NURSES STATION: Sharon Stager, right, nurse practitioner and interim director of the doctorate of nurse practitioner program at Salve Regina University and a full-time lecturer within the Department of Nursing at Salve, speaks with mental health counselor Violet Morin.
Rhode Island has a good shot at employing graduates of four new programs designed to train registered nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, educators in these fields say.
Two new physician-assistant programs expect clinical connections to help retain graduates as workers, while an online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program will cater largely to professionals who are already here and want to enhance their credentials. And a new doctor of nursing-practice program expects to produce workers throughout the region.
As primary care doctors diminish in number, the demand for higher credentialing of other health care professionals increases, particularly with bachelor’s degrees for RNs. At the same time, community-based care is expected to gain traction over acute care in hospitals and emergency rooms, educators say.
In that landscape, projections from the R.I. Department of Labor and Training show that by 2020, these three health care occupations will grow faster than 11.2 percent, the average rate for all occupations.
Jobs for health care practitioners are expected to grow 15.8 percent, said Donna Murray, assistant director of labor-market information for DLT. Physician-assistant jobs are projected to grow 13.8 percent and registered-nurse jobs could increase 15.7 percent, she said.
Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects physician-assistant job opportunities will increase by 38 percent; nurse practitioners’ employment outlook will improve by 31 percent through 2022 and RNs’ outlook will grow by 19 percent.
Statistics such as these and other research led to the creation of these new programs, educators say. “The nurse practitioner’s role is going to be revolutionary,” said Sharon Stager, a nurse practitioner who is also interim director of the new doctor of nurse-practitioner program at Salve Regina University and a full-time lecturer within the school’s department of nursing. “They work in collaboration with physicians but are not delegated to by the doctors. An RN cannot develop a plan of action for treatment the way a nurse practitioner can.”