Can APPs fill the gaps created by growing physician, nurse shortages?

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Among medical groups, 65% said they will employ advanced practice providers in 2023.

Health care experts predicted staffing would be a challenge in 2023 and those forecasts appear to be coming true, according to surveys that analyzed various aspects of the labor market in recent weeks. Along with a projected growing national physician shortage, a nursing shortage is becoming apparent in health care.

“While supply varies geographically; on a national level, a major crisis is evident and deteriorating,” Colosi said in the report. “The questions remaining are: How do we protect our human capital investment and how do we staff while controlling labor costs?”

“While supply varies geographically; on a national level, a major crisis is evident and deteriorating,” said Brian Colosi, MBA. “The questions remaining are: How do we protect our human capital investment and how do we staff while controlling labor costs?”

Accordingly, advanced practice providers (APPs) may offer one potential solution to help fill in staffing gaps left by these physician and nurse shortages.

Adding APPs

Among medical groups, 65% said they will employ APPs in 2023, according to an April 11 poll by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and STAT. APPs include certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), and certified nurse midwives (CNMs).

Among those who said no, “a significant number of them told MGMA that the reason they aren’t adding APP roles is because they’ve already successfully recruited for their needs, often finding ‘top-performing’ candidates to help cover many different specialties, and engaging them with monthly lunch-and-learn sessions alongside the compensation packages of pay and benefits offered,” the MGMA report said.

The APP job categories are expected to grow through 2031, with 38,400 new PA jobs, a 28% increase, and 118,600 new CRNA, CNM, and NP jobs, a 40% increase. MGMA cited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook for those figures.

In need of nursing

At least two reports this year project dire needs for nursing in health care organizations.

About 100,000 registered nurses (RNs) left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to stress, burnout, and retirements. Another 610,388 RNs reported an “intent to leave” the workforce by 2027 for the same reasons, including 188,962 RNs younger than 40.

The figures were part of the study “Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Burnout & Stress Among U.S. Nurses,” published April 13 by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

“The data is clear: The future of nursing and of the U.S. health care ecosystem is at an urgent crossroads,” Maryann Alexander, PhD, RN, FAAN, NCSBN chief officer of nursing regulation. “The pandemic has stressed nurses to leave the workforce and has expedited an intent to leave in the near future, which will become a greater crisis and threaten patient populations if solutions are not enacted immediately. There is an urgent opportunity today for health care systems, policymakers, regulators, and academic leaders to coalesce and enact solutions that will spur positive systemic evolution to address these challenges and maximize patient protection in care into the future.”

“A major crisis”

The figures are good for job seekers and the economy, but bad for health care organizations trying to maintain adequate staffing while controlling costs, according to another report.

Health care remains “a bright star in our economy,” projected to add 2 million jobs for 13% growth by 2031, according to BLS figures. That outpaces other job groups, said a statement from Brian Colosi, MBA, president of recruiter NSI Nursing Solutions Inc.

In 2022, hospitals added 975,000 employees, recapturing 5.65% of the talent lost in the “Great Resignation” during the COVID-19 pandemic. But RNs had a slower rate of return to the workforce, according to the “2023 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report” published last month.

“While supply varies geographically; on a national level, a major crisis is evident and deteriorating,” Colosi said in the report. “The questions remaining are: How do we protect our human capital investment and how do we staff while controlling labor costs?”

This article first appeared on our sister site Medical Economics.

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