Americans are in need of more care than ever before. Unfortunately, this rise in healthcare demands in the country has led to overworked and outnumbered physicians. As a result, nurse practitioners (NPs) play increasingly vital roles in providing medical care and serving community health needs.
Compared to previous years, nurses now enjoy more respect, recognition and autonomy, with higher levels of job satisfaction. They form the backbone of the US healthcare industry and are continually ranked as the most trusted profession in the country. As nursing evolves to meet the progressively complex demands of healthcare, many employers view advanced degrees as crucial to providing the best quality care.
However, despite the increased benefits, there remains a shortage of nurses across the country. If you’re interested in a career path that allows you to provide healthcare services to diverse populations, you may want to explore becoming a family nurse practitioner. Learn more about FNPs, how to become one and the critical skills you’ll need to succeed in the profession.
What is a family nurse practitioner?
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are highly educated registered nurses who deliver healthcare services for patients of all ages. FNPs are responsible for offering medical care throughout a patient’s lifespan, from infancy to old age. The career can be very personally and professionally rewarding.
FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses, so they require specialized graduate education. They account for 69.7% of nurse practitioner certifications and fulfill a crucial role in the healthcare system. They are highly trained and skilled and are the primary care providers for a lot of patients. In addition, FNPs enjoy a high degree of autonomy and can perform many of the same roles as physicians. They perform health exams, order prescriptions, diagnose health problems and provide health education, among many other tasks.
FNPs specialize in working with individuals and families across a wide range of age demographics, from infants and adolescents to young adults and seniors. They work in varying locations, from community health centers and universities to hospitals. In some cases, they even have their own private practices.
What are the duties of a family nurse practitioner?
FNPs provide advanced nursing care with an emphasis on disease prevention and healthy lifestyle habits. They are capable of diagnosing, treating or educating patients in all stages of life. In addition, they can adapt to different healthcare needs. Therefore, they often develop long-term relationships with patients. The duties and responsibilities of a family nurse practitioner may include:
- Performing routine physical exams
- Assessing and diagnosing health conditions
- Educating patients on developing healthy lifestyles
- Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Administering drugs and other health therapies
- Developing patient treatment plans
- Maintaining patient admission and medical records
- Counseling patients
- Communicating clinical data and test results
- Researching various health topics and policies
- Referring patients to specialists for further consultations
- Collaborating with other health workers to offer preventative care
How much do family nurse practitioners earn?
FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses and typically earn higher salaries than registered nurses. The typical annual earnings of family nurse practitioners range from $107,860 to $126,280, with an average pay of $116,240. The amount varies depending on location, education, certifications and years of experience.
FNPs can also set up a private practice besides working in a health institution. You can build a very lucrative practice with a good business plan.
How do you become a family nurse practitioner?
FNPs require extensive educational training with specialized degrees and certifications due to the high demands of the profession. Here are the steps needed to become a licensed family nurse practitioner:
Complete an accredited RN program
The first step to becoming a licensed family nurse practitioner is to earn a nursing degree. This usually involves completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, which can take four to five years. You can also get a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing or a diploma in nursing. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or the National League for Nursing (NLN) must accredit the college or university educational program.
Become licensed as a Registered Nurse
The next step after earning your BSN is to acquire and maintain an active license as an RN. You must then take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. It is a nationwide licensing examination for nurses in the US and Canada. This computerized adaptive test (CAT) measures the knowledge and abilities required to succeed as an entry-level RN.
After passing the NCLEX-RN, you can then apply for an RN license through your state’s board of nursing. You will need to continually renew your license, with renewal periods ranging from one to four years, depending on the state.
Work as a Registered Nurse
It is highly recommended you work for a few years before applying for a nurse practitioner program. You’ll be able to gain experience in working with other health professionals and providing care for a wide range of patients. You can also choose to work part-time or full-time in different healthcare settings.
Earn a Master’s or Doctorate in Nursing
Once you’ve acquired an active RN license in your state and worked as a nurse, you can then pursue further education. You’ll first need to enroll in a program to prepare for the FNP role.
You can enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program specializing in family nurse practitioner. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) must approve the program. It can take anywhere from one to three years to complete.
Many accredited colleges and universities offer full-time and part-time degree programs for students. Many also provide online and hybrid courses in addition to traditional classroom courses. The programs cover all the aspects of delivering primary care as an FNP. They usually require you to complete a minimum of 500 supervised clinical patient-care hours.
If you have an MSN in another specialty, you can also earn a post-master’s FNP certificate. This usually takes about 20 months.
Apply for an FNP license
Upon completing your master’s or doctorate in nursing, you can take the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-C) or Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification (FNP-BC) examination. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is responsible for setting the FNP-BC exams, while the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) offers the FNP-C exams.
The FNP-BC exam has about 175-200 questions, while the FNP-C contains 150 questions. Both exams assess competencies in various aspects of clinical practice across a patient’s lifespan, from prenatal to elderly care. They are both taken online as well. You will need to check with your state board of nursing for the preferred examination to get certified.
Get state certified
The process of becoming certified as an FNP will vary by state. Check your state’s nursing requirements to determine the necessary procedure for getting licensed.
You can also choose to get advanced certifications in further specialties. These sub-specialty certifications include advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS) and neonatal advanced life support (NALS). This helps you refine and improve your level of expertise. In addition, certifications can improve job prospects and pay grade.
Renew your FNP license
You must renew your family nurse practitioner license every five years, as stated by the ANCC FNP-C renewal requirements. In addition, your state may also require you to renew your license.
The Marymount University’s online MSN-FNP program is designed to fully prepare you to become a licensed FNP. The program is CCNE-accredited and offers a comprehensive master’s degree course with a specialization in FNP.
What are key skills you need as an FNP?
FNPs do it all. They work with a diverse range of patients and witness a variety of medical situations. Therefore, it can be quite challenging to work effectively and maintain a work-life balance while staying up to date with changing practices. You’ll need to develop an excellent skill set in order to offer high-quality patient care and advance your career.
FNPs require both hard and soft skills to succeed. Here are some of the critical skills needed for the profession:
Effective communication skills
Communication is a two-way process. It involves not only talking and conveying information but also being a good listener. A successful FNP makes the patient feel safe and understood while compassionately attending to their health needs. This skill is crucial for explaining complex medical information and building patient trust.
FNPs need to be able to take on leadership roles in the healthcare setting. They must be able to inspire patients to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits. They must also make decisions and collaborate with other health professionals confidently and effectively.
Organizational and time management skills
Organizing and prioritizing short-term and long-term tasks is essential to succeeding as an FNP. You need great time management skills to get the most out of your work and free time. You’ll be able to maintain a stable work-life balance with this skill. You’ll also be able to manage heavy workloads and sort all necessary paperwork to prevent errors.
Conflict resolution skills
Undoubtedly, the hospital can be a very stressful and tense environment. Patients and their families can react in fear or anger and clash with the staff. Therefore, as an FNP on the frontline of healthcare, you will need to diffuse these inevitable situations frequently. You must be able to mediate conflict and facilitate a calming environment.
Education and counseling
One of the main roles that FNPs perform is educating patients and their families on medical care. The nurse must be able to help patients understand the need for care and treatment procedures. You must also be able to counsel and empower patients to make healthy choices and carry out good post-hospital healthcare.
One of the core competencies for FNPs is developing analytical and critical thinking skills. Successful FNPs are capable of adapting to different patients and situations. They can see the whole picture and analyze all the available information to make decisions. They can also conduct qualitative and quantitative research to create effective treatment plans.
Another skill needed to succeed as an FNP is the ability to diagnose patients. You must be able to assess symptoms and determine the level of severity and possible causes. You must also be skilled in taking accurate medical histories and conducting physicals and tests. In addition, you must be capable of evaluating and interpreting lab work and other diagnostic tests.
Basic and advanced life support
This skill encompasses everything from cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) to advanced life support (ALS). A successful FNP will be adequately trained and up to date on the latest methods. In addition, the FNP must be fully prepared to respond to emergencies. This is a necessary skill even if you’re not working in emergency environments.
There’s a growing relationship between nurse practitioners and technology. The COVID-19 pandemic expanded the use of technology to deliver healthcare over a distance. FNPs need to be familiar with these options and provide telemedicine services to patients. You must be able to use phone calls, video calls and online platforms for interacting, assessing and diagnosing patients.
Electronic medical records
Another sector that technology is increasingly influencing is patient records. The days of paper charting in hospitals are long gone. Therefore, as an FNP, you will have to deal with specific electronic medical record (EMR) systems. These systems allow you to save time and comprehensively view patient history and records. You must be able to navigate and efficiently utilize EMR systems.
A career as a family nurse practitioner can be challenging but also very rewarding and satisfying. The profession requires extended educational training and a wide variety of skills but is definitely worth it. The demand for the role will only increase in the coming years. If you’re ready to provide care for patients of all ages, check out Marymount University’s online program to get started.