Friendly nurse speaking with an older patient
HealthOctober 01, 2018

Highly educated nurses are poised to close care gaps

As the demand for health services grows, so too does the need for more highly-qualified and educated nurses and advanced practice nurses. Identifying the factors that influence nursing and healthcare today – and into the future – are key to closing gaps in patient care. Nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses are poised to address challenges in patient care, research and organizational design by addressing the needs of growing populations and the organizations that serve them.

Advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists, bring higher levels of experience, education, expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills, and clinical competencies for expanded practice. They hold advanced degrees – either a master’s or a Doctorate Degree in Nursing. Just 15 years ago, nurses with a doctorate degree were virtually non-existent in practice; however, today there are more than 25,0001 people who have reached that pinnacle and this is becoming more common due to increased educational requirements to meet the needs of the changing healthcare environment.

Advanced practice nursing roles have been on the rise since the 1960s when they were first introduced to meet the primary care needs of rural and underserved populations. In fact, over the last decade, the number of nurse practitioners has more than doubled.2 The global annual growth of the nurse practitioner workforce is approximately three to nine times greater compared with the physician workforce.3

Over the past 50 years, advanced practice roles have evolved to meet patient needs in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Advanced practice nurses work collaboratively with physicians and other healthcare providers and their advanced education has taught them how to diagnosis, prescribe medications, laboratory and other diagnostic tests and perform procedures. The result? Care provided by advanced practice nurses has demonstrated quality patient outcomes.

Opportunity for higher qualified nurses will continue to grow

Empowering nurses to function at the full scope of their practice authority, while promoting continued professional development, can help prepare healthcare organizations to address the needs of the growing population and changing community especially as more care shifts outside acute care settings.

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  1. Campaign for Action
  2. American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  3. Maier CB, Barnes H, Aiken LH, Busse R. Descriptive, cross-country analysis of the nurse practitioner workforce in six countries: size, growth, physician substitution potential. BMJ Open. 2016;6(9):e011901. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011901.