Family Nurse Practitioner: A Rewarding and Challenging Career

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who provides primary health care services to people of all ages, genders, diseases, and body systems. FNPs are in high demand, as they can fill the gap of primary care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas. FNPs can also enjoy a high level of autonomy, responsibility, and income, as well as a variety of career opportunities and settings. However, becoming an FNP also requires a lot of education, training, and dedication, as well as facing some challenges and barriers in the healthcare system. In this article, we will explore what an FNP does, how to become one, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this career.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

An FNP is a nurse who has completed a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and has specialized in family practice. An FNP can provide comprehensive and continuous health care services to individuals and families across the lifespan, from infants to older adults. An FNP can perform physical exams, diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries, prescribe medications and other therapies, order and interpret lab tests and diagnostic studies, perform minor procedures, provide health education and counseling, and refer patients to specialists when needed. An FNP can also focus on health promotion and disease prevention, and help patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.

An FNP can work in various settings, such as clinics, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, home health agencies, and private practices. An FNP can also work independently or collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers. An FNP can also choose to work with specific populations, such as children, women, veterans, or immigrants. An FNP can also pursue further education and certification in areas such as gerontology, pediatrics, psychiatry, or oncology.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

To become an FNP, one must first become a registered nurse (RN) by completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Then, one must obtain a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, with a focus on family practice, from an accredited program. The program typically takes 2-4 years to complete and includes both classroom and clinical components. The program covers topics such as advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology, health assessment, research methods, health policy, and family nursing theory and practice.

After completing the program, one must obtain a state license and a national certification as an FNP. The license requirements vary by state but usually include passing a criminal background check, submitting transcripts and fees, and completing continuing education hours. The certification requirements vary by organization but usually include passing an exam, submitting proof of education and experience, and renewing the certification every few years. Some of the organizations that offer FNP certification are the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB).

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Being an FNP has many advantages, such as:

  • High demand: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow by 45% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is due to the increasing demand for primary care services, especially in rural and underserved areas, where FNPs can provide accessible and affordable care to patients who may not have access to physicians. FNPs can also help address the shortage of primary care providers, as they can perform many of the same tasks as physicians, but with less education and training costs.
  • High income: According to the BLS, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $111,680 in 2020, which is more than twice the median annual wage for all workers. The income of FNPs may vary by factors such as education, experience, location, setting, and specialty, but generally, FNPs can earn a comfortable and competitive salary. FNPs can also enjoy various benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid leave, and tuition reimbursement.
  • High autonomy: FNPs can enjoy a high level of autonomy and responsibility in their practice, as they can diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications and therapies, and make referrals without the direct supervision of a physician. The scope of practice of FNPs may vary by state, but generally, FNPs can practice independently or collaboratively, depending on their preference and the needs of the patients and the health care system. FNPs can also have more flexibility and control over their schedule, workload, and career path, as they can choose to work full-time or part-time, in various settings and specialties, and pursue further education and certification.
  • High satisfaction: FNPs can enjoy a high level of satisfaction and fulfillment in their career, as they can provide holistic and patient-centered care to individuals and families across the lifespan, and help them improve their health and well-being. FNPs can also develop long-term and trusting relationships with their patients and families, and provide them with education, counseling, and support. FNPs can also collaborate and network with other health care professionals, and contribute to the advancement of the nursing profession and the health care system.

However, being an FNP also has some disadvantages, such as:

  • High stress: FNPs can face a high level of stress and pressure in their practice, as they have to deal with complex and challenging cases, make critical and timely decisions, manage multiple and competing demands, and cope with the emotional and physical demands of caring for patients and families. FNPs can also face the risk of burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress, as they may encounter ethical dilemmas, conflicts, and frustrations in their practice. FNPs can also face the risk of malpractice, lawsuits, and complaints, as they may make errors, mistakes, or omissions in their practice.
  • High barriers: FNPs can face some barriers and challenges in their practice, such as the lack of recognition, respect, and support from some physicians, patients, and policymakers, who may question their competence, authority, and value. FNPs can also face the lack of consistency, clarity, and standardization in their scope of practice, regulations, and reimbursement, which may vary by state, setting, and specialty. FNPs can also face the lack of resources, infrastructure, and technology, which may limit their access, quality, and efficiency of care.
  • High expectations: FNPs can face high expectations and demands from their patients, families, colleagues, employers, and regulators, who may expect them to provide high-quality, safe, and cost-effective care, and to keep up with the changing and evolving needs and trends of the health care system. FNPs can also face high expectations and demands from themselves, as they may strive to achieve excellence, professionalism, and leadership in their practice, and to balance their personal and professional roles and responsibilities.

Conclusion

A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who provides primary health care services to people of all ages, genders, diseases, and body systems. To become an FNP, one must complete a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, obtain a state license and a national certification, and meet the continuing education and practice requirements. Being an FNP has many advantages, such as high demand, high income, high autonomy, and high satisfaction, but also some disadvantages, such as high stress, high barriers, and high expectations. Being an FNP is a rewarding and challenging career, that requires a lot of education, training, and dedication, but also offers a lot of opportunities and benefits.