Healthcare in the United States has been in a rough spot for— well…quite some time. Covid certainly didn’t invent the struggles of Western healthcare but it did intensify them. Hospitals all across the country are suffering from dangerous personnel shortages that have made it challenging to deliver even basic levels of care to certain communities.
It’s a bad situation. But while the number of nurses shrinks, nurse practitioners have been growing enormously in prominence.
In this article, we talk about what nurse practitioners do, and how they are poised to shape the future of healthcare.
Nurse Practitioners Declutter the Healthcare System
One of the healthcare system’s greatest problems in the United States—
That’s a long list, friend.
Fair enough, one of the many problems is that hospitals have more patients than they do people who are qualified to see them. Nurse practitioners can help to relieve some of that burden by providing much of the same care that doctors have traditionally offered.
There are limitations to the extent that this is allowable. Many of these regulations are regional. For example, some states require nurse practitioners to get a doctor to sign off on all of their determinations, which can nullify the time-saving benefits.
However, in states with more permissive laws, this can be an enormous boon. Keep in mind that it takes a lot less time for someone to become a nurse practitioner than it does for someone to become an MD. This means that it is much easier for hospitals to staff up on nurse practitioners.
NPs can work on a wide range of different floors, from neonatal to maternal, allowing hospitals to declutter, and patients to get better quicker care. Fewer patient bottlenecks is better for everyone.
NPs in Private Practice
One of the big appeals of becoming a nurse practitioner is that it can allow you to effectively open up your own practice. Like so many things concerning the life of an NP, this will depend on where you live. However, in many states, nurse practitioners can make diagnoses and prescribe medication just like a general practitioner.
Sometimes, an NP’s ability to do this will be contingent on how long they have been practicing. Other times, it’s simply a matter of getting licensed and setting up a practice.
This is great for patients because it gives them more opportunities to receive care. Many people, particularly those living in areas with limited access to healthcare professionals, are finding that they have to wait more than a year to get a wellness visit.
This is a frustrating, sometimes even dangerous dynamic that more nurse practitioners could help solve.
If you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner in the hopes of setting up your own practice, do some research about your local laws before you get too far in the process.
It is a Good Option for Burnt-out Nurses
You can’t seem to turn on the news without hearing more about the ongoing healthcare crisis that is taking place in the United States. Since Covid-19 hit it seems that hospitals everywhere have been dangerously understaffed.
This was brought to renewed attention a few months ago when a nurse working in Washington made national headlines for dialing 911 after her hospital reached a breaking point and had too few employees to treat their current patient load.
While that episode was dramatic, it was far from unique. Hospitals everywhere have been overwhelmed by the recent nursing shortage. While it is tempting to lay this crisis at Covid’s feet, the truth is that it has been a long time coming.
For years, experts have been warning about this. The problem? Many people have been leaving nursing, and not enough are coming up to replace them.
The culprit is burnout. Nursing is hard, so people look for different jobs. The healthcare industry, and all the people that it serves suffer as a result.
To become a nurse practitioner is to pivot into a similar, but perhaps more comfortable gig. NPs make more money, work friendlier hours, and get to work with patients on an entirely different scale.
In an industry that is in desperate need of personnel retention, more NPs would be an enormous boon with truly transformative potential.
Where are We At Now?
It sounds like more nurse practitioners would be a great thing for this country. And that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t really matter if we don’t have them, does it? Where are we at now?
That’s a good question. While it wouldn’t be right to say that the United States healthcare system’s need for nurse practitioners is being met, it is fair to say that the profession’s growth rate is in promising shape.
Between 2012-2022 the number of nurse practitioners nationwide grew by a whopping 30%—more than three times the national average for professional growth.
That’s an impressive figure by any metric, and all the more notable when compared to the numbers for regular nurses. RNs are expected to grow by only 6% in the next ten years.
It’s hard to contextualize exactly what this means for the American healthcare system. On the one hand, more nurse practitioners are great. This is definitely a “the more the merrier,” type of situation.
That said, we do still need bedside nurses, and that job market is still in questionable condition. It seems that no matter what happens, the US healthcare system will look different ten years from now than it does today.
A healthy stock of nurse practitioners won’t be able to solve all of our problems, but they certainly will help the transition into a brighter future.
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.