NPs, PAs shift toward subspecialties

August 20, 2013

Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) are increasingly going to subspecialties to work, rather than in primary care, which may suggest that these healthcare providers won’t be a solution to the impending shortage of primary care physicians.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) are increasingly going to subspecialties to work, rather than in primary care, which may suggest that these healthcare providers won’t be a solution to the impending shortage of primary care physicians.

In a report published in American Family Physician, researchers noted that although NPs and PAs were first introduced as a means to offsetting the uneven distribution of physicians, less than half of PAs are currently in primary care, and only slightly more than one-half of NPs work in primary care.

Student loan debt and income gap disparities may be some of the factors causing PAs and NPs to choose subspecialties over primary care positions, researchers noted.

“Relying on NPs and PAs to solve the problem of a growing shortage of primary care physicians may not be an option,” study authors concluded, “and policymakers should not abandon policy solutions designed to increase the number of primary care physicians, NPs and PAs.”