U.S. Primary Care Provider Needs: An Analysis of Workforce Projections and Policy Implications.

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Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice


health care quality, health resources, health services accessibility, nurse practitioner, policy, primary care, workforce



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The primary care (PC) physician workforce has consistently been projected as requiring additional numbers to meet the needs of the U.S. The Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) has reported the PC nurse practitioner (NP) workforce to be 90,000 NPs more than required to meet the PC needs of the U.S. With both clinician types contributing to the PC workforce in the country, it is difficult to understand such an oversupply of NPs with continued deficit in PC physicians. The purpose of this study was to investigate results and methods used for HRSAs current PC workforce projections and compare those with the same used for Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) projections. Methods included a review of technical documents, dashboards, and published reports. Interviews with subject matter experts were also completed. Projections were found to differ significantly, as did data and assumptions. Two of the three projections modeled physicians as the sole provider of PC. An integrated model gives the most comprehensive and accurate picture of PC workforce needs. The utilization of NPs as PC providers has been demonstrated to be safe and effective, with the potential to alleviate predicted shortages, improve patient care outcomes, reduce cost, and address PC inequities. Implications include improving workforce data, creating projections that mirror clinical integration in PC, adjusting workforce preparation funding, incentivizing interprofessional collaboration in research, addressing barriers to practice among non-physician providers, and leveraging growth in the NP workforce.



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