With any career, it’s a good idea to know what your options are as you become more experienced and qualified in your role. No matter how much you love your job, it’s completely reasonable to feel the need to progress, but it’s sometimes difficult to know what progression will look like.
For nurses, there can be a fear that working towards promotion would mean a role with less interaction with patients. When that’s the part of the job you love the most, it seems counter-intuitive to take on a role that would take you away from it.
Becoming a nurse practitioner means that you take on more responsibility while still retaining your close working relationship with patients.
What is a family nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has studied at the postgraduate level, either masters or doctorate, to hone their skills in a particular branch of medicine.
A family nurse practitioner has chosen to study family medicine.
Family nurse practitioners work with people of all ages in the role of a primary care provider. They will carry out consultations with patients when they become ill or are injured, order tests, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medications and treatments.
Originally, all nurse practitioners worked under the supervision of a physician. However, there is now a move towards nurse practitioners being allowed more autonomy. The level of autonomy depends on the state in which the nurse practitioner is working.
A lot of family nurse practitioners work in areas of the community that are underserved by other healthcare organizations. A huge part of their role is in the education of their patients on disease prevention and living a healthy lifestyle, and they will often work with the same people over the course of their lives, so it’s a role that comes with great opportunity to create a personal connection.
What do people like about the job?
There are a lot of things that people love about being a nurse practitioner. Here are just some of them:
- Job security. Since 2007, the number of nurse practitioners employed in the US has grown by 125%, from 120,000 to 270,000. This number is expected to climb by another 45% between 2019 and 2029, which means that qualified nurse practitioners should never have trouble finding work. The reason for this expected increase is due to the increase in demand for healthcare providers in general, the population is aging, and there is a higher prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.
- Job satisfaction. Nurse practitioners are generally satisfied in their roles because they have authority over treatment decisions and are allowed to work with autonomy. This makes them feel as though they are really making a difference in the lives of their patients. In fact, the role of nurse practitioner was voted number 7 in a list of best jobs.
- Making a difference in rural communities. There are a lot of areas of the country where people just can’t access the healthcare that they need because they are too far away from cities with larger healthcare organizations. Nurse practitioners often work in these communities, meaning that people are able to access healthcare who might not have been able to otherwise.
- Flexibility. As a nurse practitioner, there is a huge amount of scope around where you work and what you actually do. Family nurse practitioners can work in small rural health clinics, but they can also work in hospitals, prisons, universities, and corporate environments. This means that as a nurse practitioner, you have the opportunity to tailor your career so that it really suits you.
Family nurse practitioner salaries will vary depending on things like your level of qualification, how much experience you have, which branch of medicine you work in, and the area of the country you are working in.
The salaries for nurse practitioners are higher than those for registered nurses to reflect the extra level of qualification and experience.
The median salary for family nurse practitioners is $111,290, with the lowest-paid 10% of family nurse practitioners earning $95,968 or lower and the highest-paid 10% earning $129,648 or higher.
By comparison, the average salary for registered nurses is $80,800, with the lowest-paid 10% earning $58,070 or less and the highest-paid earning $103,540 or more.
How do you become a family nurse practitioner?
To become a family nurse practitioner, you must first be a registered nurse. It’s possible to become a registered nurse by gaining either an ADN (advanced degree in nursing) or a BSN (bachelor of science in nursing). However, the profession is moving towards the BSN qualification, and for any postgraduate training, holding a BSN will generally be a prerequisite, so if you have an ADN, you will probably need to do an ADN to BSN conversion course.
Registered nurses can become family nurse practitioners by undertaking postgraduate training at either the masters or doctorate level with a focus on family medicine. At the masters level, the qualification is commonly referred to as an MSN FNP (master of science in nursing, family nurse practitioner).
It’s possible to obtain your MSN FNP online, which is a great option for people who have work and family commitments and would struggle to attend a brick-and-mortar university.
Once you have your MSN, you will need to apply to the state for licensure as a family nurse practitioner. Each state has its own set of requirements, but generally, you will need to have a certain number of supervised clinical hours, as well as your postgraduate qualification. You may also need to take an exam.
A growing role
There is a shift in healthcare towards nurse practitioners as primary care providers, as this will not only help to alleviate the strain on physicians but it actually improves care quality. This means that the scope of the nurse practitioner is only likely to grow over the next few years and that it’s a profession with a lot of room for personal development and career satisfaction.