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National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners play a critical role in extending access to health care by providing a range of primary and specialty care services.  The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) conducted the 2012 National Sample Survey of Nurse Practitioners to provide accurate national estimates of the nurse practitioner workforce and to profile their education, certification, and practice patterns.

Key Findings

There were an estimated 154,000 licensed nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States in 2012.  Of these, more than 132,000 worked in a position requiring a nurse practitioner credential (the NP workforce). Within the NP workforce, about 127,000 NPs were providing patient care, and nearly half of NPs in patient care (60,407) were working in primary care practices or facilities.  Approximately 22,000 licensed NPs were not working in an NP position at the time of the survey; of these, approximately 11,000 were working as RNs.

  • The average age within the NP workforce was 48 years.
  • Approximately 94 percent of the total NP workforce held a graduate degree. Of the six percent without a graduate degree, most were individuals trained before 1992.
  • Seventy-six percent of the NP workforce maintained certification in what is generally considered a primary care specialty (family, adult, pediatric, or gerontology). The most widely held certification is family NP, reported by nearly half of the NP workforce.
  • Ninety-six percent of the NP workforce reported being in clinical practice, providing direct patient care. Nearly three percent were in faculty positions and approximately one percent were in administrative positions.
  • More than half of the NP workforce reported working in ambulatory care settings in their principal NP positions. Nearly one-third of the NP workforce practiced in hospitals.
  • NPs working in primary care settings reported a median salary of $82,000.
  • Overall, NPs in the workforce reported high levels of job satisfaction. NPs were most satisfied with their level of autonomy, time spent in patient care, sense of value for what they do, and respect from physicians and colleagues.
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Behavioral and Mental Health Projections (Summer 2016)

Updated 03/03/2016

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