The evolution of nursing practice is somewhat remarkable, changing dramatically over the last half-century. In the 1950s, nurses weren't even allowed to use stethoscopes. Dr. Loretta Ford, a public health nurse, set out to change that by establishing the first nurse practitioner (NP) program in 1965.
Since then, the profession has grown to be among the most popular specialized nursing occupations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the NP profession as a whole may see a 45% job growth rate between 2019 and 2029.
Individuals considering this career path have several subspecialty options, including a family nurse practitioner (FNP). If that sounds appealing to you, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
What Does an FNP Do?
Family nurse practitioners focus on maintaining health and well-being over the scope of a person's life — from childhood through the geriatric years — emphasizing preventative care. They are responsible for conducting physical exams, updating medical records, documenting family medical history, educating patients on good health habits and prescribing medications.
FNPs often work in private family practice settings, but they can also serve in community health or public health capacities. Some FNPs choose to direct their efforts towards underserved populations. They may also decide to pursue a specific concentration in women's health, cardiology, neonatology or emergency medicine.
How Can Aspiring FNPs Optimize Their Career Outlook?
While many of the duties FNPs perform are similar to a medical doctor (MD), the two roles are separated by the level of education each requires. Therefore, aspiring FNPs must have a history as a registered nurse (RN) and earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in a program specific to the skills and knowledge required to become a certified FNP.
Such a program prepares FNPs to succeed in passing the national certification exam and earning the credential of "Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified" (FNP-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This educational groundwork is incredibly valuable, as the exam is an intensive assessment of one's ability to perform as an FNP.
For example, the curriculum in the MSN-FNP online program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) includes coursework on:
1) Diagnostic Reasoning and Advanced Physical Assessment — develops advanced skills in assessing physical, cognitive, nutritional and functional domains.
2) Advanced Clinical Pharmacology and Intervention — focuses on various elements of pharmacological therapies, including drug selection, monitoring and educating patients and potential intervention.
3) Health Care Policy and Economics in Population Health — studies the social, political, technological and economic aspects of healthcare. This course also covers healthcare financing.
4) Role Development in Advanced Practice Nursing — explores the greater scope of FNPs' roles as healthcare providers, consultants, educators, researchers, collaborators, leaders and administrators.
These courses represent just a snapshot of what the NKU MSN-FNP program offers. Still, FNPs can be assured the in-depth curriculum provides a highly comprehensive foundation for FNP-BC certification. Most importantly, this type of program sets the stage for a lucrative future in FNP practice.
What Does an FNP's Future Look Like?
With all the hard work FNPs put in throughout their education, accreditation and certification, it's no surprise they are rewarded accordingly. The BLS reports a median annual salary for all types of NPs as $111,680. ZipRecruiter lists a national average of $105,898, but opportunities exist for up to $140,000 depending on various factors (geographic location, experience or demand for services).
Aside from a lucrative salary, FNPs often find the career rewarding due to a more "intimate" provider-patient relationship. Plus, because there is a growing demand for FNPs in both rural and urban communities, they can explore a variety of specializations and settings in which to expand their profession.
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