With an already overloaded U.S. healthcare system, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are a crucial part of caring for the country’s more than 70 million baby boomers.
As the boomer generation — born between 1946 and 1964 — reaches its golden years, life expectancy rates are at an all-time high. By 2029, 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older.
Without enough primary-care providers to meet the needs of baby boomers, many healthcare systems are looking to FNPs to help fill the gap.
Tay Kopanos is vice president of state government affairs for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She says, “Patients who receive care from an NP tend to adhere to medication and treatment plans better than patients who see other providers do and therefore need less follow-up treatment,” in “All in the balance: Nurse practitioners are ready to help meet baby boomers’ growing needs,” on Nurse.com.
“Nurse practitioners can really help decrease the burden of chronic disease both on the patient and the global healthcare system,” she says.
The Cost of Aging
By 2030, one in four baby boomers will have diabetes, more than a third will be obese and almost half will suffer from arthritis, according to “Healthcare marketers: Don’t forget about the baby boomers,” on MMM-Online.com.
“The boomer group is a sick population,” says Zoe Dunn, president and CEO of Hale Advisors, a digital marketing consulting company for the life sciences industries, in the MM&M article. “They are heavily taxing our healthcare system.”
In 2015, Medicare spending topped more than $630 billion. Through 2024, the Congressional Budget Office projects a nearly 1.5 percent increase per beneficiary.
The cost of caring for baby boomers will not only increase the financial strain on the healthcare system, but it will also create a severe shortage of trained nurses.
“This problem is only going to get worse because the very people required to look after the elderly are becoming old themselves,” according to “Baby Boomers and Their Effect on Healthcare” on GeriatricNursing.org. “The largest group of registered nurses in America today are in the 50-year age bracket and in the next two decades will be retiring from the profession themselves.
“So healthcare is going to get hit with a double-whammy. A scenario where about one-fifth of the total population of the country — around 80 million people — are going to be needing greater healthcare and a severe shortage of the people who provide it.”
To help combat this impending shortage, legislation that focuses on recruiting and training more nurses — such as the Nurse Reinvestment Act of 2002 and the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — has made its way through Congress. Most recently, the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extends nursing grants for clinical nurse specialist programs, passed in the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
To avoid a healthcare crisis, many health insurance companies are using managed care providers that employ family nurse practitioners who oversee patients outside of a hospital setting — and sometimes in members’ homes. Through preventive care, these nurses can reduce the impact on the healthcare system by catching problems early and encouraging proper medication use.
“This is not a new industry, but it is an industry that needs to rapidly expand in response to our aging population and the rise of chronic diseases,” says Brian Wise, CEO at Advance Health, in “Baby Boomers Are Creating a Health Care Crisis. Can Nurses Save the Day?” on Inc.com. Advance Health is a managed care company with a national nurse practitioner network.
“Our research has shown a 15 percent decrease in hospital visits and a 14 percent decrease in costs incurred from hospital visits when members benefited from a managed care program,” Wise says.
How FNPs Can Help
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that physician shortages could reach up to 90,000 by 2025, with up to a third of those being in primary care, according to the article, “Role and Scope of Practice of a Family Nurse Practitioner” on NurseJournal.org.
As of 2017, 22 states and the District of Columbia have granted full-practice authority to nurse practitioners, giving them the autonomy to practice and prescribe medications without requiring the oversight of a physician.
While all states recognize NPs as primary care providers, some still require physician supervision or delegation. However, numerous nursing organizations and professional advocacy groups continue to fight for legislative reform that would give NPs full-practice authority in all 50 states.
If the legislation passes, more nurse practitioners could help manage the chronic care needs of baby boomers, which would alleviate some of the stress on the country’s overburdened healthcare system.
“Doctors don’t visit homes anymore, but nurses do,” according to “Baby Boomers Are Creating a Health Care Crisis. Can Nurses Save the Day?” “And that needs to become commonplace.”
About Duquesne’s Master of Science in Nursing Degree
The online MSN in family nurse practitioner (MSN-FNP) program at Duquesne University is designed to enhance graduates’ nursing practice so they can provide outstanding care for people across their lifespans. The nursing curriculum includes courses in advanced practice nursing, healthcare ethics and foundations of family care.
Students may add a concentration to their coursework in nursing education, transcultural nursing or forensic nursing. Duquesne also offers an online post-master’s certificate in family nurse practitioner.
Just How Many Baby Boomers Are There? — Population Reference Bureau
All in the balance: Nurse practitioners are ready to help meet baby boomers’ growing needs — Nurse.com
Healthcare marketers: Don’t forget about the baby boomers — MM&M
Baby Boomers and Their Effect on Healthcare — GeriatricNursing.org
Baby Boomers Are Creating a Health Care Crisis. Can Nurses Save the Day? — Inc.
Role & Scope of Practice of a Family Nurse Practitioner — NurseJournal.org