Characteristics of nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the United States

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Nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA) serve as independent or semiautonomous providers and as fundamental members of healthcare teams.


Differentiating roles of health professionals is needed for optimal employment utilization. Clinically practicing PAs and NPs were characterized.


Data included wage and workforce projections to 2022.Variables included number practicing, age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, principal employer, practice specialty, and wages.


Health delivery establishments employed 88,110 PA and 113,370 NP clinicians in 2013. Both were predominantly female: NPs were older (49 years) on average than PAs (38 years). A significant number of them practiced in physicians' offices or in acute care hospitals. Median wages were at parity. Growth predictions from 2012 to 2022 were 31%–35%.


PAs and NPs constitute 20% of the composite clinician labor force (MD, DO, PA, NP). Labor market analysis suggests they are in demand. A majority of NPs and a third of PAs work in primary care fields. Their collective projected growth suggests a solution to emerging workforce shortages and an ability to help meet healthcare demands.

Implications for practice:

Adaptability to changing roles, especially in primary care and underserved areas, makes them facile responders to market demands in a continuously evolving healthcare environment.

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