The upcoming 2023 Nurse Practitioner Week, Nov. 12–18, was good reason for Debbie Durkee, RN, MSN, FNP-C, to reflect on the profession and its growth, her years in practice, and the importance of active participation in the ARP.
Unlike many who go into the field, Ms. Durkee never felt drawn to nursing as a child, or even as a young adult, but she is glad her life pushed her in that direction. “While my mom and grandma were both nurses, I had not thought about it as a career. I just kind of fell into nursing and, later, into becoming a nurse practitioner,” she says.
After completing a family nurse practitioner program and certification, she began working in pediatric rheumatology, where she developed the specialized knowledge and skills needed to manage rheumatic diseases.
“Even though a lot of people think that working in pediatric rheumatology would be hard and sad, in reality it’s great because kids are typically happy, resilient and easy to work with,” Ms. Durkee says. “It is so rewarding to be able to teach kids and their families what is going on, to help them feel better and navigate the healthcare system, and then also to teach the kids how to be the expert on their disease so they can advocate for themselves. I love working in pediatric rheumatology.”
Growth of the Field
The NP profession has evolved over its 50-plus-year history, and as the demand for rheumatic and other healthcare services continues to rise, that evolution will no doubt continue, says Ms. Durkee. “It is the value of NPs that NP Week is highlighting: NPs are equipped to step into clinics that are in need of additional medical professionals, and can improve outcomes and lower healthcare costs while achieving high levels of patient satisfaction.”
The University of Colorado, Denver, offered the first NP program—a certificate offering—in 1965. Just two years later, Boston College established a master’s program for nurse practitioners. Within a decade, dozens of NP programs had sprung up around the country, and more than 15,000 NPs were in practice.1 Today, the number of licensed NPs in the U.S. has topped 355,000, but the need for NPs in primary care, as well in such specialties as rheumatology, remains great.2
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), “The U.S. is facing a shortage of physicians in all medical specialties, with an estimated shortfall of 34,600 to 82,600 by 2025.”3