Family nurse practitioners provide a wide range of healthcare services for patients of all ages. They conduct examinations, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medicines, and develop treatment plans.
In many places, family nurse practitioners (FNP) have stepped in to provide the care historically provided by family physicians. This is especially the case in rural and other underserved areas where physicians are scarce, as seen in the primary care shortage throughout Wisconsin.
Few jobs make as many demands, but fewer still offer as many rewards. An FNP makes a significant impact in his or her community, working directly with individuals and families to help them better manage their own health.
The rewards are also financial. The U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average salary for nurse practitioners reached $111,840 in May 2019. The BLS also projects about 62,000 new nurse practitioners across the nation by 2028, including a 23% increase in Wisconsin.
Meeting that demand and joining the ranks of family nurse practitioners requires earning a Master of Science in Nursing, passing a national certification exam, and holding a nursing license.
What an FNP Does Day-to-Day
For those who work in healthcare, it’s no surprise to learn that the typical day for an FNP doesn’t exist. No day is typical. Anything can and will happen. But while the flow of each day depends on the patients they see and where they work, an FNP can expect to handle the following.
- Keeping patient records, including medical history and symptoms
- Performing physical exams on patients
- Performing diagnostic tests or having them done
- Diagnosing health issues and developing treatment plans
- Prescribing medications
- Working with patients over time to modify or change treatment plans as needed
- Collaborating with the healthcare team to provide the best patient care
- Counseling patients and families on steps to take to maintain good health
- Referring patients to specialists
In many ways, FNPs have helped to solve the primary care shortage in the United States. They offer high-quality patient centered care to many people who would require primary care services.
Why Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
There are obvious practical reasons to become an FNP. The nation’s population is aging, leading to more demand. And the pay is among the best in healthcare.
Nurse practitioners also have a great deal of flexibility in their careers. As licensed, independent contractors, in some states, they can practice on their own or work with other professionals. As pointed out by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), they have many options on where to work. Those choices include:
- Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Care facilities
- Emergency rooms
- Urgent care sites
- Private practice
- Nursing homes
- Retail clinics
- Public health departments
Few jobs, even in healthcare, offer that many options. An FNP can practice broadly or in specific areas. That also increases job satisfaction. As one nurse told AANP, working as an FNP offered a good change after years of working as an RN in intensive care.
“Being a primary care provider presents many challenges, but working through them with my patients brings great satisfaction; I feel like we are in a partnership,” she said. “As an FNP, I am a little like the old general practitioner; I prefer being a generalist and collaborating with colleagues and experts when the need arises.”
Preparing to Become an FNP
Marian University has created one of the top nursing schools in Wisconsin by offering programs to serve nurses at all stages of their careers. At the graduate level, Marian offers two pathways to becoming an FNP:
- MSN, family nurse practitioner track
- Post-Graduate Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate (PGFNP)
The school designed the MSN FNP program to allow working and licensed RNs the chance to earn their degree while they maintain their job. The 46-credit program is offered on a full-time and part-time basis. It is a hybrid program which means courses and skills labs are a mix of on-campus and online. This gives working nurses the flexibility the need to earn their master’s degree.
If an RN has already earned an MSN in another specialty or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), the post-graduate certificate is a quicker path to becoming an FNP.
Regardless of the educational journey, graduates must also become nationally certified through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Family Nurse Practitioner (ANCC) board certification examination or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) exam.