Nurse Practitioner Week: 9 Things NPs Can Celebrate

More than half a century ago, the first nurse practitioner training program began in the United States at the University of Colorado. From those beginnings, the profession has grown to provide primary and specialty care in a variety of settings.

It has also blossomed into one of the most sought-after careers. In 2018, NPs were ranked No. 4 among the 100 Best Jobs in the country by U.S. News, and No. 3 on the list of Best Healthcare Jobs.

Today, there are more than 248,000 nurse practitioners providing care in rural and urban areas, to patients of all ages. During National Nurse Practitioner Week 2018, November 11-17, the country celebrates NPs and the high-quality care they provide.

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Nine top reasons that NPs can celebrate:

1. Connections with patients 
“What brings me joy as a nurse practitioner is the ability to connect deeply with patients and families, helping then navigate their illness and the complex health care system,” said Denise Buonocore, MSN, RN, ACNPC, CCNS, CCRN, CHFN, chair of the board of directors, AACN Certification Corporation, the credentialing arm of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and an acute care nurse practitioner for heart failure services at St. Vincent's Multispecialty Group, St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“It is the joy of not only treating their illness and disease but also focusing on health promotion, disease prevention, and health education and counseling, guiding patients and families in making smarter health and lifestyle choices, and helping them to manage and live with their disease,” she added.

2. Full practice authority
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have granted NPs full practice authority. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) continues to educate legislators about the importance of full practice authority.

“Reducing barriers to practice with full practice authority [at the state level] not only modernizes laws and regulations, but more importantly provides patients with the opportunity to choose an NP when making a decision on their health care provider,” said AANP President Joyce Knestrick, PhD, C-FNP, APRN, FAANP. “In states where supervision is required, there are less NPs and the health outcomes are not as good as states where NPs have full practice. Removal of barriers not only makes good economic sense, as evidenced by the cost-effectiveness of NP care, it also improves patient outcomes.”

3. Primary care access
Nurse practitioners have been filling a void in primary care access for decades. More than 77 percent of NPs deliver primary care and 86.6 percent are certified in a primary care area.

The American Enterprise Institute recently released a report, authored by Montana State University nursing professor Peter Buerhaus, PhD, calling NPs a key solution to America’s primary care crisis.“For the health of Medicare and millions of people, NPs must be allowed to provide primary care to more Americans,” Buerhaus concluded in the report. He explained that NPs are more likely to serve “poor and vulnerable Americans” and the care provided by NPs is equal to or better than that of physicians.

4. More NP graduates
About 23,000 NP students graduate annually, joining the ranks of practitioners caring for neonates, children, adults and older adults.

“As NPs and other health care professionals begin to retire, and the population continues to grow, the shortage of providers in under-served areas, as well as in well-served areas, will continue to increase,” Knestrick said. “NPs provide high quality, personalized, patient-centered care to all populations, and so an increase in NP graduates will mean more availability for patients to choose an NP as their health care provider.”

5. Compensation gains
Nurse practitioner salaries have grown steadily in recent years. Their average hourly wages increased from $42.58 in 2007 to $58.82 in 2017, a 38 percent jump, according to AANP National NP Sample Surveys.

6. Strong job growth
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the demand for advanced practice nurses will grow by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than average professions, stating growth is associated with an aging population and emphasis on preventive care.

“The younger generation is also looking for the more holistic and timely care that NPs provide,” Knestrick said.

The 2017 Survey of Temporary Physician Staffing Trends by Staff Care found that demand for locum tenens nurse practitioners is also growing, with 15.6 percent of facilities reporting that they had used locum NPs within the past 12 months. That percentage has more than tripled since 2012, when just 4.8 percent of facilities reported using locum tenens NPs.

7. Variety
“There is nothing more satisfying as an NP than when you have helped a patient to live the best life they can, or when things don't go as planned, to help a patient have a peaceful death,” Buonocore said.

Additionally, Buonocore is “proud of what NPs bring to practice beyond our clinical role, including conducting research; driving evidence-based practice and quality improvement; educating and mentoring nurses, residents and medical students; and consulting and advocating for patients and families.”

8. Supportive associations
As we celebrate NP Week, nurses can take pride in AANP, an organization that provides legislative leadership, advancing health policy; promotes excellence in practice, education and research; and establishes standards that best serve NP patients and other health care consumers, Knestrck said.

In addition, “many of us are involved in our professional nursing practice organizations, such as the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses,” Buonocore said.

9. Opportunities in the future
“NPs’ proven delivery of cost-effective care is based on the need of the patient, the family and/or the community,” Knestrick said. “As health care evolves, NPs are able to adapt to meet the changes and challenges.”

Buonocore called the future bright for NPs, saying, “It is one of the fastest growing nursing roles, and the value NPs bring to the healthcare workforce is becoming more widely recognized, especially when we are allowed to practice to the full scope of our license.”

NP Week highlights the tremendous care provided by these professionals and helps illuminate to the public the role of NPs. Staff Care is pleased to celebrate NPs during Nurse Practitioner Week, and throughout the year.

Related:
10 Essential Apps for Nurse Practitioners 
Nurse Practitioner and CRNA Scope of Practice: 2018 Updates 
Are Advanced Practice Nurses Happy with Their Jobs?

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