Analysis: Nurse practitioners doubled in 10 years

The number of U.S. nurse practitioners nearly doubled over the last 10 years, rising from roughly 106,000 in 2004 to 205,000 as of Dec. 31, the profession's trade group said Wednesday.

More than 15,000 people graduated from nurse practitioner programs between 2012 and 2013, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) also reported.

The AANP is hoping to leverage the rising number of nurse practitioners to further shape policy debates in Washington, D.C., particularly amid the current doctor shortage.

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"The explosive growth of the nurse practitioner profession is a public health boon considering our nation’s skyrocketing demand for high-quality, accessible care,” said AANP President Ken Miller in a statement.

"The challenge now will be right-sizing state and federal laws such that all patients will have full and direct access to nurse practitioners, and these expert and dedicated clinicians will be able to provide care to the top of their education and clinical training."

This goal puts the AANP in conflict with doctor groups, which have argued that the scope of practice for nurse practitioners should not increase because NPs typically lack the amount of education attained by doctors.

This Congress, the AANP is expected to continue its push to pass legislation allowing nurse practitioners to order home health services for Medicare beneficiaries.