Demand for Nurse Practitioners is Skyrocketing in Texas

According to reports, a demand for nurse practitioners is high across the United States, in part due to the AMA capping medical school enrollment in the 1990’s to maximize earnings for M.D.s. Yet demand for medical professionals hasn’t slackened as the population has both grown and aged. Nurse practitioners evolved to fill in the gap. However, demand for NP’s varies across the nation.

Demand for nurse practitioners is skyrocketing in Texas. Let’s look at the reasons behind the nurse shortage and the possible solutions.

Population Growth

Texas’ population hit 25 million in 2010, an increase of four million since 2000. It hit 28.3 million in 2017. This growth rate reflects around 400,000 more people moving to the state and a higher birthrate that exceeds those who pass or move away. This breaks down to 1200 new people per day. An expanding population needs more medical services, and Texas’ relatively young population means that it is going to continue to grow. While the state has added several medical schools to try to mint a few new doctors, the reality is that nurse practitioner programs can turn BSN into NP’s in a fraction of the time, thus meeting demand.

Texas’ population growth is due in large part to demographic shifts and high birth rates, which is why the state is expected to have one of the lowest percentages of the population under 65 in the country by 2030. Only Alaska, D.C., and Utah will be relatively “younger”.

Affordability

Nurse practitioners earn around $90,000 to $100,000 a year. There is a general trend toward higher pay in areas with a very high cost of living; this is why you earn more working in California than Nevada and why Oklahoma’s pay rates for NPs are lower than New Jersey. Yet there are exceptions.

One of the highest paying regions for nurse practitioners is the Rio Grande Valley, which is close to the Mexico border. The area has a dire need for medical services, but very few doctors are willing to move to the area outside of Laredo and El Paso.

Clinics in the area then pay for nurse practitioners, so they can afford multiple medical professionals to meet demand. This allows clinics to offer affordable care in poor rural communities like Colonias, where poverty rates are six times the state average.

Many cannot afford insurance to aid in paying for medical care and a minority of the population is unable to secure insurance privately or through public programs, because due to legal issues, barring treatment in emergency rooms that the law says must be provided.

Their children qualify for Medicaid, but they rely on community clinics increasingly staffed by NPs because small-town doctors are less willing to move or stay in rural regions. The low reimbursement rates from public health programs and steady but heavy administrative costs also make it necessary for such areas to rely on nurse practitioners instead of doctors to provide affordable medical care.

A side benefit of nurse practitioners is their focus on long-term management of conditions and prevention instead of simply treating what shows up. This is why health programs are seeking to put nurse practitioners in under served areas to provide better health management for all patients, lowering their overall rates of illness, disability, and death.

The End Result of These Trends

Demand for nurse practitioners in Texas is growing at 41%, much higher than the national rate of 34%. This is parallel to Texas’ 7.2% population growth relative to the nation’s 3.3% growth. Pay rates for nurse practitioners differ between states. According to Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences – you can find out more here. The state with the highest average wage for nurse practitioners was California, clocking in at $124,000 a year. In Texas, the median pay was around $110,000 a year. This was double the median salary in the state.

The number of nurse practitioners in a state is due to a number of factors. The number of NPs is partially correlated to population, which is why Texas, California, and New York have the most nurse practitioners. You find a higher than average per capita number of NPs in states like Alaska because they are so lenient; a nurse practitioner can often practice immediately after graduation.

One benefit Texas has is a relatively low cost of living but higher pay than surrounding states like Oklahoma, attracting NPs from the region. You see the same trend in Oregon’s relative lack of nurses and NPs and higher than expected pay for nurse practitioners because of competition with California’s very high pay rates for nurses at all levels.

Conclusion

Nurse practitioners are in particular demand in Texas, to offer the affordable healthcare the population needs since NPs are cheaper than M.D.s. They’re also in high demand due to population growth that is far greater than the rest of the nation and demand for medical services that medical schools in the region cannot keep up with. Nurse practitioners who graduate in Texas or move there will find strong demand for their skills in any part of the state.

Thanks to Zoe Price

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