Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Nurse Practitioners Rock 2017!

Ten or fifteen years ago, many ordinary healthcare consumers may not have known much -- if anything -- about nurse practitioners. Moreover, only a small percentage would have received care from an NP. But in January of 2017, nurse practitioners are gaining ground like never before, so many nurses who are thinking about career mobility are likely considering the NP or APRN path.

U.S. News and World Report Is On the Mark

Some of you may have seen the substantive article published by U.S. News and World Report in early January of this year. It was their annual job rankings for the top 100 jobs in the U.S., and nurse practitioners came in at #2, after pharmacists.

U.S. News bases these rankings on many attributes of a particular career or industry, and NPs are reported as having a 0.7% unemployment rate, a decent level of upward mobility, and a median salary of $98,190. Meanwhile, job growth for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists is considered to be upwards of 31% between now and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sure, NPs have high stress levels and what U.S. News characterizes as below average flexibility in their work and jobs, but this doesn't diminish the earning power and projected job growth being seen now (and predicted for the future).

The BLS is No BS

Speaking of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they also claim that the NP/midwife/nurse anesthetist cadre of careers will produce somewhere around 53,000 jobs between now and 2024; I personally feel this may be a modest prediction based on the need for more primary care providers and the lack of physicians willing to go into primary care, especially in rural areas and the inner city.

The BLS is not prone to hyperbole, so we can assume that their aforementioned projection of 31% NP job growth is accurate; and when you consider that the projected average job growth for all occupations is a paltry 7%, we're looking at NPs (and aspiring NPs) sitting on a pile of career gold in the years to come.

One for the Vets

Back in 2016, you may have heard that the Veterans Administration was discussing granting full autonomy to all NPs and APRNs within their system; well, guess what? As of January 13th, 2017, it's game on!

We all know that vets have been getting the short end of the medical stick for ages. Now, thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the VA, they won't have to wait quite as long because the NPs are stepping in and stepping up to provide more comprehensive care for our valued vets who deserve the best.

Something we also know is that some states are much more restrictive of nurse practitioners than others. Well, for NPs working for the VA, those new VA NP autonomy regulations are more powerful than any jurisdiction by the state in which a particular Veterans Administration facility may operate. So, Susie Nurse Practitioner may live in a state where she lacks full autonomy, but if she works for the VA, she no longer needs a supervising physician and can go to town when it comes to autonomy of practice and serving her patients.

Let the Doctors Complain

Physician groups and their advocates may be fighting tooth and nail against APRNs gaining ground and autonomy, but the tide has turned in the direction of NPs, and will continue to do so. In New Mexico where I live, the New Mexico Nurses Association made sure that NPs gained broad and deep practice autonomy in our state, and that has happened in other states, as well.

Physicians may feel threatened by the ascendance of nurse practitioners and other APRNs, but I contend that there's room for all. Nurse practitioners are capable of providing thoughtful, compassionate, evidence-based care in a variety of settings. NPs aren't jockeying to become brain surgeons; they just want to provide the care to patients that they've been trained to provide.

The NP Evidence Is In

As the country continues to age, the role of NPs in primary care and gerontology will only increase; and as other systems follow the VA and realize the incredible value of APRNs and nurse practitioners, there will be calls for universal autonomy in all 50 states.

The evidence is in, and patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes are virtually the same for primary care physicians and nurse practitioners. There's really no argument against NPs that holds water in 2017. Thus. the tide has turned and NPs are now ascending as needed at this time in healthcare history.

Support the ascendancy of nurse practitioners, and consider when and if the pursuit of a new career trajectory as a nurse practitioner may align with your professional dreams and aspirations.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the well-known nursing blog, Digital Doorway.

Keith is co-host of, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses.

A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of "Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century," and has contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession. Keith has written for,,  MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, AusMed, American Sentinel University, the ANA blog, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online publications.

Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, podcaster, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.

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