More NPs, PAs move into specialty care

Mariah Taylor (Email) – Becker’s Hospital Review

Although the number of nurse practitioners and physician associates who work in primary care continues to rise, an increasing number of these advanced practitioners are shifting into specialty care, according to a Milbank Memorial Fund report.

There is no national workforce database that tracks NPs and PAs working in primary or specialty care, so the report used PECOS data from 2016 to 2021 to identify the share of primary care physicians, and created an assumption that the characteristics of the physicians practice could be used to infer the likely specialty of NPs and PAs in the same practice. Read the full methodology here.

Between 2008 and 2016, there was a 22% increase in the number of specialty practices that employed nurse practitioners and physician assistants, CBS News reported May 15.

“They’re succumbing to the same challenges that we have with physicians,” Atul Grover, executive director of the Research and Action Institute at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told CBS. “Expect more NPs and PAs to also flow out into other specialties.”

Here are a few more stats to know:

The number of nurse practitioners working in primary care between 2016 and 2021 fluctuated between 30.6% and 34% and increased from 22.1 per capita in 2020 to 26.8 in 2021.

The number of physician assistants in primary care has fluctuated between 25.2% and 29.7% between 2016 and 2021. Physician assistants have seen an increase from 10 per capita to 11.6 in 2021.

The number of physicians working in primary care has slowly declined from 27.9% in 2016 to 26.6% in 2021.

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