Trend reversal: More nurse practitioners work in primary care

By Joanne Finnegan

Almost half of the estimated 127,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) employed in patient care now work in primary care practices or facilities, according to a 2012 national survey by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

And among recent graduates, more NPs work in primary care settings--reversing a trend over the last 16 years in which fewer new NPs sought jobs in primary care. The survey found that until recently, the probability of NPs working in primary care decreased with each graduating year since 1993. However, about 47 percent of new NPs--those who graduated since 2008--now choose to work in primary care. That compares to 42 percent of those who graduated in the previous five years (2003 to 2007) who work in primary care.

The data was compiled from surveys completed by nearly 13,000 randomly-selected licensed NPs. The survey also found:

  • The majority of  NPs (96 percent) work in clinical practice providing direct patient care; while 3 percent work in faculty positions; and 1 percent in administrative positions.

  • Those who worked in patient care in 2012 provided a variety of services to patients, from educating patients to conducting physical examinations.

  • The annual median salary of NPs who work in primary settings is $82,000.

  • Some 94 percent of NPs hold advanced degrees; most have a master's degree in nursing.

  • NPs work in a large variety of settings; more than half work  in ambulatory care; nearly one-third practice in hospitals.

  • The average age within the workforce is 48 years old.

Overall, NPs reported high levels of job satisfaction, according to the survey. They were most satisfied with their level of autonomy, time spent in patient care, value for what they do, and respect from physicians and other colleagues. They were least satisfied with the amount of paperwork they have to complete, administrative support and input into organization or practice policies.

To learn more:
- here's the full report (.pdf)
- read about the data