The 2021 Inline Sessions: How NPs Affect Quality, Access to Care, & Costs

Mar 22, 2021

After the whirlwind that was 2020, everyone is speculating what the future of healthcare looks like. This includes one major piece of the healthcare puzzle: nursing. When we sat down with Joanne Spetz, PhD, for our third session, we discussed the importance of not only nurse practitioners, but RNs as well. 

When people say there’s a shortage of nurses, what do they mean?

Nursing is a complex profession with a multitude of different roles and specialties. When asking facilities to dive deeper into their definition of a “nurse shortage,” they unanimously listed intensive care, labor & delivery, and operating room nurses. So while the RN and NP workforces expected to grow by 7% by 2030, facilities are looking for specialized, experienced nurses. But with baby boomer nurses approaching retirement, the gap between new grad nurses and the requirements for job openings is growing. 

But nurses aren’t the only healthcare workers facing a shortage. The number of practicing physicians has been lower than the demand for years and one solution has consistently stood out: nurse practitioners. When it comes to increasing the number of healthcare providers in a short amount of time, it just makes more sense to train NPs. Training time takes about six years instead of eleven. And while physicians have more autonomy when practicing medicine, NPs create a pathway for patients to establish care. 25% of Americans don’t have a primary care provider. And that gap continues to grow. Training nurse practitioners remains one of the most efficient ways to close that gap.

But don’t assume NPs are competition for physicians. Many healthcare organizations are eliminating the language around NPs vs. physicians. Instead, the healthcare industry needs to focus on this partnership creating a collaborative team with different skills. 

Does adding nurse practitioners increase patient access, better outcomes, and lower costs?

Research overwhelmingly points to yes, on all accounts. In general, adding more hands to the healthcare workforce will always improve patient access. Also, as Joanne points out, NPs are more likely to take Medicare patients and provide care to underserved communities. Yet there is still a struggle for nurse practitioners to gain full practice authority. 

However, steps are being taken in some states to change this. In Colorado, regulations adjusted so an NP with two years of mentored experience as an RN combined with six months of NP experience can practice independently. An NP without nursing experience would have to gain two years of experience as a nurse practitioner before gaining autonomy. Considering 28,000 RNs per year are becoming NPs, this creates an incredibly convenient pathway for many NPs to quickly gain practice authority. 

To hear more about the impact of nurse practitioners, click below to gain full access to the recordings of the 2021 Inline Sessions. You’ll be able to watch this session with Joanne Spetz, as well as all other recordings. 

Access Recordings