Are Residencies The Future of Nurse Practitioner Training?

There is a small but growing movement to create formal primary care nurse practitioner (NP) residency programs, similar to those for physicians, where the effort is geared to help them transition to practice. Unlike physicians, NPs are currently not required to attend a formal residency program.

The development of NP residency programs began, initially, to fill in gaps in community health centers (HCs) for frontline jobs serving populations that tended to be low-income, uninsured, homeless, mentally ill and/or having substance abuse issues. It has now expanded to cover other specialties: Primary Care and Family Health, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Neuroscience, Dermatology, Oncology, Cardiology, Emergency, Psychiatry, Acute Care, Surgery, Palliative Care, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Rural Health.

The NP residency programs address the role transition from novice NP to professional practice. They offer postgraduate hands on training, under the guidance of an experienced nurse practitioner mentor to ease the transition into practice. The success of the residency training has been identified by reduced job turnover, cost-effectiveness and positive patient outcomes.

Due to the shortage of primary care physicians (PCMDs), and the growing needs of the healthcare system, about 20% of healthcare is currently being delivered by NPs. Growth in this trend is expected to continue and will lead to an increase in the number of NP residency programs.

While NP residency programs are growing in popularity and gaining momentum, they are still in their infancy. If NP residencies take hold, an inevitable question is whether they should be required, as they are for doctors.

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