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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Know your providers, Part 1: Advanced Practice Nurses

Imagine a visit to your doctor’s office. As you finish flipping through a magazine in the waiting room, someone shows you to the exam room, takes your blood pressure and hands you a gown. Your doctor is still with a previous patient, so you will be seen by another member of the care team. This person introduces herself or himself as a nurse practitioner, or NP. You’ve heard of nurse practitioners, but you came to see the doctor—what can the NP do for you?

Some registered nurses have received specialized graduate-level training to become advanced practice nurses (APNs). This group includes nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists. To learn more about this part of the nursing workforce, The Colorado Trust funded CHI to survey Colorado’s APNs. We are proud to share the results from this survey and invite you to view the full report on our website.

The results tell us that APNs and nurse practitioners in particular are important providers of primary care in Colorado. More than half of APNs and more than 70 percent of NPs specialize in primary care, working in a variety of settings. Nine in 10 Colorado APNs who specialize in primary care have the authority to prescribe medicines, while one-quarter have hospital-admitting privileges. Colorado’s APNs are highly educated and very satisfied in their careers.

The main challenge from a workforce planning perspective will be the aging of the APN workforce since more than 40 percent are within 10 years of retirement. Behind the scenes, primary care APNs report they are not always able to bill for services under their own license and are not reimbursed commensurate with their experience. In rural areas, about one-quarter of NPs said they were thinking of leaving their APN position in the next year.

What strikes you most about these findings? What information on Colorado’s advanced practice nurses would be most useful to you and your organization?

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The doctor’s office, hospital and other health care settings have a maze of relationships: doctor, nurse aide, physician assistant, medical assistant, licensed practical nurse – what does everybody do? Watch for the next blog post on our newly released results from the Colorado Physician Assistant Workforce Survey.