Hospitals must be innovative with RN workforce amid boom in nurse practitioners, study suggests

As the number of nurse practitioners continues to grow in the U.S., hospitals and health systems must adapt to the changing registered nurse workforce that comes as a result, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

The study — led by researchers at Bozeman-based Montana State University and Hanover, N.H.-based Dartmouth College — examined the nurse practitioner workforce from 2010 through 2017 using data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Researchers found that the number of full-time equivalent nurse practitioners in the U.S. surged 109 percent during the study period, from about 91,000 to 190,000. They said the growth was in every region of the country and driven by quick expansion of education programs that attracted millennial nurses.

Growth in the nurse practitioner workforce primarily occurred in hospitals, physician offices and outpatient care clinics. On average, nurse practitioners in all settings saw 5.5 percent inflation-adjusted earnings growth, indicating growing demand for nurse practitioners in these settings, according to the study.

As a result of the fast nurse practitioner workforce growth, researchers estimated a reduction in the nation's registered nurse supply of up to 80,000 registered nurses, or 2.6 percent, from 2010 to 2017.

"As NPs continue to expand their profile in healthcare organizations and achieve greater prominence within the healthcare workforce, the potential loss of RNs to the NP workforce is likely to continue to cause employment ripples, particularly in acute care settings," the study authors concluded. "Thus, even in an era of strong RN workforce growth fueled by millennials in particular, hospitals must innovate and test creative solutions to contend with tight or fluctuating RN staffing — as they have during past disruptions in their RN labor supply."



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