Although it’s only been a little more than 50 years since the first classes of physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) graduated from their programs, advanced practice providers (APPs) have become an integral part of the healthcare system. It’s estimated that there are more than 130,000 PAs and 350,000 licensed NPs in the U.S., and both are among the top 10 fastest growing healthcare professions. With the increasing physician shortage, now is a good time to take a closer look at how NPs and PAs fit into your care delivery model. Here are seven ways bringing on more advanced practice providers can help solve your healthcare organization’s staffing challenges.
1. Added flexibility
Although PAs and NPs don’t have as many years of training as doctors, they are qualified and licensed to assume many of the same clinical responsibilities. In many outpatient facilities and hospitals, family medicine NPs and PAs conduct physicals, review patient histories, assess conditions, and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries. The broadness of their training allows healthcare facilities to be more flexible about who they assign to interact with patients. It also helps keep revenue streams flowing because access to care isn’t hindered by not having enough physicians to provide coverage.
2. APPs have prescription authority
Although some states require NPs and PAs to function under the guidance of physicians, all states grant APPs prescription authority. In some cases, they must obtain a DEA registration number. Regulations vary among states regarding authority to prescribe controlled substances.
3. APPs can extend physician care
When an NP or PA treats a patient for non-critical conditions, chronic diseases, or minor injuries, it can help relieve the caseload burden on physicians. In turn, doctors can devote their expertise to more critically ill or injured patients. This delegation also frees up physicians who hold management responsibilities without interrupting patient care. Extending physician care with the help of PAs or NPs can go a long way toward solving your healthcare organization’s staffing challenges.
4. Ability to practice in many specialties
When the PA and NP professions were first created, the providers typically worked in general medicine. Nowadays, the APPs work in a variety of settings and specialties. PAs, in particular, have training that allows them to switch between specialties easily, but many NPs are trained and certified in multiple specialties as well.
“We have our core specialties of family medicine or hospitalists, but emergency medicine and urgent care also are in constant demand. There are other specialties, too, such as surgery,” says Carolyn House, an advanced practice consultant for Weatherby Healthcare.
5. APPs contribute to patient satisfaction
Research indicates people respond positively to advanced practice providers. Studies have found that patient satisfaction with PAs and NPs was as consistently high as physicians. Some of this satisfaction may stem from the fact that APPs often provide patient education and counseling. This aspect is particularly pertinent when compensation is tied to patient outcomes and satisfaction surveys.
6. A cost-effective staffing option
Although salaries for PAs and NPs are rising, they are considerably lower than the average compensation for physicians. In 2022, the AAPA reported the median annual base salary for PAs was $113,000, and Medscape reported an average gross income of $116,000 for NPs in 2021. By comparison, in 2022 the average physician salary is $339,000. When you struggle to hire enough physicians, adding more advanced practice providers to your healthcare team is a financially sound strategy for addressing your staffing challenges.
7. NPs and PAs work as locum tenens
If you think your facility could benefit from incorporating more advanced practice providers into your team, consider bringing on a locum tenens NP or PA. Whether you need them for short-term coverage or a longer-term arrangement, locum tenens enables you to assess how APP can contribute to your care coverage without the cost of hiring permanent employees.
“Locum tenens advanced practice providers are a cost-effective way fill in the gaps and still offer quality care for patients,” Carolyn says. “We have PAs and NPs available to join your team in every specialty, especially in family medicine.”
Weatherby Healthcare has locum tenens NPs and PAs who can help solve your healthcare organization’s staffing challenges. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more.