While physicians still make up the majority of healthcare recruitment searches, more and more facilities are turning toward nurse practitioners to meet their needs.

As the physician shortage continues to grow, facilities are increasingly depending on these versatile professionals to fill the gap and ensure continuity of quality patient care. In fact, according to the AAPPR 2023 Annual Report, while physicians still make up 60% of facility recruitment searches, nurse practitioners are searched for twice as much as physician assistants—NPs make up 19% of searches, while PAs account for 9%.

The increase in nurse practitioner demand underscores not just a shift in recruitment patterns, but signals a broader transformation in healthcare delivery.

Here’s what these trends mean for nurse practitioners’ career outlook and job growth: 

The impact of nurse practitioner demand on healthcare delivery

Beyond recruitment statistics, the surge in nurse practitioner demand holds profound implications for healthcare delivery. As frontline providers, NPs play a pivotal role in expanding access to care, especially in underserved communities who are most impacted by physician shortages. 

NPs provide urgently needed care in a variety of practice environments, including acute, chronic, and community settings. As more and more facilities rely on them to bridge gaps in care, states are beginning to update their practice requirements to ensure that the criteria of care is consistent from state to state. To assist in these efforts, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties developed the Consensus Model, a new national standard for nurse practitioners, with an emphasis on six patient populations: individual/family health, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, women’s health/gender, and psychiatric/mental health.

As more and more states adopt these standards, nurse practitioners are likely to become even more integral to healthcare delivery for facilities across the country. NP’s advanced training, coupled with a holistic approach to patient care, makes them invaluable partners for facilities looking to ensure continuous access to quality care for their patients.

How the increase in nurse practitioner demand cuts across specialties

While roughly 88% of nurse practitioners are certified in primary care, more and more NPs are also moving toward specialty care. From 2008 to 2016, there was a 22% increase in the number of specialty practices that relied on advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners. 

Certain specialties stand out as being particularly in demand; here are some of the most common facility searches by specialty according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners

  • Family Practice: 70.3%
  • Adult Gerontology (Primary Care): 8.9% 
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health: 6.5% 
  • Adult Gerontology (Acute Care): 6.1% 
  • Adult: 5.7% 
  • Acute Care: 2.9%
  • Pediatrics (Primary Care): 2.4% 
  • Women’s Health: 2.2%
  • Gerontology: 0.9%
  • Pediatrics (Acute Care): 0.6%
  • Neonatal: 0.5%

This specialized demand not only reflects the versatility of NPs but also highlights the evolving healthcare needs of communities. Those considering a career as an NP can find ample opportunities for growth and specialization, tailored to their interests and passions.

Breakdown of nurse practitioner demand by state

While the increase in nurse practitioner demand is being seen across the country, there are regional variations in demand. Understanding these trends can help NPs tailor their search toward areas of higher demand.

According to the AAPPR Annual Report, the midwest region of the United States accounts for the majority of searches, at 36% of total searches. 5 of the top 10 states that account for most healthcare staffing searches are also in the Midwest. 

Here are the top 10 states that represent the highest projected job growth for nurse practitioners:

  • Arizona: 50.9%
  • Colorado: 44.7%
  • Georgia: 41.4%
  • New York: 41.3%
  • Florida: 36.9%
  • Maryland: 34.9%
  • Tennessee: 34.7%
  • Utah: 34.3%
  • Oregon: 31.9%
  • Texas: 31.9%

How locum tenens influences job growth for nurse practitioners

One thing is clear—nurse practitioners have never had more avenues for growth and career fulfillment. 

According to AAPPR’s 2023 Annual Report, while physicians are much more likely to leave their permanent position for retirement, APPs like nurse practitioners are much more likely to leave for a similar role elsewhere, usually due to the desire for better compensation.

Locum tenens can be a great opportunity for NPs who are ready to move on from their permanent role, but not the medical profession. Locums positions not only tend to pay higher rates, they also offer more flexibility in scheduling, the opportunity to experience a diversity of medical settings and practice environments, and the chance to make an impact on the communities that need care the most. 

That’s also great news for facilities who need experienced practitioners to bridge gaps in patient care: whether temporary via locum tenens or as permanent providers, nurse practitioners are invaluable partners in expanding access to care, one patient at a time.