22 Reasons Nurse Practitioners are in High Demand For The Next 10 Years


Written By: Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC


Nurse practitioners (NPs) are becoming more and more important to the healthcare system. There's a reason you find so many NP programs and may even see an NP for your own health needs instead of a doctor. As the demand for NPs continues to grow for the next ten years, you may be wondering "why are nurse practitioners in high demand?" Several factors contribute to the demand for this unique type of healthcare professional.

In this article, we will review the 22 reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years. From cost-effectiveness, and improved patient outcomes, to less time and money invested into their education, being an NP is an attractive job. If you are a student looking for reasons why being an NP is in high demand for the next decade, look no further. Are you already an NP like me and wondering what your job security looks like? As we’ll show you here, you have nothing to fear.



What is the Estimated Demand for Practitioners for the Next 10 Years?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for nurse practitioners is expected to grow 46% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average for all occupations as well as the average for physicians (3% projected growth). As we will show you, the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.

The growth of this profession is due to many factors. From an aging baby boomer population to an increased need for care in hard-to-reach places. Nurse practitioners are also well respected in the medical community and the job perks make it a popular profession for us too. All these factors reinforce the high demand for the profession in the next decade.

Employment
in 2021
Employment
in 2031
Projected New Employment
Growth (2021-2031)
Number %
246,700359,400112,70045.68%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



What are the Reasons Nurse Practitioners are in High Demand?

Just in case you don’t fully believe it yet, we have compiled an evidence-based list for you on why NPs are in high demand. The following are the 22 main reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years.


REASON #1: Increasing need for healthcare

This probably is not new information to you, but the baby boomer population is aging. This means that there is a large portion of the population who is starting to need more healthcare services and more complex services. As noncommunicable and chronic diseases are on the rise, particularly in the older adult population, compassionate and skilled practitioners like you are needed to take care of them. This is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.

COVID-19 just added fuel to this fire. With the pandemic, nurse practitioners were seen as increasingly valuable and needed members of healthcare teams. This was demonstrated in many ways, but one was with many states that previously had supervising physician requirements shifting towards independent practice for NPs.

This strategy enabled NPs to provide the care that they were trained to give without bottlenecks in healthcare administration where supervising physicians needed to sign off on their work or have a collaborative agreement. This freed up the entire healthcare team to provide the care needed during the pandemic.


REASON #2: Physician shortages

In contrast to the projected job growth for NPs over the next 10 years, there is and will continue to be a shortage of physicians. We could dive into all the reasons this may be, but that would take a whole other article. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is projected to experience a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033.

The physician shortage is most acutely felt in rural and already medically underserved parts of the US. One reason for this is the cost of medical school and the years it can take to pay off debt. Low-resource settings often do not offer as competitive salaries as major cities do. Additionally, these areas are in dire need of preventive and primary care – another physician specialty that does not pay as much as many other specialties.

This is where NPs can come in to save the day. Nurse practitioners are highly skilled at providing preventive and primary care and can often do so with little to no physician oversight. Additionally, nurse practitioners may have the added incentive of working in under-resourced settings due to loan forgiveness programs such as the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.


REASON #3: Cost-effective care

NPs' salaries are lower than those of physicians making them attractive professionals to employ. When healthcare organizations are strategic in the development of their diverse healthcare teams, they can maximize their budget by creating a complementary group of healthcare professionals (including NPs) on the team. This is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.

In addition to lower salaries, NPs save healthcare organizations money in several ways.

• Not replacing, but complimenting physicians:

Physicians note that routine tasks and administration often take up much of their precious (and costly) time. This is where having NPs on the team can save the healthcare system money.

Nurse practitioners can take on the burden of routine, preventive, and primary care including physical exams, assessments, diagnosing, ordering tests, and prescribing medication. They can also provide follow-up care for patients who may be needed to see the doctor initially but can now be followed up with the NP. This is a strategic use of human resource funding.

• Preventing unnecessary care:

Nurse practitioners are skilled at looking at and treating the whole patient, not just the ailing part. When patients are met where they are, educated about, and empowered to take charge of their healthcare, and lifestyle changes and modifiable risk factors are addressed, patients and the healthcare system are healthier.

I remember numerous occasions where patients requested or demanded multiple tests for their complaints that I knew were unnecessary. We have been taught that healthcare is a la carte. Reconnecting with patients and educating them on when certain tests and treatments are or are not necessary can save money by preventing unnecessary care.

• Decreased hospital readmissions:

It is well known that NPs have been shown to decrease hospital readmission. They do this by providing routine and ongoing care, but also by often having more time to spend with patients to provide patient education, facilitate medication adherence, and monitor chronic conditions so that adverse outcomes can be prevented. Hospital admissions are a huge cost of the healthcare budget, so avoiding them when they are unnecessary is beneficial to everyone.


REASON #4: Access to care

We touched on this in reason number one when we talked about NPs filling the gaps of physician shortages where and when they are qualified to do so. Underserved communities benefit immensely from nurse practitioner care. From primary care services to diagnostics, and minor procedures, NPs can increase access to care for patients in various settings and with diverse healthcare needs.

In my direct entry program, I remember a distinct emphasis was placed on culturally competent care (also referred to as cultural sensitivity). Cultural sensitivity refers to the relationship between culture and health, and how as practitioners we can meet patients where they are to facilitate their health while honoring their culture and their expertise in knowing their bodies. Understanding social determinants of health is essential when caring for patients.

By working in hard-to-reach areas with fewer healthcare facilities, by doing home health, telemedicine, and speaking the languages of their patients, NPs are innovative in the way that they increase patient access to care.


REASON #5: Expanded scope of practice

For decades nurse practitioner professional associations have been fighting to expand the scope of practice for NPs. Despite the AMA's unfounded and inaccurate assessment that this could harm patients, this is in the best interest of patients and providers (including doctors). We are NOT trying to practice beyond our scope or steal jobs from doctors. We are simply trying to complement their expertise so that we can all work strategically and safely as a team… but I digress.

Expanded scope of practice has been successful in many states and this is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand. This expanded scope of practice allows NPs to work independently, and in some states, they can even establish their practices.


REASON #6: Patient satisfaction

One of the key reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand is their ability to improve patient satisfaction. Hand in hand with cultural sensitivity, NPs are taught to prioritize building a relationship with their patients as a part of the care process. I remember learning the importance of this during NP school. We were taught that providing effective care often involved building trust and a connection with patients.

What does this look like? It looks like having a provider who listens to you, tries to understand your health beyond just the physiological problem presented to them, and it looks like having someone show that they genuinely care about you as a person. This feeds right into patient satisfaction.

NPs work hard to provide evidence-based clinical care to their patients while also building a relationship. This has resulted in high levels of patient satisfaction for those who are treated by NPs and is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand. No healthcare organization wants to lose patients because they are unsatisfied with their care.


REASON #7: Improved outcomes

Are you starting to notice a connection between all these reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand? Hand in hand with patient satisfaction is improved patient outcomes.

By looking at the whole patient and their social determinants of health, NPs can identify key areas for education intervention, and care facilitation as well as barriers to patients achieving better health. This holistic perspective has led to NPs being trained to provide evidence-based care that is tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient.

Combine this with NPs being trained to manage chronic conditions and being experts at care coordination, as well as knowing the limitations of their skills, and you've got a highly effective healthcare professional that will be in high demand for decades.


REASON #8: Collaborative care

I loved the team in the clinic I worked with in Chelsea, MA. We were physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, administrative personnel, and medical assistants. We all loved working together and cared actively about our patient's well-being. Team-based care is another factor contributing to the high demand for NPs. In today's healthcare landscape, team-based care is becoming increasingly important to provide high-quality care that is patient-centered and effective.

Nurse practitioners know their patients. They often provide follow-up care to patients who have seen physicians for more complex care, and they have their nursing background to lean on as well. This means that NPs know their patient's care history and can also predict when the patient will need to see a different member of the healthcare team.

This collaborative approach to care facilitates NPs’ ability to identify risks, develop treatment plans and monitor patients’ health throughout their journey with the healthcare system. When I worked with my team in MA, collaboration was always a key component of the care we provided. All of us knew each other’s patients and there were times when we all went to each other for advice. Our patients were at the center of our practice.


REASON #9: Holistic approach

In contrast to medical theory and the medical model of healthcare that physicians are trained through, nurses and nurse practitioners are trained through nursing theory, which takes a more holistic approach. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of an illness or condition, NPs are trained to treat the whole person, considering their social determinants of health along with their physiological presentation.

This holistic approach enables us to consider all the factors contributing to our patient's health. We can thus create collaborative and unique care plans that fit the needs and life of each patient. This is what contributes to high patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.


REASON #10: Education and counseling

This is not just an NP thing. Being able to provide quality patient education and counseling is something that nurses themselves are skilled at. Take this one step further and NPs are expert patient educators and counselors. This aspect of help promotion and disease prevention is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.

Providing patient education is one of my favorite parts of healthcare. I consider it a great success if my patient feels a part of their healthcare planning and empowered to lead a healthier life. Whether it's educating them on their unique physiology, modifiable risk factors, or their medications treatment plan, it's incredibly rewarding to see a patient understand their health and feel motivated to care for themselves. This starts with patient-centered education.


REASON #11: Preventive care

Preventive care is one of the mainstays of NP practice. If we rarely see our patients because they are preventing illness and leading healthy lives, that’s a success! Linked to many of the reasons before this one, preventive care is a key reason why NPs are in high demand and will be in the next 10 years.

Nurse practitioners save the healthcare system money, and improve patient outcomes, and satisfaction by preventing illness in their patients. This enhances healthcare quality and leaves patients satisfied not least because they end up tossing less money into their healthcare and can lead healthy and independent lives.


REASON #12: Mental health

One of my family members sees an NP for her mental health care. She says it's the best mental health care she has received throughout the course of her illness. She feels listened to, cared for, and perhaps most importantly she does not feel pathologized or stigmatized. Why is this so important? 1 key barrier to people seeking care for their mental health is fear of stigmatization or feeling pathologized.

Despite more than one in five Americans (20%) dealing with mental illness, these conditions (such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and personality disorders to name a few) continue to be stigmatized. This culture of silence around these conditions limits health-seeking behavior.

So, what can help tackle this healthcare epidemic? Knowing that you have a qualified and compassionate nurse practitioner to see for your mental health issues. Being skilled mental health providers is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand. Even if you are not a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, with the right training you can still diagnose and treat patients with mental health conditions.


REASON #13: Palliative and end-of-life care

Palliative and end-of-life care is not always the jazziest or most popular field for healthcare providers to go into, but it is very needed. People deserve compassionate and tailored healthcare services throughout their life. One of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand is that they are perfectly equipped to become palliative and end-of-life care providers.

Just look at the reasons preceding this one: a holistic approach, mental health, education and counseling, patient satisfaction, and cost efficacy…can you see how an NP would be good in this field? Combine this with the aging population and rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and you've got a big need for quality palliative and end-of-life care.

While it may not be the flashy Grey’s Anatomy sexy NP role you were dreaming of, don’t discount this field. Walking patients and their families through some of the most difficult life transitions is invaluable and can be immensely rewarding.


REASON #14: Flexibility

When healthcare organizations need a dynamic provider in primary care, NPs come in front and center. Even though I specialized in women's health, I still provided telemedicine, volunteered as a forensic medical evaluator for asylum seekers, and when able to I could provide some non-OBGYN services for my patients. When the COVID pandemic hit, I spent a few days a week working at a testing site ordering and collecting tests.

Nurse practitioners are in high demand because of their flexibility in providing care. Being able to adapt quickly to a changing environment and work in a variety of settings makes them attractive employees. Additionally, prospective NPs (perhaps like you) may enjoy the option of changing specialties or subspecializing down the road. If you're a family nurse practitioner, you may want to get an additional certification in psychiatric mental health someday, and that's possible!


REASON #15: Career advancement

If you are looking for a career where you won’t get bored, you can continue to grow, and you can follow your ever-changing interests, well look no further than being an NP. As an NP you will have numerous opportunities for career advancement.

Not only can you specialize in areas such as cardiology, oncology, or psychiatry, and can also pursue advanced degrees and certifications, but you can also get even more creative. I currently do some telehealth from abroad, volunteer doing remote forensic psychiatric evaluations for asylum seekers, write for nursingprocess.org, teach global health master’s students, and run my own global health consulting business.

I never envisioned all this when I went to NP school, but as you grow in your career you may want to advance in multiple different directions. As an NP, this is all possible.

According to a Medscape report in 2018, 82% of NPs said that they would still choose to become an NP if they could do it all over again. The opportunity for career advancement and growth is one of the key reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.


REASON #16: Work-life balance

Work-life balance is one of the key reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand, and we have a whole article on it. If you want a nine-to-five job with your weekends free, you can have it, and that's not something many doctors can reasonably expect in their careers.

COVID-19 launched telehealth into the forefront of patient care. For NPs, this means that they can have more time at home, less commute time, and spend more time with their family or doing activities they value outside of work.

Maybe you want to work part-time as an NP so that you can have more free time or create a combination of jobs that keep you interested and excited. This is all possible if you are an NP.

I have juggled working telehealth a couple of days a week, rotating RN shifts on the weekend, and being in an outpatient clinic, all while writing these lovely articles and planning my move abroad. For me, work-life balance was a crucial component in my choosing a career as an NP versus another healthcare professional role.


REASON #17: Job security

Hopefully, we've convinced you by now, but job security is going to be a non-issue for you as a nurse practitioner. This is one of the reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand. Despite what the world seems to think of us, nurses and NPs are not endlessly altruistic. Let’s be real, we want job security too, we’re not in the field just to feel good about what we do. Nurse practitioners are in high demand, in part, because of the job security that the field provides.


REASON #18: Multilingual

In today's diverse healthcare landscape, being multilingual is a highly sought-after skill that sets NPs apart. When you are looking for an NP role, you will often see that positions either require or find it beneficial if the applicant speaks a second language, and Spanish is the most useful one.

Being able to communicate with patients in their language can lead to better health outcomes and improved patient satisfaction. While you may have access to translation services (and you absolutely should use them if you do not have the language ability to communicate with your patient directly), speaking to patients in their own language limits confusion, enhances the relationship, and improves satisfaction.

In the clinic I worked in Chelsea, MA, we had a large Latina population. Our patients repeatedly told us how happy and safe it made them feel coming to our clinic knowing that we all spoke Spanish. Patients who are more comfortable communicating with their healthcare provider are more likely to adhere to treatment plans and follow-up appointments, leading to better overall health.


REASON #19: Diversity

Patients want providers who understand their culture and uniqueness on a personal level. While it is incredibly important to learn about the diversity of the patients you see, it is even more beneficial if patients can find providers who identify with them. According to the Journal of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, Latina patients reported greater satisfaction with NPs of Latina origin who could speak Spanish.

In the clinic I used to work in, we had diverse providers, and this helped our patients feel more connected to us and facilitated a trusting patient-provider relationship. However, while I spoke Spanish, I was the only non-native speaker, and sometimes I needed to bring in another provider to connect a bit better with the patients.


REASON #20: Interpersonal skills

When you go to a health care clinic don't you want to feel like you're talking to a fellow human, not a robot right? We've all been in a situation where our healthcare provider lacks interpersonal skills. No matter how many degrees they have, this can leave us feeling a bit uneasy. I’ve seen a lot of really excellent physicians in my time as a patient, but one physician sticks out to me, and not for a good reason.

I recall (with a pit in my stomach) this one doctor who I saw before I became a nurse or NP. I was going to be seen to discuss getting the Mirena IUD. I did not plan to get it that day (I was pretty sure I wanted it but thought I would come back after this consult) but after five minutes of feeling pressured, the doctor was suddenly preparing for the procedure.

I remember feeling trapped, unheard, and like the only thing that mattered was that this doctor be able to bill for a procedure and not spend more than 15 minutes with me. To this day, I think those were her priorities. That experience remains emblematic for me in my practice and “what not to do.”

Interpersonal skills are necessary for providing quality care and making sure patients feel and are safe. Centering the patient and the relationship we have with them requires strong interpersonal skills, and NPs are uniquely positioned to do this. This is one of the key reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.


REASON #21: Research

If you learned about conducting research during your bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing, you may be wondering where and when you can put those skills to use. One reason NPs are in high demand is that they are increasingly being relied upon to conduct research. Not only are they being relied on though, but they are also wanting to engage in it and may actively seek it out.

NPs' expertise in providing patient-centered care, as well as their clinical and practical knowledge, make them an asset in research studies. Being involved in research can allow you to use your clinical skills to advance healthcare, while also enabling you to be a part of changing policy, developing better treatments, and growing your professional portfolio.


REASON #22: Advocacy

For me, one thing that has stuck with me throughout my NP training and career is that I am my patient's best advocate. I have seen this dynamic play out a thousand times and it usually is a core component to improving patient outcomes and satisfaction. This can take place on a personal level in the clinic with the patient, or on a more macro level with policy development.

As NPs we play an essential role in advocating for our patients and promoting policies that support access to high-quality healthcare services. This advocacy work is one of the key reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand.

I am sure that you are not only passionate about your patients but also about the healthcare landscape. Whether it's reproductive rights, mental health, anti-racist equitable healthcare, and/or other politicized healthcare themes that affect you and your patients, your voice as an advocate is valuable. Don't hesitate to use it.



My Final Thoughts


When I dove into the NP field, I was aware of some, but not all the reasons why NPs are in high demand. Years later, while I am not working clinically at this moment, I gain a lot of reassurance knowing that when I return to clinical care, there will be a need for my skills.

So, why are nurse practitioners in high demand? As we showed you here, their ability to provide high-quality care, provide mental health services, and advocate for patients are just some of the reasons that NPs are in high demand. With these 22 reasons nurse practitioners are in high demand for the next 10 years, hopefully, you can see how NPs are essential to the future of healthcare and you will not be out of a job anytime soon.


Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC
Lauren Jacobson is a registered nurse and women’s health nurse practitioner who is passionate about global health and gender-based violence prevention. She is Editor and an Advisory Board Member for the Global Nursing Caucus and volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights as a medical evaluator for asylum seekers.