NP Population Boom
published this week in a public health journal predicts that by 2025, twice as many nurse practitioners will be in practice in the United States. This brings our numbers from 128,000 in 2008 up to a staggering 244,000 over the course of the next 12 years. Yes, you read that correctly, that is almost a quarter of a million NPs.
I will admit that seeing the numbers in black and white is somewhat startling, but I can't really say I am very surprised. I do a little teaching on the side and one of the questions I always ask the nursing students at the beginning of each semester is how many of them have plans to become an NP, CNS or midwife. When I first started asking this question 5 years ago, I would get only a couple of students tentatively raising their hands, and maybe a few assorted shrugs and various quizzical looks from the rest of the class. However, this year when I asked my students about their future plans, at least half of the nursing students not only shot their hands up in the air but many of them also confidently declared they had already begun looking for an advanced practice program.
Something curious is happening. In just a couple of years traditional nursing has somehow become a stepping stone on the road to advanced practice, with many not intending to stay in a registered nursing position only until they can get into a graduate program. I wonder about the impact of this trend. On the one hand, it's surely a sign of increased acceptance of the idea that nurse practitioner practice is a legitimate and viable option, which is good. But on the other hand, the need for registered nurses is also projected to increase over the next few years. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul?
I find myself wondering whether we may be graduating too many NPs. It's exciting to see our ranks growing, but what effect will this have on the job market and/or wages? Will there really be jobs for all these folks? Yes, patient demand is also projected to increase, but not at the same percentage of growth we are seeing in the number of NP graduates.
From the perspective of someone who monitors the salaries and hiring trends, I think we would be wise to show more a bit more caution. It's never a good idea to flood the market.