NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Less Restrictive Regulation of APRNs Can Address the Doctor Shortage Problem

March 24, 2015

The association of American Medical Colleges' Center for workforce Studies estimated in 2010 that there could be an overall shortage of 62,900 physicians in 2015, and it would more than double to 130,600 by 2025. The current shortage of specialty physicians is slightly larger in 2015 (33,100) than for primary care physicians (29,800).

A recent report completed on the state of North Carolina shows a much faster, better and cheaper path is available to address this problem: removing unnecessary restrictions on the scope of practice for advanced practice nurses (APRNs).

In the report, they calculated the potential increase in the number APRNs practicing in North Carolina by using a previous study that had compared how quickly the number of nurses practitioners had grown in states with the least restrictive scope of practice regulations to those in states (like NC) with the most restrictive. The results show:

  • Between 2012 and 2019, the number of APRNs would increase an additional 24.4 percent, a net increase of 1,744 full-time-equivalent APRNs relative to the 2012 supply.
  • Regulations could eliminate the shortage of OB/GYNs while reducing the shortage of non-OB/GYN primary care doctors by 83 percent.
  • Regulations could eliminate at least 85 percent of the projected shortage of anesthesiologists.
  • Regulations could decrease the overall shortage of nonfederal physicians by 41 percent.

Besides, there is extensive empirical evidence that APRNs practice outcomes are at least equivalent to those of physicians to which they are compared. In addition, on some metrics, such as patient satisfaction, some studies have found APRN care is actually better.

It also can lead to a faster economic growth.

  • It could create at least 3,800 new jobs (possibly up to 7,128).
  • An annual increase in economic output of at least $477 million (possibly up to $883 million).
  • This expansion also would produce annual health system cost savings ranging from $433 million to $4.3 billion.

Source: Christopher J. Conover, "A faster, better, cheaper path to filling the doctor shortage," American Enterprise Institute, March 16, 2015.


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