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General Discussions

The Nurse Practitioner Workforce

By Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, OCN, FAAN
The nursing workforce has received a great deal of attention recently. Experts consistently predict another shortage of registered nurses (RNs) in the near future, but when it comes to predicting the adequacy of the future nurse practitioner (NP) workforce, there has been little agreement. Until now that is, because researcher David I. Auerbach, PhD applied an age-cohort regression-based model to the current and historical NP workforce, considered fluctuating NP program enrollments, and produced what are likely to be fairly accurate predictions on how many NPs will be needed to meet the healthcare needs of the future.

Auerbach is predicting that the future NP workforce will grow to 244,000 in 2025, an increase of 94% from 128,000 in 2008. When he defined NPs more restrictively as those who self-identify their position title as "NP” (and not an administrator or other non-clinical position), the supply of NPs is projected to grow from 86,000 to 198,000 (130%) over this period. Therefore, the NP population will nearly double by 2025. The need for NPs is due in part to declining physician supply, the growing medical needs of an aging population, and anticipation of the Affordable Care Act. Auerbach noted that NPs are becoming a growing presence, especially in primary care, and this is not surprising at all, since NPs historically have provided care to the chronically ill.

Auerbach DI. Will the NP workforce grow in the future? New forecasts and implications for healthcare deliver. Med Care 2012; 50(7): 606-610.

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