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Future Job Demands in Primary Care

Updated on February 17, 2013

job shortages in health care

Future Jobs in Primary Care

With medical students flocking to higher-paying specialist fields, there remains a shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs). In fact, by 2025 it is estimated that there will be 44,000 fewer primary care physicians, making it difficult to get a quick appointment with your doctor. As a result there are two fields in medical care that continue to grow to address this shortage: physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

If you are thinking about entering the profession of either one, the following is a list comparing the two careers including educational requirements, a job description and where to get further information.

Educational Requirements:

Physician Assistant (PA) - A PA is a licensed clinician who has completed a two year accredited program. Internship or residencies are not required; their study is focused on primary care medicine. The PA practices under the supervision of a physician.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) - An NP is a registered nurse (RN) who has also completed a medical education at the graduate level. Generally, this means obtaining a degree at the master's level. However, more and more NPs are advancing to the Doctor of Nursing Practice which is a program taking two to four more years of study. An NP may work independently or in collaboration with a doctor depending on state regulations.

Predicted Shortages:

PA - The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that PA jobs will increase by 27 percent between 2006 and 2016.

NP - This field continues to grow rapidly. The program was developed in 1965 to address the shortage of PCPs; it now has more than 125,000 NPs.

Why These Positions Are Needed:

PA - The PA position was created in the mid 1960s to address the shortage of PCPs (Primary Care Physicians), especially in rural areas and other underserved areas. Under the guidance of one doctor, several PAs can be hired to act as principal care providers.

NP - The position of NP was also created to help fill PCP shortages during the 60's. However, unlike the PA, the NP can function without the supervision of a doctor and function as primary care providers.

Job Description:

PA - The PA can conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive care, write prescriptions, and assist in surgery, all under the supervision of a doctor.

NP - Studies show that NPs can provide care that is equivalent and at times improves on that of a doctor; all the while being cost effective. The NP spends, on average, 21 minutes with a patient which is generally more time than a doctor. The emphasis is on helping patients to take care of their health.

For Further Information:

PA - Contact the American Academy of Physicians Assistants.

NP - Visit - a service provided by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.


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    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks so much for your input mulberry1. A bit of personal information counts for a lot to anyone reading this.

      Imagine loving your job! Wow!

      Thanks again!

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 

      10 years ago

      If I was a high school senior with my eyes on a career in a medical field I would skip right past MDs and go for nurse practioner (or perhaps a nurse anesthetist). I've talked to many PAs though who absolutely LOVE their job. Less school, great $$, and lots of independence and satisfaction.

    • Cornerstone1 profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a great, very informative article. Yes, these professions, aka "physician extenders" are very much in demand! If you are in one pf these careers and need job search assistance, contact Cornerstone Medical Recruiting.

      Cornerstone Medical Recruiting, LLC , based in St. Louis Missouri, is a medical recruiting firm that specializes in recruiting Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants. Through the vast database resources that Cornerstone Medical Recruiting has at it’s disposal, Cornerstone is able to find many career opportunities in many different medical facilities throughout the United States.

    • BkCreative profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thank you too, fastfreta. I hope this hub will prove useful for your daughter! My friend's son decided to pursue PA credentials over 10 years ago and he has been very happy.

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 

      11 years ago from Southern California

      My daughter is a LVN in California, I've been encouraging her to take her studies further, possibly beginning with the PA level. I'll use this hub to further my campaign. Thanks for the research.


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