With health care reform initiatives to expand insurance coverage expected to accelerate the use of nurse practitioners, the federal government isn't even sure how many NPs there are, how many more are needed or where they are needed.

To get that data, the Health Resources and Services Administration will conduct a national sample survey of 10,000 nurse practitioners, according to a notice published on August 8. "Despite the increasing number and role of NPs, unfortunately, there is currently only limited, inconsistent data available to policy makers and the health care community," the notice states. Accordingly, it is difficult for these leaders to quantify or fully understand the role of NPs in the current or future health care system. If fact, it is difficult to project with confidence the number of NPs practicing in the United States today."

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