If you love the idea of being a nurse, but you want to do more — such as make diagnosis and handle treatment plans autonomously — then you may want to think about becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP). You’ll need to become a registered nurse (RN) first, and complete at least a master’s degree to gain that expanded scope of training you’ll need to practice.
This is an exciting field that is helping the health community deal with the growing shortage of general practitioners (GPs). Plus, you can go on to earn a doctoral degree, create your own practice, and make more money in the process. There are plenty more reasons to become an FNP, and we’ve included twenty of them here. Many of these reasons include links to newspaper articles to show you how NPs are making a difference.
The FNP Difference
- RNs cannot diagnose illnesses, treat patients, prescribe drugs, order diagnostic tests, gather medical histories, perform physical exams, and educate their patients. With the master’s degree and certification, the FNP can do all the above. This role is similar to the family doctor, but the FNP follows the nursing model of health care rather than the medical model. The nursing model includes education and preventive care. You might note that FNPs may prescribe drugs only in some states. In others, they must do so under a physician’s care. If you go on to earn your Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP), this barrier may be overcome.
- If you don’t have time or money to become a doctor, the FNP route can provide you with responsibilities, yet also provide you with the ability to spend time with your patients, too.
- If you want more autonomy, the FNP is the way to go. As a rule, lower-tier nurses must always work under the supervision of a doctor. This is not always the case with nurse practitioners. States that allow NPs to practice independently also allow NPs to open clinics or offices to treat patients.
- There are more than 250 nurse-run clinics nationwide. Some of these clinics are funded by a special federal program for affordable care. In all of these projects, nurse practitioners offer both primary and preventive care, including mental health services and screening for HIV and diabetes.
- The ability to offer the nursing model of health care in conjunction with a medical doctor also appeals to some nurses. Prevention and education can help patients stay healthier longer.
- The FNP fills a need for more accessible health care for families, since fewer physicians are entering that field and many family doctors are retiring. The need is felt in clinics, physicians’ offices, and even in hospitals.
- The NP has been around for more than 40 years, providing primary care and some acute care to patients throughout the country. An FNP provides high-quality, cost-effective, and individualized care for patients, families, and communities and the FNP fills gaps in at-need communities or in rural areas.
- FNPs and NPs have become a growing part of lower health costs for various parts of the country. Walk-in clinics, which replace visits to emergency rooms for the uninsured, include care for the uninsured as well as for employees who have self-insured health plans.
- According to the American Nurses Association, approximately 60 to 80 percent of primary and preventive care can be performed by nurse practitioners. The growing emphasis on prevention and public health will continue to create excellent job opportunities for FNPs.
- Many states are offering expanded responsibilities to NPs. For instance, on Feb. 2, Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation giving more independence to nurse-midwives practicing in Massachusetts. This bill grants nurse-midwives authority to issue prescriptions and to order and interpret tests independently, while maintaining clinical relationships with doctors.
- As more nurses obtain their DNP, they also may serve in administrative and political roles. These placements bode well for the NP who is trying to obtain more autonomy and responsibility. It also provides a platform to showcase the importance of the NP and the DNP.
- NPs and FNPs can become advocates for their patients. In the nursing health care model, the FNP can hear about their patients’ stories — how they came to be in your care and how you can fit your care to the patient within their narrative.
FNP Salary and Job Aspects
- Nursing is the largest health-care occupation and one of 10 occupations projected to have the largest numbers of new jobs annually through 2010. Opportunities should be excellent for nurses with advanced education and training.
- The salary and benefits of being a nurse practitioner are also much higher than that of a registered nurse, but not as much as the family physician. Since the NP makes less than the GP, but can provide many of the same services, they will find no lack for jobs at many different types of health care facilities.
- Some health care facilities now are footing the bill for their nurses to earn higher degrees, because the demand for nurses with bachelor’s degrees and higher is growing. This requisite for higher degrees comes from a report that shows how nurses can fill roles within the health care field, but that they need more education to do so.
- The NP is cost-effective, and their patients are more satisfied with their services than with services provided by the primary MD. There are many research efforts that have shown these results.
- A looming shortage of 30,000 primary care providers by 2015 leaves space to bump up the numbers of traditional and non-traditional primary care providers, including FNPs.
- As the need for the FNP grows, job listings will become easier to find. Support services and organizations for networking also are growing.
- NPs practice in all U.S. states, Canadian provinces and territories and in all Australian states and territories. The institutions in which they work may include nursing homes, private and public schools, retail-based clinics, college clinics, walk-in clinics, hospitals and hospices, community clinics, urgent care centers and about ten other venues. There are no shortages of jobs for the nurse, especially one with an advanced degree.
- Finally, well-trained nurses, no matter how high the degree, could hold the key to keep many health care facilities open. This ability alone will help maintain public health and healthy communities, and almost guarantees jobs for nurses in many areas.
So, are you interested in becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner? Are you ready to take the next step? We’ve listed several programs below from accredited schools to help you begin your journey.