APRNs and Colorado’s Future Healthcare Workforce

Based on extensive research and surveys starting in early 2013, the Center has created a report titled “Colorado’s Healthcare Workforce and the Role of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses.”

To download a PDF of this report, click here.  To visit the Colorado APRN workforce website, click here

Executive Summary:

This report is divided into two sections. The first section explores the changing nature of Colorado’s healthcare provider workforce and related supply/demand issues. The conclusion of this section indicates that Colorado will need 1,100 new physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants each year for the coming decade. Colorado institutions only graduate 550 of these professionals annually.  The demand for healthcare providers is driven by four major factors: 
  1. Annual population growth of an average of 95,000 new Colorado residents; 
  2. Annual retirements of between 700-800 of current healthcare providers; 
  3. Healthcare needs created by 35,000 additional 65+ Coloradans per year; and 
  4. The multiple and complex impacts of health reform. 
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) represent only one of many examples of Colorado’s growing primary care provider shortage. Unfortunately, not all graduates of Colorado’s APRN schools remain in state to practice. The result is that nearly 100% of new graduates that stay in Colorado will be needed just to replace Colorado’s currently employed APRNs that will soon retire. What about the demand created by population growth, health reform, an aging population and a growing shortage of primary care physicians? Why not just increase Colorado’s capacity to educate APRNs, rather than forcing employers to turn to the national healthcare workforce labor market?
With this context as background, the second section provides a profile of Colorado’s 4,600 APRNs, their specific demand/supply issues and the workforce and practice barriers they are facing.  
Most notable among these practice barriers is Colorado’s highly restrictive regulations related to APRN Independent Prescriptive Authority. This barrier has been the focus of extensive work over the past year, and is the subject of a set of November 2014 recommendations by the Nurse-Physician Advisory Task Force for Colorado Healthcare (NPATCH). For more detail, see Section IX.
This report draws on data at the county, state and federal levels to create an understanding of Colorado’s current and future healthcare workforce, and how APNs can and must play an increasing role in meeting Coloradan’s need for access to care. The report makes extensive use of county-level Colorado maps and data graphs. A detailed description of each map and graph is in Appendix 2. 
The Board and Staff of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence hope that you find the information in this report to be useful in understanding Colorado’s current and emerging healthcare provider workforce issues and their impact on Colorado residents.