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Healthcare's hiring dilemma: PA or NP?

Organizations must figure out which role is the best investment

The growing shortage of physicians is causing many healthcare organizations to rethink the roles of nurse practitioners and physician assistants. More than any other, these are the professionals that are filling the gap left by physicians that are retiring, reducing their patient load or deciding to leave the field.

To figure out which role is the better to invest in, organizations have a lot to consider.

NPs and physician assistants are in highly sought, which means those seeking those positions can demand and achieve higher wages.

According to a Merritt Hawkins spring 2013 survey, search assignments for nurse practitioners and physicians increased by 164 percent from the year prior. Nurse practitioners ranked tenth on the list of most in-demand jobs in healthcare and physician assistants ranked twelfth.

Salaries for nurse practitioners rose from an average of $99,000 in 2012 to an average of $118,000 in 2013. Salaries for physician assistants rose from an average of $95,000 in 2012 to an average of $105,000 in 2013.

Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Healthcare Salary World reports that the job outlook for both is positive and will remain so through 2020.

While both nurse practitioners and physician assistants are in high demand, physician assistants have a slight edge over NPs, said Michele Sedney, senior director of recruitment at John Hopkins Medicine Health System in Baltimore.

“There are tremendous opportunities for both in 2014,” Sedney. “But the greatest need is for physician assistants.”

High demand aside, not just anyone will do, Sedney stresses. Emphasis is being placed on personal fit with the organization. And customer service skills are requirement number one.

“We need you to be clinically competent – absolutely. But the most important thing is that our patients are kept happy and satisfied,” Sedney said.

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