Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants Continue to Take On More Responsibilities


New survey findings demonstrate that professional use of online resources and social media will be essential in future efforts to take on additional tasks and improve patient care.

A new survey by the Point of Care Network (POCN) has found that not only is the gap shrinking between physicians’ responsibilities and those of nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), but NPs and PAs also want to learn about specialty and disease states outside of primary care.

NPs and PAs comprise a large and growing workforce, with more than 460,000 providers in over 60 specialties. According to the survey results, both professions work independently and in collaboration with other health care professionals to deliver chronic and acute care, treating more than 1 billion patients annually and writing more than $1 billion in retail prescriptions.

The number of NPs and PAs is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting an increase of between 26% and 31% from 2018 to 2028. This growth will result in more patient visits, diagnostic and treatment procedures, drug and device usage, and cost-efficient care, according to the survey.

To better understand the roles of NPs and PAs, POCN conducted an electronic survey in the summer of 2020. Respondents received an email invitation with a link to the online survey, which included 37 mainly close-ended questions. By the final tally, 673 NPs and PAs had responded, representing over 45 specialties. Of those 673, 39% identified as NPs and 61% as PAs.

According to the results, the majority of respondents (55.9%) work in primary care, with 27% saying they worked in a specialty not included in the 10 listed. Furthermore, 12% said they work in emergency medicine, 11.5% in orthopedics, and 9.4% in urgent care. When asked about their practice settings, nearly half (45.2%) said they work in a group practice or clinic, while 21.5% work in a hospital and 13.5% in a hospital clinic.

The respondents are busy, seeing an average of 66 patients per week. Notably, however, 64.2% said they see up to 75 patients per week, and 35.8% said they see between 76 and 150 patients per week. Nearly 60% of the respondents said that up to half of their patients are Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries, while 38.2% indicated that more than half of their patients receive CMS benefits.

Based on these responses, the survey authors said NPs and PAs require easy access to timely, relevant clinical information. Between 81% and 88% of respondents said they provide the initial diagnosis, general patient education, initial prescription, and counseling on treatment adherence. Between 63% and 76% are responsible for patient follow-up, prescription refills, chronic disease care, and complete care, meaning they see no distinction between physicians and themselves.

Although 56% designate themselves as primary care clinicians, the survey noted that they want to learn about specialty and disease states outside of primary care, including chronic disease management, as it relates to their patient populations. With this goal in mind, the respondents said the most helpful resources include data on the latest treatments or technologies, digital resources that they can repost or use with patients, and opportunities to make extra money.

About one-third of the respondents said they use social media professionally, whether to access clinical information or to get updates on state and local regulations. Specifically, 69% said the most important reason for professional digital use is to establish themselves as a subject matter expert, 55% said to expand their referral base, 29% said to expand their patient base, and 29% said they hope to impact a broad audience with helpful tips.

In addition to finding that NPs and PAs are a growing workforce, the survey findings demonstrate that their use of online resources and social media will be essential in future efforts to take on more responsibilities and improve patient care.


Point of Care Network 2020 Survey; Received January 26, 2021. Accessed January 28, 2021.

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