By Gary Hart May 10, 2012
The growing shortage of physicians has led to a greater use of nurse Practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) to fill in the medical care gaps. That problem is especially acute in rural family practice, which has seen the largest decrease in physicians than any other specialty. Doctors that went into family practice and settled into rural areas are now retiring at a high rate, and are not being replaced by other physicians. Group medical plans faced with declining revenues view NPs and PAs as more cost-effective resources to provide care than physicians. This increased need creates favorable opportunities for NPs and PAs in rural settings.
NPs and PAs who work in rural family practices find they have a greater amount of independence, freedom, flexibility and control than they would have in a large and/or urban setting. Rural practices offer them more direct contact with management, a higher visibility, and the responsibility of improving their patients’ well-being through education and the chance to support them on their health journey.
Carl Brown, PA agrees: “Remote and/or rural sites are very rewarding and professionally satisfying. The patients are appreciative of the care and interest that we provide.”
Rural practices offer those NPs considering a change to your medical sub-specialty more exposure to every type of case, being the primary care-giver, allowing them to sample the potential specialty areas they could focus on for their career.
PAs cite greater scope of practice as an important part of their assignment selection criteria, making a rural practice more inviting. They are more likely to see the whole spectrum of patients and work alongside NPs to see and treat patients. The opportunity to learn more broadly and more deeply is attractive to PAs and rural assignments offer that.
Pay rates for NPs and PAs can be higher in rural areas than urban ones due to the demand. For providers with an eye towards earning more per hour, rural settings offer the best opportunity. For hospitals and clinics, the reimbursement rates for the classified rural areas are the same as primary care physicians. As such, rural clients “roll out the red carpet,” because of how important they are to the clinic both in need and bottom-line. NPs and PAs seeking greater appreciation, both in pay and organization support, find that in rural settings.
Are NP and PA assignments considered in-demand among your network of peers? If so, what are the reasons mentioned, and if not, what do you think are the in-demand assignments in the years to come?
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Gary Hart, MBA, serves as divisional vice president of primary care and surgery specialties for Staff Care, an AMN Healthcare company certified by the Joint Commission for locum tenens staffing. He has held several leadership positions in healthcare staffing throughout his career, and continues to share his passion for continuous improvement and workforce solutions with his team members and the company’s clients.