Nurse practitioners' role growing in evolving healthcare landscape

The role of the nurse practitioner (NP) has grown increasingly important in the provision of high-quality, patient-centric, team-based care.

The number of new NP graduates has grown annually for the past several years, reaching approximately 17,000 new graduates in 2013-2014, according to American Association of Nurse Practitioners President Cindy Cooke, one of the speakers at a webinar presented for the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative. Her statistics indicate NPs now make up approximately one-third of the workforce in primary care settings.

Benefits to the evolving primary care system that stem from the increased use of NPs include increased access, improved cost and quality, and more timely care, says Cooke. Furthermore, she points to trends indicating that while NPs practice in all care settings, they have tended to gravitate toward adult, family and gerontology specialties, as well as the rural and low-income geographies affected by the ongoing physician shortage.

The emphasis NPs place on health promotion and disease prevention makes them key players in patient-centered, team-based care, Cooke says. Therefore, she says it's important that "every member of the healthcare team should practice to the fullest extent of their educational preparation and clinical training."

Her organization advocates for removing barriers to practice, in particular increasing access to timely, patient-centered care by expanding NPs' scope of care to make use of their extensive education and capabilities. While NPs are licensed to prescribe drugs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, so far, only around 40 percent of states have adopted full practice authority licensure laws, says Cooke.

To learn more:
- see the webinar