America’s healthcare sector is facing a crisis. Healthcare costs are at an all-time high, while the number of healthcare workers is shrinking. The healthcare sector is facing drastic employment shortages of doctors and nurses throughout the world. While many people contribute these shortages to COVID-19 and healthcare “burnout”, the challenge of sustaining the healthcare industry started long before the pandemic.
According to the American Hospital Association, America will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033 and will need to hire at least 200,000 nurses per year to meet increased demand. Nurse practitioners are expected to fill this gap. The occupation of nurse practitioners is expected to grow 45 per cent from 2021 to 2030, according to the Bureau Labor of Statistics.
You may be wondering, what role does a nurse practitioner play in the healthcare industry? Nurse practitioners can practice in almost any healthcare setting including clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, schools, and more.
While their duties vary depending on the position and setting they are in, some of the common responsibilities are assessment, prescribing medication, supervising, interpreting labs and test results, coordinating care, communicating with patients and their families, and educating their patients on preventative care.
Nurse practitioners are considered to be Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). In order to become a nurse practitioner, it requires a graduate level of education and a national board certification. Many nurse practitioners set out to achieve this by enrolling in an in-person or online doctor of nursing practice program.
A popular misconception in the healthcare industry is that a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse perform the same scope of work. While both of these positions provide patient care, their education and daily tasks differ quite a bit. Registered nurses can take on quite a bit of patient care. However, a nurse practitioner has gone through a doctor of nursing practice program either in-person or at an online DNP program.
This education allows them to take on additional tasks such as diagnosing patients and prescribing medication, which are tasks that a registered nurse cannot perform. As the healthcare industry continues to face struggles, the role of the nurse practitioner is predicted to be the one to save it. What are the ways nurse practitioners can save the industry?
1. Expand Access to Healthcare
In areas that lack adequate primary care facilities and providers, nurse practitioners can fill the gap. According to Nurse.org, nurse practitioners hold prescriptive privileges in all 50 states. However, the scope of practice for nurse practitioners still varies by state. In most states though, nurse practitioners are able to fulfil the same duties a physician does such as diagnose certain conditions, order tests, and prescribe treatment.
Nurse practitioners pursue an online DNP program that is specialized in teaching them how to provide the same standard of care that physicians do. According to the AANP, 75% of nurse practitioners actively practice in primary care which maximizes the availability of quality healthcare for people in the United States.
2. Fill the Gaps in Healthcare Shortages
As mentioned, in recent years, there has been a drastic shortage in physicians in the healthcare industry. With COVID-19, and healthcare “burnout”, there is a desperate need for healthcare workers that can fill in the gaps. In hospitals where physicians and surgeons are stretched thin in attending to patients, qualified NPs can treat patients with less critical conditions, leaving physicians to focus on the patients who require a higher level of care.
3. Play a Role in Healthcare Leadership and Policy
Nurse practitioners with an advanced degree, like a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, are positioned to move into leadership roles. This may be in clinical practice, research, education, or policymaking. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing describes online doctor of nursing practice programs as preparation for nurse leaders to improve patient outcomes and translate research into outcomes. Bradley University, an online university with an online DNP program, lists 5 potential career paths for DNP graduates.
4. Lower the Costs of Healthcare
Studies show that when patients receive care from NPs instead of doctors, they experience higher patient satisfaction, better preventative care and fewer hospital admissions. With fewer patients burdening hospitals and the healthcare system, healthcare costs tend to decrease. The costs of healthcare are also lower because nurse practitioners get paid significantly less. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, they earn approximately half the wage of primary care doctors. If you are considering a career in the healthcare industry, or you are looking to expand upon your current healthcare position, you may want to consider a profession as a nurse practitioner. The role is expected to be in high demand over the next few years to expand access to healthcare for many people in the United States, make it more affordable, make changes to leadership and policies within the industry, and fill the gaps in the healthcare industry.