APNs and PAs are significant contributors to the primary care workforce. Unfortunately, APNs and PAs are no more likely to serve in rural, underserved areas than their physician counterparts. Thus, while APNs and PAs help close the gap in Arkansas’s provider shortage, they have not to date helped resolve access to care issues caused by maldistribution of clinicians. The geographic concentration of physicians in urban and suburban areas is mirrored for APNs and PAs, resulting in the same excess supply in urban areas and shortages in rural parts of the state for these clinicians.
This issue brief describes study results showing that although there is an overall primary care physician shortage, much of it is mitigated by physician extenders–advanced practice nurses and physician assistants–who provide direct patient care often under the supervision of a physician. The result is an overall estimated shortfall of about four percent in the statewide supply of primary care clinicians.