There’s a category of thought leader that has long been overlooked, but the data now suggests companies can no longer afford to do so—that category is the Non-MD category of Nurse Practitioners (NP) and Physician Assistants (PA).

From our contacts in continuing medical education (CME), we’ve heard there has been a marked increase in the demand for specialization among nurses, which aligns with and explains the concomitant rise of and demand for NPs and Doctorates of Nursing Practice (DNP).

The shifting healthcare landscape—more specifically, the shifting health insurance landscape—has formed a space for highly trained medical personnel like Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to serve the community, in a capacity that was originally filled by a general practitioner (GP)/Primary Care Physician (PCP), while keeping costs down and making services and practices economically viable in the current climate. This trend dovetails with the continued balkanization of medicine into evermore specialties. Into the gap left by dwindling GPs steps the Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants, and this kind of everyday contact with patients can prove valuable to pharmaceutical companies. NPs and PAs are in many ways the new front line.

Couple this trend of an increased role in treatment for the nursing profession, with the educational demands of nurses in increasingly specialized practices and disciplines, and we come full circle to the growing demand for specialized certifications, such as the OCN for oncology, and the concomitant growing pool of potential thought leaders, who see these patients and teach these classes.

Much like Pharmacists prove valuable in Phase 1 toxicity trials, and then again in late-stage development, because of their interaction with patients and their medication, NPs and PAs offer a unique perspective from where clinical meets commercial endeavors.

A look at the data from recent surveys by Arx Research bears these musings out. An