By Staff Reporters



According to HealthcareBrew, thousands of doctors are expected to reach retirement age in the next three years, and their replacements won’t be physicians. Instead, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) will increasingly provide primary care services, according to a report from consulting firm Mercer.

By 2026, 21% of family medicine, pediatric, and obstetrics and gynecology physicians—or about 32,000 doctors—will be 65 or older, and Mercer anticipates about 23,000 physicians will leave the profession permanently. At the same time, demand for primary care physicians is expected to grow 4%, the report found.

PAs and NPs—also called advanced practice providers (APPs) or physician extenders—are highly trained medical professionals. To become a PA, you have to have both a bachelor’s and a master’s, some clinical work experience, pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, and then apply to get licensed in your state (you know, easy peasy). It takes seven to nine years to go through that process, compared to 11+ years to become an MD.


To become an NP, you must have both a bachelor’s and a master’s in nursing, become a registered nurse, and pass a national NP board certification exam. It takes between six to eight years to become an NP.

Compared to physicians, PAs and NPs are “considerably younger professions with less than half the retirement risk,” the Mercer report stated. Roughly 40,000 PAs and NPs join the workforce annually.

“We’re certainly going to see increasing demand for APPs,” David Mitchell, a partner in Mercer’s career consulting business and a specialist in the healthcare industry, told Healthcare Brew.

While most state licensing boards require a physician to oversee APPs, both PAs and NPs have the authority to do many services primary care physicians do, like seeing and diagnosing patients, ordering lab tests, and writing prescriptions, said Mitchell.




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