Demand for health care professionals with expertise in long-term care (LTC) is rising, due to projected growth in the older population and the increasing burden of chronic disease. One way to meet this growing LTC workforce demand may be to employ more nurse practitioners (NPs) and/or physician assistants (PAs).
Healthforce Center researchers Kristine Himmerick, Jacqueline Miller, Christopher Toretsky, Matthew Jura and Joanne Spetz have published their report Employer Demand for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners to care for Older People and People with Disabilities. The new report analyzes NP and PA job postings for 2014 using data from Burning Glass Technologies, a leading labor analytics firm.
The authors found that in 2014, 1 in 10 job openings for NPs and PAs were focused on care for older persons and/or people with disabilities, however half of the jobs required ≥1 year of experience, limiting opportunities for new graduates. The overall employment market for positions in LTC and care for older and disabled populations appears to be expanding for both NPs and PAs, but NPs are in higher demand. Of note, twice as many NPs as physicians were employed in settings focused on older and disabled populations.
The report concludes that although job opportunities abound for NPs, the lack of job availability for PAs is a potential barrier to entry. Employers may not fully understand how PAs are trained to fill employment gaps for geriatric and disabled populations. The authors suggest that educators develop curricula that further prepare both NPs and PAs for careers in care of these populations. Finally, because NPs comprise a larger percentage of the home health and nursing and residential care facility clinician workforce than do physicians, policymakers should consider the impact of restrictive scope of practice legislation on access to care for aging and chronically disabled constituents.