A perfect storm in the labor market has led experts to anticipate a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) shortage in the coming years, one that will mean better job opportunities for nursing students accompanied by potential challenges in care delivery.

A recent white paper published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care anticipates a critical pediatric nurse practitioner shortage. The paper predicts difficulties in providing quality healthcare services to the nation’s growing number of children without a significant influx of new pediatric nurse practitioners. This highlights the need for professionals in nursing to advance their education and careers to meet the need.

Houston Christian University (HCU) is helping to meet the need by offering a Master of Science degree in Nursing as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. It prepares nurses for leadership roles in this important field and is designed to prepare professional nurses with the skills they need to immediately make an impact on pediatric primary care.

That is important in the current situation. In a news release issued about the impending PNP shortage, Dawn Garzon Maaks, president of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), said: “It’s in the best interest of our country to build a PNP workforce that will provide high quality, value-based, evidence-based care and treatment for our youth so they can become healthy, thriving and productive adults.”

The Extent of the Nurse Practitioner Shortage

While the number of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners has increased over the past decade, their number has not grown at the same rate as other nurse practitioner specialties. Of 270,000 nurse practitioners who work in the United States, less than 8% are pediatric, according to NAPNAP.

The organization also reports that about 1,025 pediatric nurse practitioners are licensed each year. The total workforce is about 18,100. In the white paper, researchers wrote that these numbers show a pediatric nurse practitioner shortage is just around the corner. They also point to other issues that are leading to, and associated with, the expected shortage:

  • There is currently an insufficient number of pediatric primary care providers to handle the complex needs of children, leading to a shortage in many U.S. counties
  • Underserved urban areas and rural areas are feeling these shortages the most
  • There are currently 74 million children in the U.S., which is about 23% of the population. That number is expected to grow to 76 million by 2030, making the demand for care higher

What this Means for Nurses

The pediatric nurse practitioner shortage offers graduates from MSN-PNP programs like the one offered by Houston Christian University more career opportunities than ever. The HCU curriculum is designed to prepare graduates for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care certification examination offered through the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board. They are now the only ones offering the exam as of 2019.

The program includes 531 clinical hours. To offer the flexibility working nurses need to maintain a job while seeking a higher-level degree, the program combines online classes and coursework with clinical and practicum experiences offered in partnership with healthcare providers, all designed with convenience in mind for the student. Students come to campus for an intensive weekend once a semester to interact with faculty.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track Pediatric Nurse Practitioners separately from other types of NPs, the federal agency projects a 26% increase in all nurse practitioner’s jobs between 2018 and 2028. Texas has the third-highest number of nurse practitioners among all U.S. states and also one of the largest populations in the country.

In the white paper, the researchers encourage additional analysis of the pediatric nurse practitioner workforce. They also advocate for more education in this important area, as well as an effort to increase awareness among healthcare leaders about the potential impact of a pediatric nurse practitioner shortage.