Family Nurse Practitioner: Nursing is an extremely rewarding field to work in. Moreover, you get to help people every single day, give back to your local community, and also enjoy high levels of employability and job security. Another benefit of training in this sphere is that you have a great many options open to you when it comes to career development. This enables you to find a job role that truly matches your personality, skills, and passions.
One popular position to aim for is that of a family nurse practitioner or FNP. This is an advanced role that brings you more autonomy and responsibility compared to the job of a registered nurse (RN) and involves working directly with patients across their whole lifespan. Lots of FNPs also choose to work with under-served communities, which makes the job a particularly good choice for those who want to make a meaningful positive difference in the world. Read on to find out more about the role of a family nurse practitioner, and how you can become one.
The role of a family nurse practitioner
An FNP is a well-trained, specialist nurse who provides primary healthcare services to a wide variety of patients in a broad range of medical settings. For example, you’ll find family nurse practitioners employed everywhere from hospitals and clinics to schools, care facilities, and community centers. This makes it a very diverse role, so expect every day to be different!
The specific tasks and duties you have will vary according to your patients and workplace, but will include many of the following:
- Taking patients’ medical histories
- Conducting physical examinations
- Ordering diagnostic tests and screenings
- Conducting diagnostic tests and screenings
- Maintaining accurate patient records
- Administering medications
- Prescribing certain medications (depending on the state in which you work)
- Assisting with certain medical procedures
- Collaborating with other medical professionals such as doctors
- Supervising your own healthcare team
- Monitoring patients with chronic healthcare conditions such as diabetes
- Developing treatment plans for a variety of accurate and chronic medical conditions
- Referring patients to other medical services where appropriate
- Educating patients about a wide range of relevant issues surrounding disease prevention, healthy living, and so on
- Encouraging positive health behaviors and lifestyle changes in your patients, for example, taking regular exercise and eating healthily
Many FNPs develop strong ties to the community that they serve, and often see the same patients over many years and work with entire families. This means you can forge long-term relationships with those in your care, enabling you to treat them even more effectively. As such, it can be an extremely rewarding role to choose. It’s also a job that provides high levels of job security, financial stability and employability. Looking further ahead, being an FNP is a good foundation for progressing to even higher-level job roles (such as leadership, policy or management) if that’s something you are interested in.
How to become a family nurse practitioner
The exact route you take to train as an FNP will depend on your current qualifications and experience. However, the following is one of the most common pathways open to you:
- Study for a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN)
- Take the certification exam to become licensed as a registered nurse (RN)
- Gain more clinical experience in a relevant healthcare setting of your choice
- Earn either a master of science in nursing degree (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice degree (DNP)
- Become certified and licensed as an FNP
- Start applying for jobs as a family nurse practitioner
To become an FNP you must study to graduate level. However, the choice of doing an MSN or DNP is entirely yours. The DNP is a more academically challenging program, and as such takes longer to complete but will give you a stronger competitive edge when applying for jobs after graduation. Normally you need to have a master’s degree before enrolling on a DNP, but nowadays there are courses such as Baylor University’s online BSN to DNP programs that combine the MSN and DNP curriculums into one comprehensive degree. Taking a program like this enables you to reach the highest level of education in a quicker timeframe.
Both MSN and DNP programs are available to study on a full-time and part-time basis, and you also have the choice to learn either in person or online. Take some time to think about how you would most like to study, as well as what mode will best suit your personal circumstances. All options are considered equally valid by employers, as long as the course is accredited by the relevant bodies.
Studying to be an FNP
Whichever program you choose, studying to be an FNP will involve completing a mixture of academic modules and hands-on clinical placements. Some modules will be compulsory, while for others you will have a choice from a list of electives. This means you can tailor your studies to suit your personal interests and goals. Modules will be taught using a mixture of teaching and learning methods such as lectures, seminars, reading, written assignments, tutorials, group work, and presentations.
Regardless of whether you take an online degree or one taught on campus, your clinical placements will be completed in person at a relevant healthcare setting near you. Your college will help you to arrange these, and the usual requirement is to undertake 700 hours for an MSN or 1,000 hours for a DNP. This will be a chance to put what you’re learning into practice under the supervision of an experienced professional, and gain valuable feedback and advice. Be sure to make the most of the opportunity by asking insightful questions, listening carefully, being observant, and networking.
Towards the end of your MSN or DNP you will be required to complete an independent research project. This will be on a topic of your choice (to be approved by your supervisors) and is a wonderful chance to take a deep dive into a subject that you are passionate about. It’s helpful to choose something that is relevant to your career aspirations too. The project will involve bringing together everything that you’ve learned on your degree and is where you can demonstrate that you have mastered your chosen topic. This is why many students find it the most interesting and fulfilling part of the program.