Staffing Reports Reveal Increased Demand and Salaries for NPs, PAs

Hiring of advanced practice clinicians increases

Nurse practitioner speaking to mother and child.
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Several placement reports, staffing surveys, and provider surveys completed to date in 2017 reveal numerous workforce trends regarding the growth in demand and income for advanced practice clinicians, especially nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs).

NPs and PAs: A Growing Profession

According to a report by the National Commission for Certification of Physician Assistants, (NCCPA), the PA profession has grown by an impressive 44 percent since 2010, when there were about 89,000 PAs practicing in the United States. By the end of 2016, there were more than 115,000 PAs in practice across the country, according to the NCCPA.

Several factors are contributing to the employment boom for PAs and NPs, including population growth, aging up of the population, health reform, and physician shortages in primary care and surgical specialties in particular.

Companies in the medical recruiting industry are adding products and services to meet this demand. PracticeMatch, a company that provides staffing-related resources to healthcare employers nationwide, has historically focused their services on hospitals and employers in need of physicians. However, due to the sharp increase in demand, PracticeMatch recently expanded their offerings to include, ("AP" = advanced practice) which includes a job board and candidate database specifically targeted to the career needs of NPs, PAs and their employers.

Demand is pushing average annual salaries up into the six-figures. "The average salary of Certified PAs was $104,131 with the highest paid to those working in pathology, dermatology, emergency medicine, critical care medicine and surgical subspecialties," according to the report from the NCCPA.

Additionally, PracticeMatch reported similar results from its first annual salary survey of PAs and NPs. In addition to the prevalence of six-figure salaries among both professions, the PracticeMatch survey also revealed an increase in the use and dollar amounts of signing bonuses. The average signing bonus offered to PAs in 2016 was $8,000 for PAs, and $11,000 for NPs.

Not only are advanced practice clinicians being hired more, and paid more, they are also enjoying a very high level of career satisfaction, according to the PracticeMatch survey of more than 1,000 NPs and PAs. A mere six percent of respondents reported being anything less than satisfied with their careers as advanced practice clinicians. Additionally, 38 percent of NPs and 44 percent of PAs reported being "very satisfied" which was the highest level of satisfaction to report.

What Do NPs and PAs Do?

While PAs and NPs are different professions with different degrees, there are some similarities in the roles they fill within the healthcare team. Both are able to treat patients and bill insurance companies for reimbursements as a provider of health care. Therefore, NPs and PAs are revenue-producing staff members of a healthcare team, in addition to physicians. Sometimes formerly referred to as "mid-level" providers, PAs and NPs are showing that they have outgrown that term and are forging ahead on a path of their own, making a huge impact in the provision of health care treatment.

Furthermore, NPs and PAs are crucial to the healthcare workforce and management of growing patient loads, especially in primary care and surgical specialties. Depending on state laws in a given state, NPs and PAs may prescribe some drugs of varying classifications. Some states require that advanced practice clinicians bill insurance companies under a physician's license, while some states allow advanced practice clinicians to own and operate medical practices on their own, without any involvement from a physician.

Nurse practitioners attend nursing school, and typically will earn a BSN (Bachelor of Science) degree in nursing prior to obtaining a master's degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program. Some nurse practitioners go on to obtain a doctorate level degree, such as a DNP (doctor of nursing practice).

Physician assistants are also master's prepared, (at least), but instead attend a master's program at an accredited Physician Assistant program, which are similar to an abbreviated medical school program combining classroom and didactic learning with clinical rotations. Many professional associations are lobbying state legislators to expand the scope and authority of advanced practice clinicians in light of the high demand for healthcare and physician shortages.

Advanced practice clinicians can also specialize in different medical specialties, from primary care to surgery and other sub-specialties.

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