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Expanding Role for Nurse Practitioners

As healthcare reform unfolds, nurse practitioners continue to play an important role in providing quality care to millions of patients. It is estimated that once the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is implemented an additional 30 million people will be using the healthcare system. The need for nurse practitioners will continue to grow right along with the number of insured patients.

Continued expansion of their roles is one way the industry will treat all these newly insured patients expected to seek services due to the ACA. However, more patients are only one reason why more people are looking to nurse practitioners for treatment. America is currently facing a shortage of physicians; and of the currently practicing physicians, over a quarter are 60 and older according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). America’s population is graying and so are its doctors.

Who’s going to take care everyone? Enter the nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners already routinely evaluate patients and manage episodes of care. They are becoming the go to clinicians for many people. They are educated, trained and licensed to do many of the same things that physicians are, either as part of a team that includes a doctor or, in some instances, on their own or at a clinic.

This is because nurse practitioners have obtained advanced clinical and academic training. Educational requirements vary by state, but the current standard requires a registered nurse to earn a master’s degree, which can take an additional three years.

It will pay off, as a nurse practitioner degree is one of the smartest moves in healthcare right now. It is believed that their role will continue to expand and be elevated because of healthcare reform’s expansion. Their salaries are being elevated too. The average nurse practitioner’s salary has increased by 43.4 percent since 2001, according to a 2012 National Salary Survey of Nurse Practitioners.

Perhaps due to salary and role importance, the number of nurse practitioners has increased steadily in recent years as well. The American Academy of Physicians Assistants (AANP) estimates that there are 155,000 nurse practitioners currently working in the U.S. That number is expected to jump to 244,000 by 2025. In an expanded role, these providers will give the necessary care to insured patients and deliver competent coordination of care and population health management to our ever-growing population in the healthcare system.

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