Millions of Americans are turning to nurse practitioners for their health care needs, and with good reason. Out from the shadows of a looming provider shortage, a highly trained, fast-growing workforce has emerged that is transforming how we seek and deliver care.

Rising star

If you have your nurse practitioner on speed dial, you are not alone. In almost two dozen states, patients have direct access to nurse practitioner care. In fact, nurse practitioners delivered care in more than 1 billion patient visits in the past year. From chronic illness and life-saving emergency care to psychiatric, cardiology and home health services, nurse practitioners are increasingly taking the reins to holistically treat patients needing every level of care. You can find nurse practitioners in nearly every health care setting.

“As more people demand quality health care than ever before, the draw of nurse practitioners grows stronger...”

The timing is important. Over the next decade, experts expect the rise in chronic disease and an aging baby boomer population to overtax an already strained provider network. At a time when physicians are choosing specialties over primary care, nurse practitioners are rising to the occasion and fueling job growth. Last year, there were three times more primary care nurse practitioner graduates than primary care medical school graduates. In the same amount of time, more than 23,000 nurse practitioners entered the workforce, up almost 5,000 from the year before. By 2025, the field will grow by 35 percent – five times the national average for other professions. This spike in popularity, coupled with rare job security and the lure of a six-figure salary, led U.S. News to rank nurse practitioner second on its list of the 100 best jobs in 2017. Growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Closing the gap

The nurse practitioner boom is the CPR our care delivery system desperately needs, and the surge of these skilled providers is coming not a moment too soon. As more people demand quality health care than ever before, the draw of nurse practitioners grows stronger; each year, we move closer to the day when all 50 states grant nurse practitioners full autonomy to treat their patients. In the meantime, nurse practitioners will continue to take on larger workloads and more patient responsibility, proving they are not just integral providers, but critical to delivering high quality care in our value- based health care system.