Strong Demand for Nurse Practitioners Creating More Career Options
Looking for opportunities to contribute? There’s never been a better time to be a nurse or a nurse practitioner. Regardless of title or area of specialty, nurses, advanced practice nurses, and other clinicians are needed as the country continues to battle COVID-19 and the seasonal flu in addition to patients’ chronic conditions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the RN workforce will grow from nearly 3 million in 2019 to 3.3 million in 2029, an increase of 7 percent. Over the same period, the number of nurse practitioners (NPs) is expected to grow from just over 211,000 in 2019 to 322,000 in 2019—representing a whopping 54 percent increase!
BLS data on Occupational Employment and Wages for May 2019 lists the mean annual salary for NPs at $111,840, compared to the mean annual salary of $77,460 for RNs.
In the short term, the pandemic has been stretching all ranks of nurses and opening up more opportunities for job seekers, including locum tenens NP assignments. In the longer term, trends in the nursing workforce are showing that more registered nurses are advancing their education to become nurse practitioners, as outlined in a February 2020 report in Health Affairs.
So, what’s the attraction of the NP career path?
An overview of nurse practitioners
Nurse practitioners have the ability to provide clinical care across a variety of settings and patient populations -- from major teaching hospitals to working in a rural setting. Offering an extended scope of practice, excellent compensation, and unprecedented demand, NPs have a number of career options.
NPS is considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who are prepared in master's- or doctoral degree programs. Other APRNs include clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). The BLS projects that the overall employment of APRNs is projected to grow 45 percent from 2019 to 2029.
The field has already seen tremendous growth. As of August 2020, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) estimated that more than 290,000 nurse practitioners were licensed to practice in the United States. This is compared to approximately 91,000 licensed NPs in 2000 and 190,000 in 2017, as noted in a February 2020 study published in Health Affairs.
"NPs are the providers of choice for millions of patients. Current provider shortages, especially in primary care, are a growing concern, yet the growth of the NP role is addressing that concern head-on,” said Joyce Knestrick, Ph.D., APRN, CFNP, FAANP, AANP president in a statement.
Nurse practitioners are trained to assess, diagnose, order, and interpret medical tests, prescribe medications, and collaborate in the care of patients, but their scope of practice varies from state to state.
One of the things that set NPs apart from other healthcare providers, according to the AANP, is their unique emphasis on the health and well-being of the whole person. With a focus on health promotion, disease prevention, and health education and counseling, NPs guide patients in making smarter health and lifestyle choices.
From RN to NP: Becoming a nurse practitioner
Registered nurses who have thought about going back to school to become an NP may find this the ideal time to pursue an advanced degree; many nursing schools and colleges are making accommodations for testing and in-person clinical requirements in light of the current pandemic, and some are offering enticing packages including fellowships and loan forgiveness.
In fact, registered nurses are already on track to become an NP. According to the AANP, one must be a registered nurse, hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, complete an NP-focused master’s or doctoral nursing program, and then successfully pass a national NP board certification exam.
AANP is also encouraging RNs to apply for a Loretta Ford Centennial Scholarship to become an NP. “In honor of Dr. Loretta C. Ford, co-founder of the NP role, AANP has launched a special scholarship program to empower NPs of the future. The Loretta Ford Centennial Scholarship program will provide support to AANP members who are RNs as they pursue advanced education to earn their Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP). Applicants will follow in the footsteps of Dr. Ford, epitomizing the qualities of courage, determination, perseverance, dedication, and introspection.”
The deadline to apply is approaching rapidly on February 5, 2021.
Locum tenens assignments for NPs
While registered nurses will work with a travel nurse agency to find short-term employment, nurse practitioners can find part-time or full-time assignments with locum tenens agencies like Staff Care.
Benefits for locum NPs include high-paying contracts; the flexibility to choose when and where you work; paid housing and travel reimbursements; paid malpractice insurance; potential bonuses; and more. Locums are considered independent contractors, so they will have to arrange for their own health insurance.
Still, considering your next step? Whether you’re an NP looking for extra shifts in your local area or want to travel to other locations where your skills are needed, working as a locum tenens nurse practitioner could be the ideal opportunity for you.
10 Things to Know About Locum Tenens Nurse Practitioner Jobs
Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners and the Impact of COVID-19
Staff Care has locum tenens assignments for nurse practitioners, physicians, and other advanced practitioners across the U.S.