Largest private-sector nurses strike in U.S. history begins in Minnesota

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/09/12/minnesota-nurses-strike/

An ICU nurse helps to prepare medicine for a covid patient in St. Cloud, Minn. Nurses in the state are planning to go on a three-day strike starting Sept. 12. 

About 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job Monday to protest understaffing and overwork — marking the largest strike of private-sector nurses in U.S. history.

Slated to last three days, the strike spotlights nationwide nursing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that often result in patients not receiving adequate care. Tensions remain high between nurses and health-care administrators across the country, and there are signs that work stoppages could spread to other states.

Minnesota nurses charge that some units go without a lead nurse on duty and that nurses fresh out of school are delegated assignments typically held by more experienced nurses, across some 16 hospitals where strikes are expected.

The nurses are demanding a role in staffing plans, changes to shift scheduling practices and higher wages.

“I can’t give my patients the care they deserve,” said Chris Rubesch, the vice president of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a nurse at Essentia Health in Duluth. “Call lights go unanswered. Patients should only be waiting for a few seconds or minutes if they’ve soiled themselves or their oxygen came unplugged or they need to go to the bathroom, but that can take 10 minutes or more. Those are things that can’t wait.”

Paul Omodt, a spokesman for the Twin Cities Hospital Group, which represents four hospital systems where nurses are striking in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, said that the nurses union did not do everything it could to avoid a strike.

“Nurses have steadfastly refused to go to mediation,” Omodt said. “Their choice is to strike. This strike is on the nurses.”

Conny Bergerson, a spokeswoman for Allina Health, another hospital system in the Twin Cities where nurses are on strike, said “rushing to a strike before exhausting all options such as engaging a neutral federal mediator does not benefit our employees, patients or the communities we serve.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association, the nurses union, said hospital administrators have continued to “refuse solutions” on understaffing and safety in contract negotiations. It said nurses have increasingly been asked to take on more patients for bedside care to make up for labor shortages, exacerbating burnout and high turnover.

Some hospitals have offered increased safety protocols for reporting security incidents in negotiations, but have not budged on other safety- and staffing-related demands.

The union has proposed new mechanisms for nurses to have a stronger say in how wards are staffed, including a committee made up of nurses and management at each hospital that would determine appropriate staffing levels. It has also proposed protections against retaliation for nurses who report understaffing. Striking nurses at some hospitals said their shifts are often short five to 10 nurses, forcing nurses to take on more patients than they can handle.

Omodt said that while there was a rise in understaffing reports during the height of covid, conditions have improved, and nurses have made contradictory claims when it comes to staffing at their hospitals since then.

In the lead-up to the strike, Minnesota hospital groups filed unfair labor practices charges against the union for refusing to go to mediation, and asked the National Labor Relations Board to block the strike for a failure to provide enough notice. The NLRB has thrown out at least some of those charges.

Hospitals facing strikes have been recruiting traveling nurses from across the region and plan to maintain staffing levels during the strike, though they are preparing for reduced operations, according to some of the hospital groups facing strike activity.

For years, hospitals in the United States have faced understaffing problems. A surge in demand and increased safety risks for nurses during the pandemic accelerated those trends. The number of health-care workers in the United States has still not recovered to its pre-pandemic levels, down 37,000 workers compared with February 2020.

At the same time, demand for health-care services has steadily increased during the pandemic, with a backlog of people who delayed care now seeking medical attention. During the covid wave that swept across the United States this summer, states such as New York and Florida reported the worst nursing shortages in decades. Research shows that patients are more likely to die because of preventable reasons when health-care providers are overworked.

Nurses, who risked their lives during the pandemic, are quitting and retiring early in droves, because of increased workloads caused by short staffing and demanding schedules that make finding child care and having a life outside of work exceedingly difficult. The understaffing crisis is pronounced in Minnesota in part because of its aging population and its record low unemployment rate.

There are some signs that nurse- and other health-care-worker strikes could spill over to other states in the coming weeks. Four thousand nurses with the Michigan Nurses Association voted earlier this month to authorize a strike related to understaffing concerns, and 7,000 health-care workers in Oregon have also authorized a work stoppage. University of Wisconsin nurses narrowly averted a strike this week. Therapists and clinicians in Hawaii and California are currently in the fourth week of what has become the longest-running mental health care strike, over inadequate staffing levels.

In Minnesota, the Minnesota Nurses Association recorded a 300 percent increase in nurses’ reports of unsafe staffing levels on their shifts since 2014, up to 7,857 reports in 2021.

Kelley Anaas, 37, a nurse who works in the ICU at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis said nurses in her unit have been forced to double up on patient assignments and work with lead nurses who have less than a year of experience.

It eats away at you. If that was my family member in that bed, I wouldn’t want to leave their side,” said Anaas, adding that her workload has increased steadily over her 14 years at Abbott Northwestern.

While the nurses say their main impetus for striking is staffing levels and not pay, they are also at odds with hospitals over wages. The Minnesota Nurses Association has proposed a 30 percent pay increase over the next three years, noting inflation is at a 40-year high, while health-care groups have proposed a pay increase of 10 to 12 percent.

“The union’s wage demands remain at 29 and 30 percent increases over three years, which we’ve told them is unrealistic and unaffordable,” Omodt said, noting that the average Minnesota nurse makes $80,960 a year.

Contracts expired in May and June, and the union has been in negotiations since March.

Nurses said they are frustrated the strike is happening, but the stakes are high for them and their patients.

“We’re really sad and disappointed that it has come to a strike,” said Brianna Hnath, a nurse at North Memorial in Robbinsdale. “But we feel like this is the only thing we can do to show administration how incredibly important a strong nursing core is to a hospital. Hospitals tell us it’s our fault, but we’ve been actively involved and getting nowhere.”

Travel nurses’ gold rush is over. Now, some are joining other nurses in leaving the profession altogether.


Working as a travel nurse in the early days of the Covid pandemic was emotionally exhausting for Reese Brown — she was forced to leave her young daughter with her family as she moved from one gig to the next, and she watched too many of her intensive care patients die.

“It was a lot of loneliness,” Brown, 30, said. “I’m a single mom, I just wanted to have my daughter, her hugs, and see her face and not just through FaceTime.”

But the money was too good to say no. In July 2020, she had started earning $5,000 or more a week, almost triple her pre-pandemic pay. That was the year the money was so enticing that thousands of hospital staffers quit their jobs and hit the road as travel nurses as the pandemic raged. 

Two years later, the gold rush is over. Brown is home in Louisiana with her daughter and turning down work. The highest paid travel gigs she’s offered are $2,200 weekly, a rate that would have thrilled her pre-pandemic. But after two “traumatic” years of tending to Covid patients, she said, it doesn’t feel worth it.

“I think it’s disgusting because we went from being praised to literally, two years later, our rates dropped,” she said. “People are still sick, and people are still dying.”

The drop in pay doesn’t mean, however, that travel nurses are going to head back to staff jobs. The short-lived travel nurse boom was a temporary fix for a long-term decline in the profession that predates the pandemic. According to a report from McKinsey & Co., the United States may see a shortage of up to 450,000 registered nurses within three years barring aggressive action by health care providers and the government to recruit new people. Nurses are quitting, and hospitals are struggling to field enough staff to cover shifts. 

Nine nurses around the country, including Brown, told NBC News they are considering alternate career paths, studying for advanced degrees or exiting the profession altogether. 

“We’re burned out, tired nurses working for $2,200 a week,” Brown said. People are leaving the field, she said, “because there’s no point in staying in nursing if we’re expendable.”

$124.96 an hour

Travel nursing seems to have started as a profession, industry experts say, in the late 1970s in New Orleans, where hospitals needed to add temporary staff to care for sick tourists during Mardi Gras. In the 1980s and the 1990s, travel nurses were often covering for staff nurses who were on maternity leave, meaning that 13-week contracts become common. 

By 2000, over a hundred agencies provided travel contracts, a number that quadrupled by the end of the decade. It had become a lucrative business for the agencies, given the generous commissions that hospitals pay them. A fee of 40 percent on top of the nurse’s contracted salary is not unheard of, according to a spokesperson for the American Health Care Association, which represents long-term care providers. 

Just before the pandemic, in January 2020, there were about 50,000 travel nurses in the U.S., or about 1.5 percent of the nation’s registered nurses, according to Timothy Landhuis, vice president of research at Staffing Industry Analysts, an industry research firm. That pool doubled in size to at least 100,000 as Covid spread, and he says the actual number at the peak of the pandemic may have far exceeded that estimate.

By 2021, travel nurses were earning an average of $124.96 an hour, according to the research firm — three times the hourly rate of staff nurses, according to federal statistics. 

That year, according to the 2022 National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report from Nursing Solutions Inc., a nurse recruiting firm, the travel pay available to registered nurses contributed to 2.47% of them leaving hospital staff jobs.

But then, as the rate of deaths and hospitalizations from Covid waned, the demand for travel nurses fell hard, according to industry statistics, as did the pay.

Demand dropped 42 percent from January to July this year, according to Aya Healthcare, one of the largest staffing firms in the country. 

That doesn’t mean the travel nurses are going back to staff jobs.

Brown said she’s now thinking about leaving the nursing field altogether and has started her own business. Natalie Smith of Michigan, who became a travel nurse during the pandemic, says she intends to pursue an advanced degree in nursing but possibly outside of bedside nursing.

Pamela Esmond of northern Illinois, who also became a travel nurse during the pandemic, said she’ll keep working as a travel nurse, but only because she needs the money to retire by 65. She’s now 59. 

“The reality is they don’t pay staff nurses enough, and if they would pay staff nurses enough, we wouldn’t have this problem,” she said. “I would love to go back to staff nursing, but on my staff job, I would never be able to retire.” 

The coronavirus exacerbated issues that were already driving health care workers out of their professions, Landhuis said. “A nursing shortage was on the horizon before the pandemic,” he said.

According to this year’s Nursing Solutions staffing report, nurses are exiting the bedside at “an alarming rate” because of rising patient ratios, and their own fatigue and burnout. The average hospital has turned over 100.5% of its workforce in the past five years, according to the report, and the annual turnover rate has now hit 25.9%, exceeding every previous survey. 

There are now more than 203,000 open registered nurse positions nationwide, more than twice the number just before the pandemic in January 2020, according to Aya Healthcare.

An obvious short-term solution would be to keep using travel nurses. Even with salaries falling, however, the cost of hiring them is punishing.

LaNelle Weems, executive director of Mississippi Hospital Association’s Center for Quality and Workforce, said hospitals can’t keep spending like they did during the peak of the pandemic.

“Hospitals cannot sustain paying these exorbitant labor costs,” Weems said. “One nuance that I want to make sure you understand is that what a travel agency charges the hospitals is not what is paid to the nurse.”

Ultimately, it’s the patients who will suffer from the shortage of nurses, whether they are staff or gig workers. 

“Each patient added to a hospital nurse’s workload is associated with a 7%-12% increase in hospital mortality,” said Linda Aiken, founding director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.

Nurses across the country told NBC News that they chose the profession because they cared about patient safety and wanted to be at the bedside in the first line of care. 

“People say it’s burnout but it’s not,” Esmond said about why nurses are quitting. “It’s the moral injury of watching patients not being taken care of on a day-to-day basis. You just can’t take it anymore.”

U.S. adds solid 315,000 jobs in August

America had another month of solid job gains: The economy added 315,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% as more workers entered the labor force, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: Employers continue to hire workers at a robust pace, even as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates swiftly to crush inflation.

  • Job growth eased from July’s breakneck pace, which were revised a tick higher to 528,000 jobs. Job growth in June was weaker than initially thought, downwardly revised by 100,000 to 293,000.
  • The August figures are roughly in line with economists’ expectations.

Details: Perhaps the most welcoming piece of news in the report is the influx of workers who entered the labor force last month. The labor force participation rate — the share of people working or looking for work — rose by 0.3 percentage points, after a string of monthly declines.

  • Average hourly earnings rose by 0.3%, a slowdown from the 0.5% rate in July.

The backdrop: The Fed has been bracing for some heat to come out of the labor market. It has raised interest rates at a historically rapid pace in a bid to squash elevated inflation. This report offers some good news as wage growth slowed — and more workers entered the workforce, helping ease the tightness in the labor market.

  • Higher rates work to slow demand by making it pricier for consumers and companies to borrow money, causing slower economic growth and, in turn, less price pressure.
  • “While higher in­ter­est rates, slower growth, and softer la­bor mar­ket con­di­tions will bring down in­fla­tion, they will also bring some pain to house­holds and busi­nesses,” chair Jerome Powell said last week.

Patient acuity is driving up hospital costs, AHA says

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/patient-acuity-driving-hospital-costs-aha-says?mkt_tok=NDIwLVlOQS0yOTIAAAGGiU3xe0NkF9CXkX2TRevw1rc34F0gW3xrh4u01QiSJCzDyJT2rG2TAkJAz344ryPgANhHM9yerPG9lZlib0xHBLXAwqAMIXRTIvQXgJLT

The AHA wants Congress to halt Medicare payment cuts and extend or make permanent certain waivers, among other requests.

The American Hospital Association has released a report on patient acuity that shows hospital patients are sicker and more medically complex than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is driving up hospital costs for labor, drugs and supplies, according to the AHA report. 

Hospital patient acuity, as measured by average length of stay, rose almost 10% between 2019 and 2021, including a 6% increase for non-COVID-19 Medicare patients as the pandemic contributed to delayed and avoided care, the report said. For example, the average length of stay rose 89% for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 65% for patients with neuroblastoma and adrenal cancer. 

In 2022, patient acuity as reflected in the case mix index rose 11.1% for mastectomy patients, 15% for appendectomy patients and 7% for hysterectomy patients.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Mounting costs, combined with economy-wide inflation and reimbursement shortfalls, are threatening the financial stability of hospitals around the country, according to the AHA report.

The length of stay due to increasing acuity is occurring at a time of significant financial challenges for hospitals and health systems, which have still not received support to address the Delta and Omicron surges that have comprised the majority of all COVID-19 admissions, the AHA said. 

The AHA is asking Congress to halt its Medicare payment cuts to hospitals and other providers; extend or make permanent certain waivers that improve efficiency and access to care; extend expiring health insurance subsidies for millions of patients; and hold commercial insurers accountable for improper and burdensome business practices.

THE LARGER TREND

Hospitals, through the AHA, have long been asking the federal government for relief beyond what’s been allocated in provider relief funds.

In January, the American Hospital Association sought at least $25 billion for hospitals to help combat workforce shortages and labor costs exacerbated by what the AHA called “exorbitant” rates on the part of some staffing agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services released $2 billion in additional funding for hospitals.

In March, the AHA asked Congress to allocate additional provider relief funds beyond the original $175 billion in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services increased what it originally proposed for payment in the Inpatient Prospective Payment system rule. The AHA said the increase was not enough to offset expenses and inflation.

7 travel nurse pay trends for healthcare leaders to know

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified hospitals’ reliance on travel nurses to address staffing shortages and highlighted the gap between full-time workers’ pay and lucrative temporary contracts. In the third year of the pandemic, hospitals continue to rely on travel nurses and grapple with workforce shortages for a variety of reasons. However, some organizations have reduced their reliance on travel nurses, and pay overall is lower compared to certain points of the pandemic, experts told Becker’s

Here are seven travel nurse pay trends for healthcare leaders to know, per Vivian Health, a national healthcare hiring marketplace used by about 800,000 clinicians, and AMN Healthcare, a medical staffing firm based in Coppell, Texas:

1. The average weekly travel nurse pay in July in the U.S. was $2,997, up 12 percent from $2,681 during the same time in 2021, according to a report from Vivian Health. The report, which was shared with Becker’s, is based on proprietary data of job postings on Vivian Health in July.

2. Among states, Alaska saw the largest average increase to travel nurse pay in July compared to the same time in 2021, according to the Vivian Health report. Florida saw the largest average decrease.  

3. When taking a month-over-month view of 2022, average travel nurse pay is declining and coming back to last year’s levels, according to Vivian Health. The company cited several factors for this trend, such as a shift away from travel roles and toward permanent nursing roles as well as less federal money being shifted toward hospitals for large travel contracts.

4. Rishabh Parmar, head of strategy and operations at Vivian Health, told Becker’s: “Compared with July 2021, we still see that travel rates are higher [year over year] — close to around 12 percent to 15 percent — but it seems to be stabilized. Now, in terms of the demand, there’s still a lot of demand out there.”

5. Mr. Parmar estimated that available travel nurse jobs on Vivian Health’s platform doubled in July 2021 compared to pre-pandemic numbers in March 2020. As of July 2022, they were at 2.7 times the rate of March 2020 job numbers.

6. AMN Healthcare also reported lower rates. “According to a recent earnings call, AMN Healthcare expects the company will exit 2022 with travel nurse and allied healthcare professional bill rates at approximately 30 percent lower than first-quarter levels,” the company told Becker’s. “Though demand for travel nurses and allied professionals has declined from an all-time high in Q1, the company expects persistent vacancies and labor shortages to continue.”

7. Some hospitals “are saying, ‘We need to use travel nurses, we just have to use [travel contracts] at lower rates,'” Mr. Parmar said. Some organizations are also offering internal travel programs amid an opportunity to attract workers while decreasing contract labor expenses.

Why 67% of nurses want to quit—and what would make them stay

As RNs struggle to work through staffing shortages, their job satisfaction has sharply declined, with 67% saying they plan to leave their jobs within the next few years, according to a survey from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) published in Critical Care Nurse.

RNs cite poor work environments

For the survey, AACN collected responses from 9,862 nurses, 9,335 of which met the study criteria of being currently practicing RNs, in October 2021. The mean age was 46.5 years, and the mean years of experience was 17.8 years.

Of the participants, 78.3% worked in direct care, and 19.4% worked in a Beacon unit, meaning that their unit had been recognized by an AACN Beacon Award for Excellence. Half of the participants said they spent 50% or less of their time caring for Covid-19 patients, while the other half said they spent 50% or more.

To measure the health of a work environment, AACN looked at six standards:

  • Skilled communication
  • True collaboration
  • Effective decision-making
  • Meaningful recognition
  • Authentic leadership
  • Appropriate staffing

Overall, AACN found that nurses’ perceptions of quality on these six measures had declined across the board since the organization’s 2018 survey.

In particular, appropriate staffing was the lowest rated of all the standards at 2.33 out of 4, which is the lowest rating the standard has received since AACN first began the survey in 2006. Only 24% of RNs said their units had the right number of nurses with the right knowledge and skills more than 75% of the time—down from 39% who said the same in 2018.

In addition, there was a significant decline in how RNs rated the quality of care in their organizations and their units. Only 16% rated their organizations’ quality of care as excellent (compared to 24% in 2018), and 30% rated their units’ quality of care as excellent (compared to 44% in 2018). Over 50% of nurses said quality of care in their organization or unit has gotten somewhat or much worse over the last year.

Many nurses also reported difficulties with their physical and psychological well-being in the survey. For example, less than 50% of RNs said they felt their organization values their health and safety, a significant decline from 68% who said the same in 2018.

In addition, 40% of participants reported that they were not emotionally healthy. The percentage of RNs who reported experiencing moral distress also doubled from 11% in 2018 to 22% in 2021.

A significant portion of RNs also reported experiencing verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual harassment, or discrimination over the past year. Of the 7,399 RNs who answered this question, 72% said they had experienced at least one negative incident, with verbal abuse being the most common at 65%, followed by physical abuse at 28%.

RN job satisfaction

Only 40% of RNs said they were “very satisfied” with their job, down from 62% who said the same in 2018. Further, a significant number of RNs in the survey reported planning to leave their jobs within the next few years.

Overall, 67% of RNs said they planned to leave their current position within the next three years, compared to 54% in 2018. Of this group, 36% said they planned to leave within the next year, with 20% planning to leave within the next six months.

According to the respondents, the top factors that could lead them to reconsider their decision to leave their job were a higher salary and more benefits (63%), better staffing (57%), and more respect from administration (50%).

“Without improvements in the work environment, the results of this study indicate that nurses will continue to exit the workforce in search of more meaningful, rewarding, and sustainable work,” the survey’s authors wrote. “It is time for bold action, and this study shows the way.” (Firth, MedPage Today, 8/3; Ulrich et al., Critical Care Nurse, 8/1)

Hard truths on the current and future state of the nursing workforce

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Concerns about an imbalance in supply and demand in the nursing workforce have been around for years. The number of nursing professionals nationally may be healthy, but many nurses are not in the local areas, sites of care, or roles where they’re needed most. And many of today’s nurses don’t have the specialized skills they need, widening the existing gap between nurse experience and job complexity.

As a result, gaping holes in staffing rosters, prolonged vacancies, unstable turnover rates, and unchecked use of premium labor are now common.

Health care leaders need to confront today’s challenges in the nursing workforce differently than past cyclical shortages. In this report, we present six hard truths about the nursing workforce. Then, we detail tactics for how leaders can successfully address these challenges—stabilizing the nursing workforce in the short term and preparing it for the future.

Read More

U.S. adds whopping 528,000 jobs in July as labor market booms

Employers added a stunning 528,000 jobs in July, while the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5%, the lowest level in nearly 50 years, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: It’s the fastest pace of jobs growth since February as the labor market continues to defy fears that the economy is heading into a recession.

  • Economists expected the economy to add roughly 260,000 jobs in July.
  • Job gains in May and June were a combined 28,000 higher than initially estimated.

The backdrop: The data comes at a delicate time for the U.S. economy. Growth has slowed as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates swiftly in an attempt to contain soaring inflation.

  • Many economists and Fed officials alike are pointing to the ongoing strength of the labor market as a sign the economy has not entered a recession.
  • Policymakers want to see some heat come off the labor market. They are hoping to see more moderate job growth as the economy cools, in order to ease inflation pressures.

HOSPITALS SEE NEGATIVE MARGINS FOR SIXTH CONSECUTIVE MONTH

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/finance/hospitals-see-negative-margins-sixth-consecutive-month

Expenses are still weighing heavily on hospitals, health systems, and physician’s practices as the cost of care continues to rise.

Hospitals, health systems, and physician’s practices are still struggling under the weight of significant financial pressure, that the rise in patient volume and revenue can’t seem to outweigh.

The increase in patient volume and revenue has not been able to offset the historically high operating margins these organizations are facing, according to data from Kaufman Hall’s National Hospital Flash Report and Physician Flash Report. Hospitals, health systems, and physician’s practices dealt with negative margins in June for the sixth consecutive month this year.

“To say that 2022 has challenged healthcare providers is an understatement,” Erik Swanson, a senior vice president of data and analytics with Kaufman Hall, said in an email report. “It’s unlikely that hospitals and health systems can undo the damage caused by the COVID-19 waves of earlier this year, especially with material and labor costs at record highs this summer.”

The median Kaufman Hall year-to-date operating margin index for hospitals was -0.09% through June, for the sixth month of cumulative negative actual operating margins. However, the median change in operating margin in June was up 30.8% compared to May, but down 49.3% from June 2021.

Hospital revenues for June continued to trend upward, even as volumes evened out, according to the Kauffman Hall data. Organizations saw a 2.1% drop in patient length of stay. Both patient days and emergency department visits each dropped by 2.6% in June when compared to May. Hospital’s gross operating revenue was up 1.2% in June from May.

Expenses have been dragging down hospital margins for months, however, June saw a slight month-over-month improvement as total hospital expenses dropped 1.3%, despite this, year-over-year expenses are still up 7.5% from June 2021. Physician practices saw a drop in provider compensation, according to the Kaufman Hall data, however, this wasn’t enough to offset expenses. The competitive labor market for healthcare support staff resulted in a new high for total direct expense per provider FTE in Q2 2022 of $619,682—up 7% from the second quarter of 2021 and 12% from the second quarter of 2020.

“Given the trends in the data, physician practices need to focus on efficiency in the second half of 2022,” Matthew Bates, managing director and Physician Enterprise service line lead with Kaufman Hall, said in the email report. “Amid historically high expenses, shifting some services away from physicians to advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners or physician assistants could help rein in the costs of treating an increased patient load while taking some of the weight off the shoulders of physicians.”