Across the US, family nurse practitioners are experiencing a peak in demand. The current shortage of primary care physicians means that family nurse practitioners are stepping up into major roles where providing primary care to patients in a variety of healthcare environments is needed. Not only is this one of the most advanced roles in nursing available, but many registered nurses choose to move up in their careers to work as a family nurse practitioner due to the additional responsibility and a chance to make a positive difference to the healthcare system. Nurses who care about others and who want to do more in their career to help their patients achieve better health and wellbeing might find that a role as a family nurse practitioner is an ideal fit for them. Working as a family nurse practitioner comes with a range of additional benefits compared to working as a registered nurse. Read on to learn more about what’s needed to become a family nurse practitioner, and what you’ll get from this role.
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner:
To work as a family nurse practitioner, you will first need to train, qualify, and gain experience as a registered nurse. In general, most family nurse practitioner focused master’s degrees in nursing will expect applicants to have earned at least a BSN, along with having gained experience in several different areas of nursing. If you are currently working as a registered nurse and want to move up the ladder into a role of a family nurse practitioner, online degree programs such as the online FNP programs from Texas Woman’s University might be an ideal choice for you. Online advanced nursing programs are becoming a more popular option among nurses who want to progress to working as a family nurse practitioner because they are more flexible and can fit around working as a nurse.
Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?
Family nurse practitioners are increasingly narrowing the gap caused by the current shortage of primary care physicians. With a lower number of medical students now getting into primary care, family nurse practitioners are becoming an important part of this crucial healthcare area, running clinics, and working to support physicians and other medical professionals in doctor’s offices. Family nurse practitioners are also increasingly working in hospitals and in the ER to reduce the pressure caused by the shortage of primary care doctors. Retail clinics are another popular option for family nurse practitioners as a way to provide better accessible healthcare to patients who need advice and support for minor issues. These clinics are often run by nurse practitioners and are usually situated in drugstores and superstores where they can easily be accessed by patients without the need for an appointment.
The Main Reasons to Consider a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner:
Whether you are currently working as a registered nurse or know that a nursing career is what you want for your future, there are plenty of great reasons to consider embarking on a career path to work as a family nurse practitioner. Some of the main benefits of working in this career include higher rates of pay, high demand, and the option to seriously specialize in a range of different healthcare areas at a higher level compared to what you’d be able to achieve as a registered nurse. Some of the main reasons why family nurse practitioners chose to do this career include:
Working as a family nurse practitioner often means that you are taking on a similar level of responsibility to a primary care physician. However, the difference here is that you will be using the knowledge and skills that you have developed throughout your career as a nurse, and there is no need for you to complete years of medical school to get into this role. Family nurse practitioners tend to work directly with patients and are often trusted to run their own clinics. In the majority of states, they are trusted with many of the same responsibilities as a doctor including providing diagnoses, prescribing medication, and referring patients for additional treatment without the need for them to be signed off by a medical doctor.
· More Autonomy:
Along with the greater responsibilities of your career as a family nurse practitioner comes more career autonomy. Many family nurse practitioners will benefit from greater choices when it comes to how, where, and when they want to work. In many states, family nurse practitioners are able to start and run their own clinics without supervision, so it’s a great choice of career if you are considering starting your own healthcare business and want to get to a point where it is easier for you to call all the shots when it comes to your career.
· High Demand:
The current shortage of primary care physicians is quite acute, meaning that the demand for professionals who can fill this gap is only growing. Once you have qualified as a family nurse practitioner, this means that finding work is going to be easier than ever wherever you go. Every healthcare setting in the US and even worldwide is now dealing with a growing demand for family nurse practitioners. When it comes to finding work, you shouldn’t have much trouble, with demand rising not only in hospitals and doctor’s offices but in a wide range of further healthcare settings.
· Salary Increase:
While most nurses aren’t in it for the money, everybody likes a salary increase, and working as a nurse practitioner could see you earn substantially more compared to a career as a registered nurse. Currently, registered nurses are earning an average of around $80k per year, and nurse practitioners typically earn around $30-40k more, depending on their state and area of specialization. And it doesn’t stop there, with even more advanced roles available to professionals who are qualified and have gained experience as a nurse practitioner where you can boost your earnings even further.
· Continue Working With People:
Many nurses decide on this career because they want to be working with people. Helping people is something that is very important to them. However, many other advanced career paths in nursing will eventually take nurses away from the bedside. Management, leadership, and executive roles, for example, will mean that nurses have to take on much more administrative and supervisory work rather than being hands-on when it comes to helping their patients. On the other hand, the role of a family nurse practitioner allows nurses to advance their careers and continue working with people for the majority of the time.
· Fast-Paced and Exciting Work:
Even when working in a clinic that might not be quite as hectic as the ER, working as a family nurse practitioner can still be fast-paced and exciting, with no two days the same. No matter what setting you decide to work in when you choose this career, every day is going to be filled with seeing and tending to different patients who might come to you with a range of different health problems that you will help them solve. If you enjoy the variety that comes with working as a nurse and don’t want to give this up, working as a family nurse practitioner could be the ideal choice for you.
· Choice of Workplace Areas:
Family nurse practitioners are currently needed in urban, suburban, and more rural and remote areas across the US. Once you have qualified in this role and gained the necessary license to practice as a family nurse practitioner, you can choose where you feel you will enjoy working the most. For some nurse practitioners, they enjoy the business and hustle and bustle of the bigger cities, running or working in city clinics where they get to work with a wide variety of different people on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, others prefer the option to make a difference to healthcare in remote and rural areas where patients might not have the same access to treatment compared to elsewhere. Working in a rural or remote area can often leave you feeling like you are making a bigger difference and there’s usually more opportunity to build strong and lasting relationships with your patients.
· Enjoy Interesting Work:
At the front line of primary care, nurse practitioners are not going to get bored. As a family nurse practitioner, you will be seeing different patients and dealing with different healthcare problems on a daily basis. Because of this, the work is kept interesting due to the need to keep yourself educated and make sure that you are staying on top of the healthcare curve. Throughout your career as a family nurse practitioner, you might be dealing with new health conditions and diseases such as COVID19, new treatment discoveries, new equipment, and new techniques that you will have to learn about and apply in your work on a regular basis. There is simply no room for your knowledge to stagnate as you will always have something new to master and learn.
· Make Improvements to Healthcare:
Studies have shown that family nurse practitioners tend to have a bigger impact on the standards of healthcare compared to any other health professional. Research into patients that see a family nurse practitioner as their primary healthcare professional found that these patients tend to have lower mortality rates, fewer readmissions into hospitals, and fewer preventable hospitalizations along with a lower number of unnecessary visits to the ER or urgent care. In addition to this, research into family nurse practitioners in primary healthcare roles found that their patients reported higher satisfaction levels and agree that the level of care that they receive is equal to that of a primary care physician.
· Get Involved in Politics:
More and more family nurse practitioners are getting involved in healthcare politics to take an active stance when it comes to improving the standards of healthcare across the board. Along with their roles as a primary care provider to their patients, family nurse practitioners are also some of the most patient-centered healthcare professionals that the industry has ever seen, and as a result, have become some of the most influential patient advocates. Family nurse practitioners often act as spokespeople for their patients when it comes to issues such as the Affordable Care Act and are often found actively getting involved with the political side of things to campaign for improved services and healthcare reform.
· Make a Difference:
Most nurses get into this career because they want to do something that makes a difference to the lives of others. And as a family nurse practitioner, there will certainly be many chances in your career to make a real difference; often even more so compared to working as a registered nurse due to the additional autonomy and influence that family nurse practitioners now have in the healthcare system. As a family nurse practitioner, your role will be not only focused on treating patients but also providing education, facilitating preventative care, and helping your patients remain healthy by educating them and advocating for them.
· Make a Meaningful Impact:
Along with impacting the health and wellbeing of your patients, working as a family nurse practitioner allows you to have an impact on your community in a variety of other ways. One such way that family nurse practitioners are improving things for their patients is that they are often able to offer more cost-effective healthcare when they have prescription authority, allowing healthcare services to be utilized by a larger percentage of the population. Around 90% of family nurse practitioners today are primary care certified, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Around 70% are now actively delivering primary care and making a huge difference and impact on the healthcare industry and patient communities.
Whether a nursing career is something that you see for your future or you are currently working as a nurse and want to progress further into a more advanced role, there are many reasons to consider training as a family nurse practitioner.