By Christen Hunt, DNP, FNP-C, CPNP-AC
Vizient Associate Vice President, Clinical Team Insights
In the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape, integrating Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) into the care model is not just beneficial — it's crucial. APPs, such as advanced practice nurse practitioners and physician assistants, bring unique skills that can enhance access to care, improve patient outcomes and optimize resource utilization for healthcare organizations. However, integrating APPs effectively requires a well-planned workforce strategy, which many leaders often overlook.
Understanding the challenges and needs of your organization forms the bedrock of your advanced practice strategy. It's important to start with a comprehensive assessment of current and future needs across patient demographics, service demands, patient and employee satisfaction, operational efficiencies, operating margins and workforce availability. Then pinpoint the areas where APPs can best contribute to make a positive impact. This assessment will shape the goals and objectives of your APP strategy and inform decisions about the suitable roles and responsibilities for APPs in your organization. Additionally, clearly communicate these goals to align your strategy and effectively convey your vision to gain support of stakeholders from the onset.
The next step in building an effective APP workforce strategy relies on identifying current gaps and then developing tailored solutions including:
Scope of practice and regulatory considerations: To navigate the complex regulatory landscape, healthcare organizations need to understand the scope of practice and regulatory requirements for APPs in their area. Ensure compliance with licensing, credentialing and supervision guidelines by partnering with regulatory bodies, and then establish protocols for clinical authority, prescribing privileges and collaborative relationships with other healthcare professionals to reduce variation across the organization. Consistent adherence to these regulations is pivotal for a successful and compliant advanced practice strategy.
Recruitment and retention: Craft a strategy to recruit and retain qualified APPs. That begins by creating appealing compensation packages aligned with market standards and collaborating with educational institutions to establish pipelines for APP recruitment. Also, consider flexible schedules, childcare or tuition reimbursement for APPs while focusing on your organizational brand. These tactics can help reduce high turnover rates, employee churn rates and extended recruitment times.
Training and education: Healthcare organizations should invest in continuous training and education for APPs to ensure their competence, confidence and growth. Provide opportunities for ongoing professional development, including participation in conferences, workshops and advanced certification programs. Also, establish standardized onboarding processes and mentorship programs to facilitate a smooth transition for newly hired APPs including those new to practice. Emphasizing the importance of staying updated with evidence-based practices and emerging trends in healthcare helps keep APPs engaged.
Performance evaluation and quality metrics: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with your goals and regularly track APPs' clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction and productivity. When leveraging team care models, use KPIs to measure the overall team performance and identify areas for improvement that will guide performance enhancement initiatives.
Integration and collaboration with change management and stakeholder support: Promote a culture of collaboration between APPs and other healthcare professionals by first creating effective communication channels, care coordination mechanisms and interdisciplinary collaboration models. Also, integrate APPs into quality improvement initiatives, committees and decision-making processes. Leveraging effective change management strategies by engaging key stakeholders in the process and communicating the benefits of incorporating APPs will address any concerns to foster a shared vision of collaborative practice. Collaboration and engagement are vital to overcoming resistance and ensuring the success of your advanced practice strategy.
APPs are critical to reimagining innovations in the post-pandemic value-based healthcare system providing high-quality, cost-effective, patient and family care. Incorporating APPs into the care model provide significant advantages, but it requires meticulous planning and execution, most effectively done by a local subject matter expert leading the work. Many organizations are creating a chief advanced practice provider officer position to add to their executive teams to ensure the successful implementation of an APP strategy. The time to focus on APP strategy is now to ensure healthcare organizations will succeed for tomorrow.
About the author
Christen Hunt serves as a Vizient subject matter expert in clinical workforce optimization while engaging with members to assist them in interpreting and utilizing data to optimize the entire clinical workforce. As a strong advocate of advanced practice, she collaborates with research colleagues across the nation to provide evidence-based solutions addressing difficult questions surrounding advanced practice deployment.