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As the US battles a shortage of qualified, trained, and licensed nurses, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2021 and 2031, employment opportunities for nurses will grow by 6%. These job openings will occur primarily because nurses will change their professions due to burnout or personal reasons, or because they will leave the nursing workforce due to retirement. So, the time is perfect for new nurses to join the workforce as they will receive more opportunities that can help them reach their professional goals.
It is important to remember that the healthcare industry in the US is constantly evolving and catering to the ever-changing needs of the population. With more people being diagnosed with complex and lifestyle-related health conditions, there is a growing need for healthcare professionals who can provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages. That is where family nurse practitioners (FNPs) come into the picture.
What is a family nurse practitioner?
An FNP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who specializes in providing primary care to patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They work in a variety of settings, including clinics, hospitals, and private practices. They also provide a wide range of services, including diagnosing and treating illnesses, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, and counseling patients on lifestyle changes.
Family nurse practitioners are highly trained and educated. Typically, they have a master’s degree in family nursing, but FNPs who want to take up leadership roles often continue studying to get their doctoral degrees. A good family nurse practitioner program, like the online DNP-FNP offered by Baylor University, ensures that actively practicing registered nurses not only learn about and master how to provide primary care to patients of all ages, but also get adequate clinical experience. This experiences covers how to use innovative treatment protocols to improve patient outcomes and take up leadership roles in a healthcare setting of their choice.
Role of an FNP
The role of a family nurse practitioner is multifaceted and requires a wide range of skills and knowledge. Some of the key responsibilities of a family nurse practitioner include the following.
Provide primary care
One of the main responsibilities of an FNP is to provide primary care to patients across their lifespan, from childhood until old age. This includes performing physical exams, diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, and providing preventative care.
Manage chronic conditions
Family nurse practitioners also help patients manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. They work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans, which can include making lifestyle changes, managing their medication, and regular monitoring.
All 50 states in the US authorize FNPs to prescribe medications. They can also prescribe controlled substances. This freedom and autonomy enable them to provide comprehensive care to their patients as they do not need to refer them to physicians and other healthcare providers.
Order and interpret diagnostic tests
FNPs can order diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, CT scans, and X-rays. They have the training and skills to interpret test results too. As a result, they can quickly and accurately diagnose health conditions and create customized treatment plans for their patients.
Counseling patients and disease prevention often go hand-in-hand. FNPs have the right training to advise patients about healthy lifestyle choices, managing chronic conditions, and ways to prevent diseases. They work to understand each patient’s healthcare needs and goals, and come up with personalized plans accordingly.
Why people choose to be an FNP and their progress opportunities
There are several reasons why family nurse practitioner is a good career choice. Not only will these nurses progress in this field but they will also have a rewarding and fulfilling career. Here are some reasons why nurses choose to become an FNP and continue growing professionally.
As mentioned, there is a huge demand for FNPs, especially in rural areas. Statistics show that less than 11% of doctors practice in rural areas while 20% of the US population resides in these areas. This shortage in primary care can be filled by FNPs, who have the training and skills to provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages.
FNPs enjoy competitive salaries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the average annual salary for nurse practitioners was around $118,000. As specialized nurses who offer comprehensive primary care, FNPs receive attractive salaries and enjoy stable and lucrative careers.
As FNPs acquire more experience through work and ongoing learning, they receive numerous opportunities to advance in their careers. Some can move into leadership roles while others can pursue higher education and train in specialty areas, such as oncology or pediatrics.
Nursing can be a stressful job as nurses often have to multitask and cope with hectic and fast-paced working environments. Many nurses often quit due to burnout. However, this is fast changing, and today, many healthcare facilities offer part-time and flexible work schedules so that FNPs can enjoy a good work-life balance.
When asked, most FNPs will explain that they find their work extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Being an FNP allows nurses to make a real difference in the lives of their patients. With the personalized care they provide, they can cultivate long-term relationships with patients as well as their families.
The role of a family nurse practitioner is an important one. There is no doubt that this role will continue to grow and evolve with the constant changes in the healthcare industry. Innovations and nursing research also enable FNPs to progress and be more proactive when treating patients. So, nurses who are passionate about healthcare and want to make a positive impact in their community may find that becoming an FNP could be the perfect career move. The DNP-FNP is available to registered nurses. Nurses who are not keen on leaving their work to pursue this degree can enroll in an online program that offers more flexibility instead.