The Primary Care Shortage and How Family Nurse Practitioners are Filling the Void

shortage of primary care physicians and nurses - The Primary Care Shortage and How Family Nurse Practitioners are Filling the Void

The Primary Care Shortage and How Family Nurse Practitioners are Filling the Void

The US is heading towards a primary care shortage. There aren’t enough doctors in the country to meet demand and this deficit is only expected to increase. Thankfully, family nurse practitioners are filling the void left behind. These nurses play a crucial role in addressing the shortage of medical professionals by strengthening the relationships between physicians and their patients and offering their patients similar care and guidance. 

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners believes that nurse practitioners bring a personal touch and a comprehensive perspective to health care. 

Family nurse practitioners can have a massive impact on primary care. Currently over 870 million visits are made to family nurse practitioners every year, and patients are usually satisfied with the service they receive. Family nurse practitioners provide a quick solution to the shortage of primary care professionals in America.

The Human Resources for Health study in 2017 found that nurses helped improve the outcomes in:

  • The mortality rate of patients
  • Reducing how long patients stayed in hospital
  • Increasing satisfaction of patients
  • Cost of salaries

This study also showed that using nurse practitioners effectively may cut down on the discrepancies between demand and supply on these primary health services. Keep reading below to find out more about the primary care shortage and how family nurse practitioners are filling the gap left behind:

Solutions to the Primary Care Shortage

The Association of Medical Colleges recently published a report which predicted that America could see a deficit of over 121,000 medical professionals by 2030. Currently, the demand for health care already exceeds the supply. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there is already an estimated deficit of 13,800. This deficit in doctors has been caused by:

  • An aging demographic
  • A growing population
  • Doctors retiring

This report also found that in the next 10 years, more than 1/3 of the current doctors working in the healthcare system will be over 65 years old. The shortage of primary care professionals is a challenge that the health care system needs to overcome. This is why alternative options are being considered. 

While we know that training more doctors would help to meet the ever-increasing needs, nurse practitioners can and will play a huge role in filling this void as well, and this can be achieved much faster than training new doctors. Training to be a doctor can be extremely tough and can take a very long time. Doctors usually have to:

  • Complete a 4-year undergraduate education
  • Complete 4 years of medical school
  • Complete 3-7 years of residency

However, nurse practitioners on the other hand, usually already have a nursing degree and have gained experience over the course of their careers. This means the step-up will be easier and take less time. Reducing the time it takes to train an individual is key. If you’re thinking of training to become a family nurse practitioner then an online BSN to NP program is a great choice for you. These accredited qualifications are completed 100% online and are perfect for people who want to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to become a confident family nurse practitioner. 

What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Lots of people don’t realize what a nurse practitioner can do. The answer is lots of things. Nurse practitioners were originally known as APRNs (Advanced Practice Registered Nurses) and they were introduced to help doctors complete their workload. However, recently we’ve seen the role of a family nurse practitioner change considerably. Like doctors, many FNPs work on their own or with a small group of other professionals to offer acute, primary, or specialty care. Family nurse practitioners can:

  • Diagnose, treat or help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Manage patient care and talk to patients about their care
  • Assess and treat illnesses e.g. flu or bronchitis
  • Order and interpret test results
  • Write prescriptions and talk about the side effects of medication
  • Educate patients about healthy lifestyles
  • Educate patients about disease prevention
  • Counsel and comfort their patients

While nurse practitioners can work in a number of settings and in a variety of roles, the most popular choice is primary care. Family nurse practitioners strengthen relationships with patients, families, and carers as they age, develop, and grow. Building strong relationships helps improve communication. 

Benefits of Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

We’ve spoken above about all the amazing things family nurse practitioners do for our health care system, but there are also a number of benefits for people who choose to become one. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider a career as a family nurse practitioner:

  1. Career opportunities and growth – the lack of primary care professionals means that the outlook for family nurse practitioners is great. Evidence from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has suggested that between 2016 and 2026, the need for advanced practice nurses will grow by 31%. Physicians’ offices are the main healthcare setting where family nurse practitioners will be employed.
  2. Specialization – registered nurses are expected to have knowledge about all areas of healthcare. Becoming a nurse practitioner will allow you to focus on a specific area. A family nurse practitioner focuses on family nursing and care and can improve your skills while building stronger patient relationships.
  3. Salary – on average a family nurse practitioner earns between $91,573 and $113,000 every year. Nurse practitioners are paid a considerable amount more than registered nurses. Registered nurses are paid approximately $64,000, making this career change not only good for growth but lucrative too. 
  4. Work-life balance – nursing can be hard work. Registered nurses are often expected to work long hours and spend most of this time on their feet. Family nurse practitioners have a little bit more flexibility so training to become one is a brilliant idea.

Family nurse practitioners have a huge impact on the outcomes of their patients. More than any other benefits linked to career progression, the effects that you will have on your patients’ lives and in the community are unparalleled. Becoming a nurse practitioner is a brilliant way of being part of the solution to the shortage we are currently experiencing in primary care staff.

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