The fact of the matter is that rural America has a substantial need for health services that is growing in part due to a shift in demographics and also as a result of the increase of individuals now insured under the Affordable Care Act.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) have become essential providers of healthcare for rural populations all throughout the United States. At NP PA Recruiters, we want to provide NPs with the information they need to make the best decisions for their careers.
As a solution to the lack of physicians in rural areas, NPs can have a profound impact on these populations.
America’s Rural Population Needs Primary Care Too
The 2016 census report revealed that roughly 19 percent of Americans live in rural areas. Just like those living in urban and suburban settings, these individuals deal with a host of chronic illnesses and other health issues that arise with age.
Alongside the percentage of Americans living in rural settings, the aging population of baby boomers has further increased the demand for health care services. With many primary care providers in rural areas retiring or nearing retirement age, this has only heightened the scarcity of primary care providers.
As the first line of assessing health concerns and providing basic health services, a lack of primary care practitioners – including NPs – in rural areas is quickly becoming a larger social concern.
The Impact of the Affordable Health Care Act
By 2017, nearly 20 million Americans had signed up for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA has proven to be beneficial for a vast number of individuals, it has had the unfortunate effect of exasperating an already depleted workforce – especially in rural communities.
While there is a growing number of healthcare professionals entering into the field, there is still an imbalance in that many are choosing to work in cities and larger urban areas.
One manner by which nurse practitioners and other primary care providers have been incentivized to begin moving into rural communities is through increased autonomy.
State legislatures all throughout the country are redefining the “Scope of Practice” for nurse practitioners in order to bridge the gap in accessibility of healthcare services in rural areas. The increase in autonomy has led a to wider availability of healthcare services provided by nurse practitioners.
23 states, including Guam and the District of Columbia, have reassessed their laws of practice, including some of the most rural states in the nation, such as:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
A 2018 report by Health Affairs found that nurse practitioners now account for 1 in 4 of all medical care providers in rural areas.
Although there are many aspects of rural living that may deter NPs from practicing in these regions, it is important to highlight not only their impact in these communities but also how they benefit from working in these areas.
Three Major Benefits of Working in Rural Settings
- Greater Workplace Satisfaction- NPs are able to develop closer relationships with patients and coworkers in rural settings. Patients are happier with their individualized visits and sense of importance, thus making the job less stressful for NPs.
- Increased Autonomy and Independence – Due to the lack of primary care providers in rural areas, NPs have greater freedom to administer health services without the guidance of a supervising physician.
- Salary and Loan Forgiveness – The pay for NPs primary care services will overshadow the minor inconvenience of distance to retail. Furthermore, there is potential for up to $60,000 worth of student loan forgiveness for those that will commit to two or more years of practicing in rural areas.
Rural Work Opportunities for Current and Soon to be Nurse Practitioners
America’s rural communities can use your passion and skills. Contact our medical recruitment agency today at 214.351.3880 for more information or take a look at our job listings.