4 nurse practitioner trends to watch in 2023

Hospitals should look to nurse practitioners in 2023 to help fill gaps created by the surging shortage of primary and mental healthcare professionals throughout the U.S., according to a Jan. 18 statement by the president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

The increased demand for nurse practitioners will continue in 2023, said AANP President April Kapu, DNP, APRN, as will the number of professionals seeking to become nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioner is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2031, interest in the profession is predicted to grow by 46 percent.

"Nurse practitioners provide exceptional patient care, and our outcomes are reflective of this," Dr. Kapu said in the release. "We are continuously engaged in education and research to stay on the forefront of diagnosis, treatment and care delivery."

The growing profession features prominently in healthcare trends already gaining steam in 2023. Four trends to watch:

  • Nurse practitioners can step in to fill gaps in primary care. Almost 100 million people do not have adequate access to primary care, a 20 percent increase over the past year, according to HHS. 

Dr. Kapu said nurse practitioners are poised to become the solution, as they are trained to provide complete primary care services.

  • More states take steps to expand the care nurse practitioners can provide. A majority of states are taking steps to allow nurse practitioners to provide patients with direct care by eliminating restrictions that prevent NPs from providing full primary care.

New York and Kansas, for example, passed laws in 2022 to eliminate restrictions on full access to care provided by nurse practitioners. Now, 26 states, Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories have adopted full practice authority laws to allow nurse practitioners to provide expanded access to primary care.

These laws will provide much-needed relief for healthcare systems — especially in areas where there are major shortages of nurses and other healthcare workers, Dr. Kapu said.

  • Nurse practitioners will assume increased roles in mental healthcare. There are  158 million people who live in areas where there is a shortage of mental healthcare professionals. "Nurse practitioners are leading the charge to meet this demand for care and grow the mental health care workforce," Dr. Kapu said in the release.

In the past decade, more than 100 nursing schools in the U.S. added new psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner programs. Since 2012, more than 13,000 professionals with an PMHNP degree have entered the workforce, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Enrollment and Graduation Reports 2012-2022. 

The number of nurse practitioners caring for Medicare patients with psychiatric and mental health conditions rose 162 percent between 2011 and 2019, according to a 2022 National Institutes of Health study published in 2022. This is compared with a decrease of 6 percent of psychiatrists caring for Medicare patients.

"PMHNPs are a rapidly growing workforce that may be instrumental in improving mental health care access," especially in urban and rural areas, the study added.

  • Nurse practitioners will lead disease-related diagnostic and research efforts.

With states removing barriers to the type of care nurse practitioners can provide, theses healthcare professionals are poised to make strides in areas of diagnostics and treatment of emerging diseases, Dr. Kapu said in the statement. 

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