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The Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook: Why NPs Are in Demand

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
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The Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook: Why NPs Are in Demand

Nurse practitioners (NPs) play a vital role in quality patient care delivery. Their expertise in both general and specialized patient care coordination can even have an impact beyond the clinical environment, as they are uniquely positioned to help patients build proactive strategies that can potentially improve their long-term health and reduce their need for clinical visits. 

Nurse practitioners are critical to the functioning and effectiveness of any health care system. They can be instrumental in helping a health care facility close coverage gaps caused by physician shortages, which may make it possible for facilities to continue to deliver the best care possible and improve access to care. This has led to a bright nurse practitioner job outlook for the next several years, which is exciting news for those seeking to pursue an advanced nursing degree to qualify for a role in nurse leadership.

NPs and Coverage Gaps 

The country is in the midst of an ongoing physician shortage that threatens to have a direct impact on patient care. According to a 2021 report furnished by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the United States will experience a physician shortage of 37,800 to 124,000 doctors by 2034. The AAMC breaks this projection down further to note a primary care physician shortage of between 17,800 and 48,000 and a non-primary care specialty physician shortage of between 21,000 and 77,100. 

These projections signify a potential widening of gaps in care across the country, which are quantified as health professional shortage areas (HPSAs). According to a report generated by KFF in November 2023, there are 8,352 primary care HPSAs in the United States. Nurse practitioners can play a vital role in reducing the impact of these gaps. NPs can perform many of the same tasks as physicians. This includes prescribing medications in states that allow NPs full prescriptive authority. The skills and versatility of NPs can enable them to care for patients even in situations where there is no physician available, which can make it possible for a health care facility to continue to provide critical access to care.

Nurse practitioners entering the field can also close the gap caused by an ongoing nursing shortage. An increased number of qualified NPs can reduce some of the stressors that may be perpetuating the nursing shortage, such as job dissatisfaction and nurse burnout. This combination can ultimately benefit patients, as it may result in an improvement in patient care quality. 

The Role of the NP

Known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse practitioners provide either primary care or specialized care, such as pediatric care or adult-gerontology acute care, to patients of all ages. NPs’ typical tasks include performing exams, ordering tests, diagnosing health issues, and working with other health care professionals to develop treatment strategies. In states that allow full prescriptive authority, nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications to patients.

The Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Now is an excellent time to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. U.S. News & World Report ranked nurse practitioner first on its list of best health care jobs in 2023 — the second straight year the role achieved this accolade. The report also listed nurse practitioners second on its list of the 100 best jobs of 2023, behind only software developers. 

These rankings come at a time when the nurse practitioner job outlook is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 38% job growth for nurse practitioners between 2022 and 2032.  

While aspiring nurse leaders may see many opportunities in this promising nurse practitioner job outlook, they will also want to think carefully about the available specializations, the educational pathways to the role, and the self-care strategies that can help them thrive in such roles over the long term.

The Importance of Quality NP Education

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the educational benchmark for nurse practitioners. The MSN is critical to pursuing a career as an NP, but nursing professionals should keep in mind that what you can do with an MSN is not limited to clinical work. The degree can open the door to several professional pathways.

Most MSN programs deliver a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on learning in a clinical environment, enabling students to build upon the skill set they already have and deepen it to an advanced level. Programs can also offer specialty tracks that allow nurse practitioners to hone their skills in a specialized area of nursing. Options include working with patients in a specific demographic, such as adult gerontology, or a specific field, such as oncology.

Ultimately, completing a quality NP program can help nurses develop the acumen needed to be effective leaders in health care. This leadership can be key to developing the short- and long-term strategies that a health care facility may need to continue to deliver optimal care during the ongoing nursing and physician shortages.

Be a Leader in Health Care 

Today’s positive nurse practitioner job outlook doesn’t just indicate opportunities for nurses looking to advance their careers. It also represents a way for nurses to help mold and shape the future of patient care and the success of health care facilities. By developing the leadership skills needed to coordinate patient care in the face of an ongoing physician shortage, a nurse practitioner may be able to help a future employer retain its reputation for delivering quality care.

The University of Tulsa’s online Master of Science in Nursing program can get you ready to take on this responsibility with confidence. Our program is designed to help nurses cultivate strong leadership skills in a clinical setting. Additionally, our adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) certificate can help you grow the skills needed to lead in unexpected, critical moments. Learn how we can help you prepare for excellence.

Recommended Readings

How to Become an APRN

3 Reasons to Expand Your Nursing Scope of Practice

What Is Roy’s Adaptation Model of Nursing?


American Association of Medical Colleges, “AAMC Report Reinforces Mounting Physician Shortage”

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Nurse Practitioners Named ‘Best Health Care Job’ in 2023 by U.S. News & World Report”

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

American Medical Association, “Doctor Shortages Are Here — and They’ll Get Worse if We Don’t Act Fast”

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, “The Association Between Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) Status, Work Environment, and Nurse Practitioner Burnout and Job Dissatisfaction”

KFF, Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. News & World Report, Best Health Care Jobs

U.S. News & World Report, 100 Best Jobs

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