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A Profile of Colorado's Advanced Practice Nurse Workforce

April 1, 2011

Recent issues have converged nationally and in Colorado that challenge the ability of the health care workforce to meet the future demand for primary care. While demand is difficult to pinpoint, the increasing portion of the population aged 65 and older and their associated higher disease burden are changes expected to pressure the health care system and its workforce. Analysis conducted by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) estimates state and federal health reform will extend some form of coverage to 510,000 Coloradans currently without health insurance. Even where the supply of primary care physicians is sufficient, uneven geographic distribution may cause shortages on a local level, particularly in rural areas.

Advanced practice nurses (APNs), specifically nurse practitioners, are one type of non-physician clinician providing quality primary care in Colorado. APNs are licensed registered nurses prepared at the graduate degree level as a clinical specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner. Those involved in primary care are expected to play an increasingly important role in nurse-managed health clinics and patient-centered medical homes. A lack, however, of detailed and reliable information about APNs and other non-physician primary care clinicians limits robust primary care workforce planning in Colorado.

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