a higher number of insured citizens due to the Affordable Care Act. Other contributing factors include a significant increase in physician demand due to the overall growth of the total US population.

In the same report, it’s estimated that the US will experience a total shortage of 72,472 physicians in 2025, followed by a shortage of 139,160 primary care physicians in 2030. This disparity between the demand for and available supply of primary care practitioners could have varying impacts on regions within the US, such as influencing the rate at which health care gets delivered to patients, and this could negatively affect patient outcomes.

Primary Care Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care

Primary care nurse practitioners can help fill the gaps in providing primary care, as the number of physicians dwindles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners are projected to see employment rates rise 45% from 2020 to 2030—far exceeding the average for other occupations, including physicians.

More specifically, it’s projected there will be on average 29,400 new job openings for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners throughout the decade. Several of these openings will be the result of needing to replace health care workers who switch into a different occupation or choose to exit the labor force for reasons such as retirement. 

Overall, it’s expected that there will be a much higher demand for primary care nurse practitioners among the three roles. This is due to an aging US population and an increased emphasis on the importance of preventative care.

A primary care nurse practitioner can specialize in several areas within the field. Nearly two out of three nurse practitioners entering the workforce have graduated from family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Georgetown University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MS in Nursing) degree for aspiring family nurse practitioners. In the program, students learn how best to help patients manage common acute and chronic illnesses, promote healthy living, and provide high-quality family-centered primary care. 

The Future of Primary Care Nurse Practitioners 

Employing a comprehensive approach, primary care nurse practitioners are capable of providing personalized, patient-centered care to optimize outcomes. Health care providers have found that focusing on chronic conditions, primary care, wellness, and the prevention of adverse events could help to create more accessible, higher quality environments which enrich the overall patient experience. In particular, the aging population in the US necessitates more long-term palliative care, specialized for a patient’s particular health needs.

Census data indicates that the country’s non-Hispanic, white population is shrinking. Nearly four out of ten Americans identify with a race or ethnic group other than white. But racial and ethnic minority groups have historically faced systemic barriers to health care. As such, patients from these backgrounds may have a tainted view of the health care system based on personal experiences

A more socioeconomically and culturally diverse population of primary care practitioners may be critical in restoring lost trust, improving patient experiences, and sharing insightful information on social determinants of health. Patients from minority backgrounds sometimes prefer to be treated by a professional who  is not only aware of their demographic characteristics, but has an understanding of how those characteristics might pose unique challenges to accessing quality health care or affect their health and wellness. 

For these reasons, health care providers may benefit from an increase in the supply of well-trained, diverse primary care nurse practitioners, who have the expertise necessary to meet the constantly evolving needs of today’s patients. For aspiring nurse practitioners eager to engage in meaningful work, it’s important to research scope of practice. 

The scope of practice for a primary care nurse practitioner will vary depending on the state they practice in, as will their approach to working in collaboration with other practitioners. For example, some nurse practitioners work independently and are able to order laboratory tests while others will consult with health professionals to solve problems as necessary. 

Becoming a nurse practitioner begins with completing the necessary education requirements. Upon doing so and completing licensing requirements, individuals can position themselves at the helm of an evolving and potentially rewarding service industry.    

Ready to advance your career and provide primary care as a nurse practitioner? Request Information about Nursing@Georgetown today.