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08 Apr

The new care team: Physician assistants and nurse practitioners

The new care team: Physician assistants and nurse practitioners

On your next doctor visit you may see less of your physician and more of other familiar faces. Over the next decade, health officials are projecting a shortage of health care professionals, specifically physicians, brought about by health reform and an aging baby boomer generation. A 2015 study conducted for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates that the U.S. will be short some 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025. With the looming physician shortage, there is growing demand for physician assistants and nurse practitioners to fill the void.  

With more than 86,700 physician assistants currently employed throughout the U.S., that number is projected to increase by 38% by 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because physician assistants can perform many of the same services as doctors and are generally more cost effective, they are expected to play a larger role in providing routine care, according to the U.S.  BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.

There are currently over 115,000 nurse practitioners practicing in the U.S.* According to the U.S. BLS, this number will increase by 33.7% by 2022. The ranks of nurse practitioners is also growing, with many states now granting them more independence with full practice authority (FPA). FPA allows for nurse practitioners to take on responsibilities typically done by physicians, such as evaluating patients, making a diagnoses, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, as well as initiating and managing treatments—including prescribing medications.

A likely approach we’ll see in the coming years is an “all hands on deck” approach with physician assistants, nurse practitioners and physicians working in more highly coordinated teams. With this approach allowing for each individual to give more to each patient, this will no doubt aid in improving outcome-based care.

Are physicians assistants and nurse practitioners the answer to a physician shortage? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.


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