NursingAPRN Careers: An In-Depth Guide to the Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner

Whether you want to embark on a new career in healthcare or you’re looking to branch out from your current nursing job, becoming a family nurse practitioner could be a great move for you. Family nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional training and more experience. They are a type of advanced practice registered nurse, and people in this profession benefit from a range of perks. From the autonomy to practice independently in certain states to a high earning potential, it is no wonder why many nursing professionals strive to become family nurse practitioners. Here is an in-depth guide to advanced practice registered nurses and the role of family nurse practitioners to help you decide if it is a suitable career choice for you.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Before diving into the role of a family nurse practitioner (FNP), you should have an understanding of what advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are. As mentioned above, FNPs are APRNs but with specialist training. As the title indicates, APRNs are registered nurses (RNs), and the ‘advanced practice’ part of the title refers to the level of practice RNs have undertaken. To become an advanced practice registered nurse, you must achieve an advanced degree and gain relevant clinical experience.

Different Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

There are four types of advanced practice registered nurses. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, these are certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), clinical nurse specialists (CNSs), certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

The role of a CRNA revolves around anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia to patients before, during, and after surgery. They also provide anesthesia-related care, monitor patient health and vitals, administer medication, and help physicians prepare anesthesia plans for patients. According to statistics provided by Medpage Today, CRNAs are the most well-paid advanced practice registered nursing types. They can expect to earn an average wage of $166,969 per year. However, some CRNAs have grossed $203,730 per year. The salary can depend on the state where you practice as a nurse anesthetist and the work setting. CRNAs can work in a variety of healthcare environments, such as major hospitals, pain management centers, and outpatient facilities.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists focus on managing patient health, diagnosing them, and then treating them accordingly. These nursing professionals help prevent risk behaviors and illnesses in individuals, families, and communities by encouraging people to practice good health. CNSs can choose a specialty area to practice and can find work in many different settings. For example, with their broad insight into clinical health, they can consult for large corporations to help enhance their systems. Clinical nurse specialists enjoy a high job satisfaction rate, with over 91 percent of CNSs claiming to be very satisfied with their profession, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although the average salary for a CNS is less than a CRNA, they can still earn between $65,000 to $110,000 every year.

Certified Nurse-Midwife

The role of a CNM focuses on female primary care. Most people think that the main thing certified nurse-midwives do is bring new life to the world. Although delivering babies is an important part of the job, their responsibilities also lie in other areas of reproductive health, obstetric care, and gynecologic care. In some situations, nurse-midwives also offer treatment to patients’ partners for sexually transmitted infections. CNMs are also responsible for helping new parents and their respective families prepare for the new arrival. They help create a safe place for the new baby, the parents, and the family, and they offer support and advice. These APRNs provide primary care in many different environments, such as hospitals, private practices, and directly inside patients’ homes.

Nurse Practitioner

As you already know, nurse practitioners are also considered to be a type of advanced practice registered nurse. General NPs can provide primary and preventative care to patients, and their responsibilities can include examining, diagnosing, and managing the health of their patients, ordering tests, prescribing medication, and providing treatment. However, their daily tasks can vary a lot and are dependent on their work setting, the state they practice in, and their specialty. Nurse practitioners can choose to specialize in an area when undertaking their advanced degrees. By picking a specialty, nurse practitioners gain expert knowledge in specific topics and will also gain the necessary skills to help them succeed in their specialty.

Family Nurse Practitioners

Family practice is a popular specialty for registered nurses. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have a wide scope of practice and provide family-focused care to patients of all ages. They are often the primary care providers for their patients and are often their first point of contact in terms of healthcare. FNPs focus on preventative care, and they monitor their patient’s long-term health, order tests, and prescribe medication and treatment. The nature of their position means that they often develop meaningful bonds with their patients, which makes this profession incredibly rewarding for nurses.

Where FNPs Work

Family nurse practitioners can find work in a plethora of healthcare and medical settings. These include private practices, hospitals, ambulatory care settings, health departments, community centers, schools, and physician’s offices. FNPs can also work for insurance firms as primary care providers. Furthermore, family nurse practitioners are able to work with specialist units to provide care for patients with specific

conditions, illnesses, and injuries.

Diverse Opportunities

Nurse practitioners who specialize in family practice have access to diverse opportunities across the world. Nurses who want to go abroad yet continue to provide essential care can work overseas. Working with communities in different countries, FNPs can help deliver high-quality care and provide good patient outcomes and improve general healthcare for different groups of people.

Leadership Positions

Besides the ability to take high-level positions as practitioners in family practice, FNPs can also use their advanced degree and their extensive experience to take up leadership and management positions. Nurse practitioners can put their skill set to good use and lead teams within research, policy advocacy, education, and academia. Family nurse practitioners can conduct valuable research in research facilities; they can assist in making vital changes in policy advocacy and teach and impart wisdom to future nurses in education and academia.

High Earning Potential

Family nurse practitioners have a high earning potential and can expect to earn over $40,000 more than registered nurses per year, according to statistics provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. With an average annual salary of $117,670, nurse practitioners are high earners in the nursing field.

Job Security

According to the BLS, the growth of employment for nurse practitioners is predicted to be 45 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations. This fast growth rate is partly thanks to the projected shortage of physicians in the future and the growing population of aging adults in the United States. With all of this in mind, nursing professionals seeking a career as a family nurse practitioner can rest assured that they will get a job once they become qualified, and their job will be secure.

Full Practice States

As an advanced practice nurse, FNPs have more authority and a wider scope of practice than registered nurses. In fact, they share similar responsibilities as physicians, and in some states, they can even practice independently. In full practice states, nurse practitioners are able to provide primary and preventative care freely without the supervision of a doctor. In these states, family nurse practitioners can work independently in nurse-led clinics. Not only is this great news for NPs, it is also beneficial for the general population too. With an aging population and a projected deficit of physicians, nurse practitioners can help make high-quality healthcare more available and accessible to all.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

As with other advanced practice registered nurses, family nurse practitioners must follow certain steps before they can provide care legally.

Gain Registered Nurse Status

You need to gain registered nurse status before embarking on your journey to become a family nurse practitioner. First, prospective FNPs need to achieve an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Once obtained, you can take the NCLEX-RN examination to get your license. It is important to enroll in a degree program that has been accredited by a reliable organization, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

Obtain an Advanced Degree

Next, you need to obtain an advanced degree, such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree, or a PhD in nursing. An MSN is the next natural educational step after a BSN, and it offers students in-depth knowledge and practical clinical skills that will help them succeed as an FNP. A DNP is more suitable for nurses who wish to step into management and leadership positions in the field, while a PhD in nursing is ideal for academics who enjoy the theoretical side of nursing.

Online Degree Programs

There are plenty of degree programs to choose from, which is why it is important that you do your research and enroll in a program that is accredited and suits your specific interests and needs. Working nurses who don’t want to take time out in their careers can earn their degrees online. Online degrees enable working professionals to study in their spare time and allow nurses to earn while they learn. From Online BSN and MSN programs to accelerated degree programs that allow nurses with some level of education to bypass years of study and obtain an advanced degree in a short space of time, prospective FNPs have a multitude of options. As an example, Rockhurst University offers online MSN FNP programs that are ideal for registered nurses who are bored with their specialty and want to find work in family practice instead. With an existing MSN, RNs who complete this program can expand their skillset and widen their career opportunities with a second master’s degree. This degree program can be completed 100 percent online in just four semesters, and it prepares APRNs for a career in family practice.

Clinical Hours

Registered nurses who have obtained an advanced degree in nursing must also gain the correct amount of clinical hours, which is a minimum of 500 hours for FNPs, according to the 2016 Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs. These hours must be supervised and gained within a clinical environment. Furthermore, the experience must be patient care-related.

Family Nurse Practitioner Certification

With the right qualifications and the correct number of clinical hours achieved, the next step is to pass one of the two accredited certification exams. You can choose from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The ANCC exam features 175 questions plus 25 pretest questions and revolves around subjects such as pharmacotherapeutics,  regulatory guidelines, and age-appropriate interventions. On the other hand, the AANP exam features 150 questions that are related to topics such as clinical decision-making, evidence-informed practice, and health history.

State Licensure

Finally, FNPs need to obtain the right state license to practice, and this license depends on the state in which they wish to work. These licenses are granted by each individual state, and the requirements to obtain a license can differ. To ensure you don’t practice illegally, read up on the rules and regulations surrounding the state you want to practice in.

Renew Your Certification and License

Once you have passed your family nurse practitioner certification and obtained your license, you can officially provide care to patients as a family nurse practitioner. However, your certificate doesn’t last forever, and you need to remember to renew your certification. According to the renewal requirements drawn out by the ANCC, you must renew your certification every five years. Furthermore, the renewal needs to be via the board and through the state too.

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