A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a registered nurse that is particularly skilled in treating a variety of health conditions for people of all ages. They are specialized individuals that focus on the long-term health of a patient, and often they will care for an entire family. Professionally and personally, a career as an FNP is highly rewarding but it takes a special type of person that is great with people.
Nursing is one of the most important and worthwhile careers a person can aim for, but recently more nurses are changing professions to be FNPs. To understand more about this significant shift and what the reasons are for this career-changing decision, take a seat and peruse further.
There is a Globalized Shortage of Qualified FNPs
Nurses have always been in high demand. The current employment gap shows that within five years there will be more than 150,000 positions available for RNs to occupy. This is a staggering number; however, FNPs are in even greater demand. The reason for this is because they are more specialized and qualified to deal with critical patients where nurses cannot. They can assess various diseases and prescribe effective treatment plans and overall have more responsibility. With more educated and qualified FNPs, this shortage of RNs can be filled more easily and faster than expected.
A shortage of medical professionals will negatively affect patient care across the whole world, and RNs are wising up to this fact. Doctors’ visits and emergencies can be lessened with an FNP on-call, responsible for the health and wellbeing of a patient or family. It’s averaged that more than 800 million visits each year that are non-life-threatening are to FNPs and not hospitals. Simpler conditions such as a sinus infection or skin rashes don’t need a costly doctor. FNPs are perfectly capable of taking care of those cases, and current RNs want to provide more comprehensive care where it is needed the most.
FNPs Have Better Opportunities for Professional Development
Nurses work in generalized hospital settings, including clinics, schools, and private practices. Their responsibilities include recording medical history and symptoms while collaborating with a treating doctor, monitoring patient vital signs, and administering necessary medication. The role of a nurse typically doesn’t extend much further than operating some medical equipment and performing basic diagnostic tests. FNPs, on the other hand, have a much greater responsibility to manage the whole patient process, from diagnosis to treatment.
When an FNP works with a patient, they are available for every step of the process. They are skilled at diagnosing conditions and assessing the patient’s health, much like a general practitioner. To earn these skills though, prospective nurses need to have a BSN and be registered with the correct council. One way to achieve this while working as a nurse is to look into accelerated BSN to DNP programs. An accelerated program will take about three years to complete, but RNs will learn valuable skills that a BSN doesn’t cover in the curriculum, such as leadership and management. These professional skills are becoming increasingly important in most professions of the 21st century where more entrepreneurs are being born.
FNP Income is Almost Double That of RNs
In any profession when a person specializes, their earning potential increases the more educated they are and the more experience they gather. This is even more true for RNs who earn an average of $60,000 per year in the United States. FNPs earn anywhere from $90,000 and up. This salary gap is based on years’ worth of experience as well as geographical location. Different states pay slightly more or less for FNPs. Being a practitioner to a family is not an easy career by any means, so people are willing to pay a lot more while adding annual benefits such as medical insurance and Christmas bonuses.
In states like California, FNPs earn up to $126,000 per year while still getting paid vacation time, 401k contributions, and the chance to study further at a minimal cost. Just for this reason alone, it’s easy to see why nurses are choosing to accelerate their professional careers by upgrading their qualifications. The potential to earn more than double is a very persuasive reason for any RN to look into a career as an FNP.
There is a Greater Autonomy to Make Decisions
One of the main reasons why RNs are choosing a career as an FNP is the ability to have a deeper connection with patients where they can make decisions based on their experience. RNs are not allowed to diagnose patients and only have access to limited treatments that they can apply. FNPs have the advantage of managing the patient from the point of diagnosis, all the way to the end. They are valued and respected members of the healthcare industry. With independent practice such as this, FNPs can streamline the treatment process by giving the patient one person to work with, rather than going from one doctor to the next for different treatment.
RNs who choose to become FNPs will find a greater sense of job satisfaction with increased autonomy to make patient decisions. Because FNPs usually work with the same person or family for many years, they get to learn about the patient and create a deeper relationship with them that helps to gain their trust. They will know the ins and outs of the patient’s condition, their medical history, and personality traits that may affect their treatment decisions.
FNPs Can Have a Flexible Working Schedule
Unlike nurses who work an average of 12-hour shifts every day, FNPs have far more flexibility to schedule their patients in. With a career as an FNP, nurse practitioners will work with fewer patients over longer terms. Most FNPs have regular office hours from 9 AM to 5 PM and some finish even earlier. Most don’t work over weekends unless there is an emergency with their patient that needs to be attended to. FNPs can have annual vacations because their salary won’t be dependant on how many hours they work. They can enjoy a flexible schedule that allows them to pursue other interests in the evenings.
On the flip side, some FNPs have to stay on call for their patients and may be called to help in the middle of the night. These situations are not common though, and FNPs generally work far fewer hours than most medical professionals. Having a flexible schedule can make all the difference in the world as an FNP because they can take on extra hobbies or choose to further their education.
Workplace Stress and Politics Isn’t a Problem
FNPs essentially work alone. They may have a few key people that they associate with in the medical industry for professional advice; however, they are mostly private practitioners. Hospitals and clinics are extremely stressful situations for RNs. Being around an array of sick people every day and caring for a variety of conditions is tiresome and can lead to burn-out. When an FNP chooses to work with a healthcare facility they will usually have their pick on the type of environment to work in. FNPs can choose to work with specific types of patients such as substance abusers or the elderly. This can be great to reduce stress and get away from office politics when there is more than one person on a team. Working privately will diminish this even more, yet it does take dedication and mounds of experience to be a successful solo practicing FNP.
Workplace stress is something everyone will experience and FNPs are no different. The variance is that it’s a different type of stress than dealing with 20 patients in one given day. Nurses are exposed to less illness and disease, whereas FNPs won’t be around harmful chemicals or bad working that can damage their mental and physical health.
FNPs Can Work Anywhere in the World
Once an FNP gains enough experience, they can travel abroad and work in any country they choose. Because the profession is in such high demand, there are always positions available in medical facilities. Traveling FNPs do very well financially because of the contract work. Their traveling costs are accommodated, so most of the money they make can be put aside. FNPs are highly valuable in low-economic countries where relief aids are provided, and specialized caretakers are needed.
With their medical knowledge on disease and illness, FNPs can settle in almost any place in the world where their services are needed. For those FNPs who choose to specialize even further, travel opportunities are vast in areas where exotic conditions are not well managed.
They Can Advocate for Change
FNPs at their core get back to the basics of caring for people and doing what they love the most. Part of that is making a valuable change in medical policy and procedure. With the experience and education that FNPs receive, they will be in a better position to advocate for patients and change healthcare regulations for the betterment of the people. RNs don’t have much authority to suggest changes in medical procedures, but FNPs do. Because they are more respected in the community, they can make the biggest improvements to how patient care is managed.
An FNP is exposed to more of the internal processes and procedures and with their experience as practicing RNs they have a broader view of the entire process. From identifying ways to take better care of patients to helping the industry make positive change, FNPs have better insight than most medical professionals when it comes to true patient care.
They Want to be Challenged
The nurse profession is challenging enough, but prospective FNPs want to expand their knowledge and improve the lives of other people as much as possible. One thing to keep in mind as an FNP is that they are fully responsible for their patient’s wellbeing. The patients’ lives truly depend on the capabilities of an FNP to provide comprehensive and safe treatment. It’s not just about challenging the mind to learn more about the body and become a better practitioner. FNPs like to be challenged emotionally as well and this is a big part of being a nurse practitioner.
The career itself is quite different from an RN in that the patient’s care will be completely up to the FNP. There won’t be teams of doctors or nurses making decisions and managing the patient. Every step of the process is done by the FNP. This type of responsibility takes a special type of person who wants to help people and make a true difference in the medical field.
One Day It May Be a Requirement
The reason why FNPs are so important is because they take on most of the roles of a GP. They are the next best step up from practicing nurses, who only monitor and admit treatment to patients. The evidence is clear. In a few decades, FNPs will be seen as more effective than RNs because they can work in a variety of settings. They are taught to care for people of different ages and learn how complex diseases can be managed. There will never be a shortage of demand for nurses, but one day it may be a requirement for nurses to learn about the family practitioner role to play a more active part in patient care.
The industry may even change in such a way that BSN degrees become redundant and are replaced with specialized qualifications that are geared to the current roles of FNPs. The basics of nursing and science will be amalgamated into the FNP curriculum so that there are more qualified practitioners in the near future.
A practicing FNP provides a holistic approach to patient care where everything is centered on that patient. From the very beginning, FNPs can pick their specialty and set the stage for their future career. There are more flexible options for education and personal development, but these 10 reasons clearly show why RNs are turning to a more challenging and rewarding career in family practitioner settings.
Main photo by Gustavo Fring