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Navigating the Advanced Practice Provider Job Market

Tara Osseck
May 21, 2024

The industry continues to see increased demand for advanced practice providers across most specialties, making the job market favorable to these practitioners. An aging population in need of more care coupled with a worsening physician shortage has healthcare organizations all over the country leveraging nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse anesthetists, and other APPs to meet the rising needs of patients. In the Midwest, where I serve as Jackson Physician Search’s Regional Vice President of Recruiting, we see both rural and urban organizations utilizing APPs. But where is the greatest demand, and where are APPs likely to earn the most? 

While it’s true that organizations all over the country are hiring APPs, the amount of competition for each job will vary. Employers in large metro areas will typically receive plenty of applications from candidates with experience ranging from fresh out of training to 20+ years. Due to the high volume of applicants, the competition for these jobs is high. On the other hand, organizations in rural or remote areas will likely have fewer applicants and thus may be willing to offer more in terms of recruitment incentives and compensation. What does all this mean for APPs in the job market right now? Keep reading to find out.

Meeting the Rural Demand

In the Midwest, as is true around the country, rural and remote organizations are experiencing the greatest need for providers of all kinds. I always encourage young physicians and APPs to take advantage of rural opportunities to broaden their skill sets and determine what they enjoy most. Rural providers will typically see a wide range of conditions, so they will have a chance to develop skills and gain experiences they wouldn’t have in metro areas where the scope of practice is typically narrower. Because rural locations are often less sought after among providers, these organizations may offer sweeteners to attract candidates through signing bonuses, higher salaries, and loan repayment programs. 

Of course, not all rural organizations are right for early career APPs. Smaller organizations often need more experienced APPs who can work with minimal physician supervision. For example, we currently have a rural client who needs a nurse practitioner or physician assistant to work independently in an emergency room setting. For this role, they need an APP with the wisdom and confidence that only comes with years of experience, so they aren’t considering applications from NPs or PAs who have only recently completed training.

Specialized APPs

Every specialty utilizes advanced practice providers. However, the more specialized the position, the smaller the pool of APP candidates, meaning fewer candidates to compete with. Another client right now needs an APP to support a cardiothoracic surgeon, and they are specifically seeking someone with vein harvesting experience. As you can imagine, the number of potential candidates for this role in the Midwest is extremely limited, so the client offers a very attractive compensation package. Highly specialized APPs can certainly expect to earn more, but the number of opportunities for them will be fewer, so they must be willing to go where needed.   

This underscores the importance of remaining flexible and managing expectations for new APPs. Early-career APPs should focus on gaining experience in their areas of interest, be it primary care or a specialty. Spending several years building experience and further developing skills will not only make them better at their jobs but will also make them more marketable.

Showcasing Your Value

Regardless of where you are in your advanced practice provider career, it’s important to highlight specific skills, experience, and areas of interest on your CV and any profiles you create on job boards or other online networking sites. For the client mentioned previously, we might search a CV database using the term “vein harvesting,” but if an APP doesn’t list this specific skill on their profile, the CV won’t appear in our results. APPs must think strategically about what skills they bring to the table and highlight them appropriately. 

If you are searching for a new APP job, you must also develop an elevator pitch summarizing the value you bring to an organization. If trying to cross over into a different specialty, be able to articulate how specific skills are transferable. A client in the upper Midwest recently engaged us to recruit a PA to join a solo urologist, so it was important for the candidate to be both experienced (ideally, in urology) and autonomous. We presented several qualified candidates to our client for consideration, including those with direct urology experience, but the candidate they hired was actually one with expansive surgical experience in orthopedics and neurosurgery. Due to her experience working as a first assistant in the OR and in the clinic, covering inpatient rounds and managing a rigorous call schedule, our client felt her patient care approach, both medically and surgically, would be the ideal fit for their organization.

The candidate stood out from other applicants by preparing a personalized, well-crafted cover letter detailing relevant training and experience and her desire to transition to a urology-focused position. She also articulated this throughout the interview process, which allowed her to connect well with our client and demonstrate her potential future impact on their organization.

Chasing Compensation 

APPs are in high demand, but you’ll find the most attractive compensation in the areas of greatest need–both geographically and in terms of specialty. The CRNA job market provides an excellent example of this. Several years ago, a worsening shortage of anesthesiologists coupled with tighter hospital budgets led to a spike in demand for CRNAs. As a result, the past several years have seen a significant increase in CRNA compensation, at first for contractors and now for employed CRNAs too. When contract rates first spiked, many employed CRNAs left full-time jobs to cash in on the climbing contract rates. Now, organizations realize they must pay full-time CRNAs more if they want to retain them. 

Compensation will always be a significant factor in evaluating job opportunities, but I caution APPs against chasing the highest offer. Other considerations, such as organizational culture and clinical support, will absolutely impact job satisfaction as much as if not more than compensation. If a job meets your needs in these areas, ask the employer to match market rates or offer alternative incentives before considering a switch.

Telehealth Trend

Across industries, working from home is increasingly popular, and the same can be said in healthcare, where many APPs are seeking jobs in telehealth. While there are opportunities for APPs in telehealth, the competition for these jobs is high, so a candidate’s negotiating power is limited. Telehealth compensation is likely to be lower than that of jobs in a clinical setting. For some, this is a fair trade-off for the flexibility of working from home, but it’s a good idea to keep an open mind and have telehealth as just one option among many in your APP career.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

For recent graduates, entering the APP job market can be daunting. While it’s tempting to prioritize compensation, it’s essential to consider other factors such as location, scope of practice, and facility type to assess the entire package best. Keeping an open mind and expanding your radius can help you discover more opportunities that will help you gain experience in your areas of interest. Carefully evaluate each opportunity to ensure you’ll have the support and exposure needed to grow your career in the desired direction.

More experienced APPs will have plenty of opportunities if they are willing to go where they are most needed. However, the market is constantly changing, so it is helpful to work with a dedicated recruiter who works with clients in your region and talks to hundreds of APPs and physicians weekly. In doing so, the recruiter maintains a keen understanding of what is happening in the market and can help you determine where you fit.

If you are launching an APP job search, reach out to the recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search today or search APP jobs online now.

About Tara Osseck

With more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry, Regional Vice President of Recruiting Tara Osseck specializes in matching healthcare organizations with physicians who are a strong fit for the role and the culture. Her healthcare career began as a physician liaison. It quickly expanded to include physician recruitment, strategic planning, and business development, working for various hospitals throughout Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri. Based in St. Louis, Osseck leads the firm’s Midwest Division, placing providers across the Midwest and Upper Midwest. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Truman State University and a master’s in health care administration and management from The University of Memphis.

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