Are you a registered nurse who would like to treat a range of patients, from infants to the elderly? If so, you could consider specializing in becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP).
Why should you become a family nurse practitioner?
An FNP provides primary health care to people of all ages, understanding the different health needs of a person throughout their lifespan. In addition to primary nursing tasks such as administering medication and performing physical examinations, an FNP will work with their patients to help them develop healthy lifestyles, ensuring long-term health and wellbeing. Many FNPs choose to work in underserved communities. This necessitates an intimate and sensitive knowledge of the community the FNP works in and their healthcare needs, to provide the most appropriate nursing care to that community. As you can see, an FNP is very much a patient-facing role, and as such is perfect if you are more of a people person and enjoy building long-lasting relationships.
Due to the aging population, now is the ideal time to make the transition to becoming an FNP: baby boomer nurses are entering retirement, creating a massive gap for nurses in the job market; and the increasing health needs of an aging population requires more advanced practice nurses with the high-quality skills to care for those needs. Also, the healthcare system is looking for ways to improve its efficiency and curb costs, the result being advanced practice nurses from all medical areas being given more independence in some states. Due to this, although FNPs usually work under the supervision of a physician, an increasing number of states are allowing them to work independently, particularly states with a severe lack of primary care physicians such as Alabama.
As well as the caring incentive of becoming an FNP, there is also a financial incentive: advanced practice nurses, including FNPs, earn higher salaries than registered nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2018 FNPs earned at least $80,670 per annum, extending to around $182,750 per annum, the top three highest paying states being California, Alaska, and Massachusetts.
An FNP has one of the most widely applicable of nursing specializations, due to their specialized knowledge of patients and illnesses from the entire human lifespan. As a result of this, FNPs can find positions in a variety of settings, from the traditional (hospitals, clinics and community health centers) to the slightly more unusual (school clinics, hospice centers, and home health care, for instance). Additionally, because of their ability to work both collaboratively and independently, and their in-depth knowledge of the health needs of their community, FNPs are also sought out for positions in setting policy, and education. Perhaps one of the most critical work areas for an FNP is in rural areas, where they will often take the place of a physician in providing preventative care to an isolated community lacking healthcare facilities.
How can you become a family nurse practitioner?
To become an FNP, you will have to first have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and become licensed as a registered nurse (RN). A BSN will provide you with a solid grounding in general nursing theory and practice, built on through working in industry after gaining your RN license. It’s preferable to have at least two or three year’s experience working as an RN, to gain invaluable clinical experience with a range of patients from the cradle to the grave, before deciding on which branch of medicine in which to specialize and embarking on a master of science in nursing (MSN). Earning an MSN will qualify you as an advanced practice registered nurse, marking you as a specialist in your chosen field.
When choosing a master of nursing program, make sure you choose a school that is accredited by the AACN or NLN. Look for programs that offer modules geared towards a range of patients and conditions, such as those in family nursing theory and intervention, and managing acute, episodic, and chronic illness. You can also find specific FNP master of nursing programs specifically designed to help you down this career specialization.
You might not be able to commit to a classroom-based degree program, due to family or work commitments. If so, online fnp programs allow you the flexibility to fit your learning around your life. An FNP program will incorporate clinical practice with theory, to ensure that you provide your patients with dependable, evidence-based care. You will be instructed on how to treat and manage chronic and acute illnesses that are common throughout a person’s lifespan, from childhood illnesses to geriatric care. Additionally, you will learn how best to disseminate healthcare information to diverse populations, working with patients to build their personalized healthcare plans.
Some FNP programs also offer clinical placements aimed to help prepare you for success in your future practice. This provides an invaluable source of experience for students, regardless of how much experience they have as an RN. In addition to gaining on-the-job experience, the networking opportunities a clinical placement provides could well help you to land your first job as an FNP.
After having gained a master of nursing, you will need to become certified as an FNP by gaining either an FNP-C or and FNP-BC certification (which certification you need depends upon your state). Recertification is required every five years; in addition to this, you are required to maintain an active registered nurse license. Each state has different recertification requirements, but these usually involve a certain number of clinical practice hours and continuous further training demonstrated by Continuing Education credits, sometimes in specified courses. For example, reaccreditation in the state of New York requires three contact hours of infection control training every four years, and participation in an Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse course. Though it seems like it is a lot of hard work, your professional development will continue to grow, and you will be best served to administer health care to your diverse community.