NPs and PAs by the Numbers: The Data Behind America’s Frontline Healthcare Providers

NPs and PAs are assuming increasing levels of responsibility in the healthcare industry. A growing population composed partly of aging baby boomers and the increasing prevalence of chronic disease are driving the need for lower cost primary care. NPs and PAs can take on much of the role of traditional, more expensive physicians.


NP employment is forecasted to grow at a rate of 26% from now until 2028 while PA employment is expected to grow at a rate of 31%. Both rates are much higher than the average growth rate of 5% for all occupations reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts. PA is the fifth-fastest growing job in the United States.


As the roles of NPs and PAs expand, understanding the differences between the two can help information providers, such as pharma and research facilitators, better engage with these frontline healthcare providers.


Differentiating Between NPs and PAs


NPs and PAs are independently licensed providers. PAs are trained based on the medical model, whereas NPs draw from nursing tradition with a more holistic approach to wellness. PAs tend to specialize. According to, more than 25% of PAs have a surgical specialty. On the other hand, NPs serve specific population segments, which can be as broad as primary care.


A new study by Kantar Media highlights that the two roles are similar in terms of methods of interaction with patients. The majority of NPs and PAs use patient portals to communicate with patients, and both NPs and PAs use computers and laptop predominantly to write prescriptions.


Methods Used for Patient Interactions: NPs vs. PAs


  NPs2 PAs
Patient portal 58% 47%
Email 38% 29%
Text messge 18% 13%
Mobile app 6% 3%

Source: Kantar Media 2019 Sources & Interactions Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner Edition 2019


Tools Used for Prescriptions: NPs vs. PAs


  Prescription Pads Computer/Laptop Smartphone/Tablet
NPs 15% 81% 4%
PAs 13% 83% 4%

Source: Kantar Media 2019 Sources & Interactions Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner Edition 2019


Practice Requirements


A PA will have a master’s degree and typically complete 2,000 hours of clinical rotational. NPs also have a master’s degree, often in science and nursing or a doctor of nursing practice, but they are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).


An NP will also have a national certification in a patient focus and complete clinical work at different stages under the supervision of a university, both when seeking RN licensing and when pursuing advanced licensing. For advanced practice, a licensed RN will complete 600 hours of additional clinical experience. Thus, an NP will need additional formal training requirements and an additional certification exam. This is not the case with PAs, who can change specialties more easily.


Medication Metrics


In 2019, the American Association for Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reported that 95.7% of NPs prescribe medications. NPs in full-time practice write approximately 20 prescriptions per day on average, and the majority (57.4%) see three or more patients per hour.


According to the 2018 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants, the average PA sees 73 patients a week. The table below outlines where these two healthcare providers tend to practice.


Where do NPs and PAs Practice?


Practice Setting NPs2 PAs1
Hospitals 14.5% 36.5%
Office-based private practice 53.9% 53.3%
Urgent Care 4.3% 5.9%
Other 27.3% 4.3%

1Source: AAPA Salary Survey, 2019

2Source: American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 2019




There is some difference in the number of NPs and PAs who focus on primary care – areas such as adult and geriatrics, women’s health, and pediatrics. According to the AANP, in 2018, more than 87% of NPs were trained in primary care, while the AAPA reported that 20.8% of PAs specialized in primary care rather than surgical subspecialties or internal medicine. The top areas of practice for Certified PAs are shown below.


Top Areas of Practice for Certified PAs


Area of Practice  
Family Medicine/General Practice 19.2%
Surgical Specialties 18.5%
Emergency Medicine 13%
Internal Medicine Subspecialties 9.4%
Internal Medicine General Practice 4.7%
Dermatology 4%

Source: National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, 2018


Source of Information for NPs and PAs


One area of similarity between NPs and PAs is where they turn for information. Both NPs and PAs choose to use professional portals for their information needs.


Top Five Information Sources for NPs and PAs


Information Source NPs PAs
Professional Portals (e.g., Medscape, UpToDate) 86% 84%
Colleagues (physicians) 68% 79%
Colleagues (other NPs/PAs) 70% 70%
Conferences/symposiums 72% 64%
Professional journals (print) 64% 61%

Source: Kantar Media 2019 Sources & Interactions Physician Assistant/Nurse Practitioner Edition 2019


In summary, both NPs and PAs are frontline providers in healthcare today. While PAs are trained based on the medical model, NPs assume an overall holistic approach. PAs often specialize in sub areas, whereas 87% of NPs focus on primary care. With their excellent credentials and training, both occupations face increasing demand for their talents.


Lippincott can help you reach NPs and PAs. Contact us to learn more about our custom marketing solutions.


Lippincott can help you reach NPs and PAs. Contact us to learn more about our custom marketing solutions.

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