Findings From 2020 Survey Show Nurse Practitioners (NPs) Continue to Provide Quality Health Care During the Pandemic

AUSTIN, TEXAS (April 12, 2021) The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) recently released findings from its 2020 National NP Sample Survey. In every state, NPs continue to deliver comprehensive, high-quality care in settings ranging from primary care clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers and nursing homes to patients’ homes through virtual visits.

“Findings from this survey emphasize NPs’ effective role in the continuum of care,” said AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. "What began over a half century ago as a necessary way to fill the gaps in primary health care in underserved and rural populations has evolved into an expert health care provider role, serving all populations in all health care settings.” Thomas added, “The confidence that patients have in the health care they receive from NPs is evidenced by more than 1 billion visits made annually to NPs.”

In 2020, three of the top five certifications reported were in Primary Care: Family (69.7%), Adult (10.8%) and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care (7%). NPs with a Psychiatric/Mental Health (4.7%) certification moved up into the top five certifications this past year. The top three NP work site settings remained as hospital outpatient clinic (14.3%), private group practice (10.4%) and hospital inpatient unit (10%); however, private NP practice (3.8%) was among the top 10 work site settings in 2020. In addition to caring for their patients in these settings, NPs facilitated referrals to other health care providers. Primary care NPs most often referred to physical therapists (88.2%), specialty care physicians (79.9%) and psychologists (75.8%).

Notwithstanding the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, NPs continued to diagnose, treat and manage a wide variety of chronic and acute conditions in their practices. The most frequently reported diagnoses treated by NPs were abdominal pain (69.4%), anxiety (67.2%) and urinary tract infections (66.7%). Almost all (96.2%) NPs indicated that they prescribe pharmacologic agents for patients, which also varied by NP certification, practice community and work site setting. Overall, NPs wrote an average of 21 prescriptions or refills per day. NPs certified in Psychiatric/Mental Health wrote the highest average number of prescriptions per day.

AANP members can log in and download a free 2020 National NP Sample Survey report on the Research Reports webpage. Nonmembers may purchase a copy of the report on the same webpage.

Methodology: Since 1999, AANP has conducted the NP Sample Survey, which is periodically focused on the NP workforce to capture vital information regarding the characteristics and practices of NPs. A sampling frame of more than 166,000 records for this survey was pulled from the AANP National NP Database, which includes contact information from AANP’s members, its customers and state regulatory agencies. From this, just over 55,000 NPs were sent the electronic survey instrument and a total of 3,994 responded. The survey used a multivariate weighting adjustment for sampling bias and for subtle over- and under-representations of certain demographic and geographic groups. The survey results were also limited to NP respondents who were clinically practicing at the time of their participation.

Contact research@aanp.org for further information.

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The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) of all specialties. It represents the interests of the more than 290,000 licensed NPs in the U.S. AANP provides legislative leadership at the local, state and national levels, advancing health policy; promoting excellence in practice, education and research; and establishing standards that best serve NPs’ patients and other health care consumers. As The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, AANP represents the interests of NPs as providers of high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered health care. For more information about NPs, visit aanp.org. To locate an NP in your community, visit npfinder.com. For more information about NPs, visit aanp.org. For COVID-19 information from AANP, visit aanp.org/COVID19.