UNITED STATES—Advance Practice Registered Nurses have only been around since the 1980s. Their purpose? To help offset the shortage of junior doctors at the time. APRNs have been instrumental in helping offset physician and doctor shortages for decades, as they are highly trained, highly qualified medical professionals.
One of the most popular and most important APRN roles is that of the Family Nurse Practitioners.
Nurse Practitioners are the ones who work first and foremost with patients. They are the ones who perform physical exams, maintain patient records, perform or at least order diagnostic tests, and are also able to develop treatment plans and prescribe medicine. Nurse practitioners work across healthcare and with all kinds of different demographics.
The NP who works most widely across demographics is the Family Nurse Practitioner.
FNP nurses commonly help states offset their shortage of primary care physicians, which is why in some states, you can even operate a clinic of your own as an FNP.
FNPs are very popular for so many reasons, so if you are interested, follow this guide to learn more about the role and what it takes to become a family nurse practitioner yourself:
Everything You Need to Know about the Family Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioners are one of the most popular NP positions. Rather than work with a very narrow demographic, FNPs work across genders and ages. They provide a lot of preventative, primary care to children, adults, and the elderly. Their roles mostly closely mirror that of the primary care physician, and in fact, they often work in that capacity.
What Does an FNP Do?
Family Nurse Practitioners are trained to work with a diverse population, and therefore the scope of practice that they are involved in is actually quite broad. Typically an FNP nurse will work to monitor the health and wellbeing of their patients. Other nurse practitioners either focus on one area of health, for example, mental health, and then may specialize even further with a specific age demographic.
Other nurse practitioners work in very specific fields, whereas the FNP works most broadly across ages and addresses a wide variety of issues. As they are often the primary point of care for many patients, they may also be the ones who refer their patients to other specialists or for further testing.
Is FNP a Good Job Position?
Nurse practitioners are widely regarded across the board. In 2020 they were ranked as the 5th best job in the United States. They were also ranked 4th best job in healthcare and the 5th best job in STEM fields. It is ranked so highly because of the sense of fulfillment, the upwards mobility, the pay, and the work/life balance that the job role offers.
In short, all nurse practitioner positions are a great role to work towards. Family Nurse Practitioners, in particular, hold high esteem amongst nurses, as they can typically enjoy more consistent workdays, and in some states can even enjoy practice authority, meaning they can open and manage their own clinic.
What is the Wage Range of a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Family Nurse Practitioners are well paid. The overall median wage for the FNP is currently $112,470, with those in the lowest percentile earning $96,984 and those in the highest percentile earning $131,019.
The wage will differ depending on which state you practice in, as well as your seniority, and whether or not you manage your own clinic or work as an employee. However, the good news is that the majority of FNPs earn a six-figure salary, making this role a great choice for those that want to live comfortably and be able to support their families.
Where Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Work?
Family Nurse Practitioners typically work in ambulatory clinics. An ambulatory clinic is a community clinic or private practice. They can work in a hospital setting, though it is far rarer.
As FNPs work in clinics primarily, the chances of having patients who are related by blood is high. This allows FNPs to have a more comprehensive understanding of family health and family history. Not only do FNPs, therefore, know their patients more intimately, they can also provide better treatment and care instructions.
What Do You Need to Do Before Starting Your FNP Journey?
There are many reasons and ways to become a family nurse practitioner and many different routes to get there. The most important thing to remember when working your way up the career ladder as a nurse is that your health and wellbeing must come first. If it takes you longer than average, so be it. The last thing you or your patients need is for you to be as healthy and well as possible.
There are many key signs of burnout that you need to be aware of. By being aware, you can work to avoid slipping down that slope, and can better tackle the challenge that is working full time as a nurse, (or any other position) and working to complete a degree part-time.
Key signs, for example, include chronic exhaustion and fatigue. When you are chronically tired like this, your immune system also suffers, so you will likely be plagued with regular illnesses or just generally feel under the weather.
With COVID-19 still breaching the doors of hospitals and causing mass complications in medical settings, the importance of your health being fortified cannot be stressed enough.
Burnout isn’t just fatigue and health issues, either. You may doubt yourself more, you may find studying and retaining information more difficult, and you may even start to have issues with your workload, even if you have never struggled before.
Add common mental health concerns, like anxiety and depression, and you have the perfect storm of a disaster on your hands.
In order to succeed, you need to stay healthy. You also need to have a strong support system in place. Do this before you get started on the journey to become an FNP so that you can better your chances of success and improve your quality of life along the way:
Eating Healthier, Without the Stress
After a long day at work, one of the last things that you want to do is go and make a full, healthy meal for yourself. Instead, you want the fastest, easiest thing in your fridge. If the food in question is not healthy and full of nutrients, however, then you are hurting your body and your efforts to get on top of your stress.
There are two key ways to eat better without forcing yourself to cook complex, healthy meals every day.
The first is to fill your home with healthy, energy-filling snacks. Your best go-to will be nuts and fruit, which work to increase your protein and blood sugar levels. By having these healthy snacks on hand and constantly in stock then you can have a quick break, fuel up, and then have more energy to take better care of yourself at home.
The second tip is to prep meals in advance. You don’t need to prep the whole meal, but make it easy to put something together. You could make your own pasta sauce, for example, made from blended roasted vegetables, and then all you need to do on the day is reheat it and boil some pasta.
Prepping food like this means you have something tasty to look forward to and have less to do on the day. When you feel up to it, take these tips towards your work meals as well. Being able to eat home-cooked, healthy food that you know you will love can instantly improve your mood and is far better for your body.
Get Better Sleep
When you are sleep-deprived, you are only working on half power. This doesn’t just mean you are tired, but your body’s ability to manage stressful situations, and your ability to remember and retain information, will both take a hit.
Sleeping better is the answer. If you find you can sleep a full eight hours or more and still wake up exhausted and not rested, then chances are you are waking up often throughout the night. Getting the bedroom right (temperature, sheet texture, lighting) is the first step. Generally, we sleep better in slightly colder rooms, which encourage us to burrow in our bedding and remain stationary.
Consistency is also key. If you can manage it, try to go to bed at the same time every day, then wake up at the same time. Frame this bedtime with a consistent routine so that you can power down your body and your mind, so you can sleep more calmly without thoughts racing through your head.
Care for Your Mental Health
There are a lot of resources available to help you safeguard your mental health, and you need to use them far in advance.
In fact, the first step you should take is to work to address your mental health now. You can then benefit later on by using the strategies and the methods that you learn during therapy or self-guided CBT.
For most, however, having an effective support system is going to be your main priority. Your work may have a group that are currently studying for their next qualifications; otherwise, you can find these students online.
Hopefully, friends, family, and co-workers (including your boss) are also key members of any effective support group. You want to share in your stresses and be able to ask for help.
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
With your health, your stress, and your mental wellbeing cared for; you will be ready to tackle the difficulty that is studying while working a full-time job. What your next step will be towards this goal will depend entirely on where you currently are in your nursing career.
If You Are a Non-Nurse
If you aren’t currently a nurse, then you have two options ahead of you. Those who already have a degree (in any subject) can complete the necessary prerequisite courses and then earn an accelerated BSN. Once you have that BSN and subsequent RN license, you can then work towards your MSN-FNP degree.
Otherwise, you will want to work your way up. There is still education involved, but as you can work in healthcare, you can immerse yourself in the setting, build the right contacts and experience, and really understand what areas of medicine are suitable for you.
The first role you can apply for is that of a CNA, which only takes a few weeks to train for; after that is the LNP, which takes a few months of studying, and then the RN. Though you can become an RN with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, you’re always better off going for the BSN now, as you will need to easily get jobs, and to also continue your training from there.
If You Are an RN
If you are an RN, then you will need to wait the predetermined amount of time. Most degrees require their students to work as an RN for at least one year before they will accept you.
Earning Your MSN
You will want to find and apply for all the top (and accredited) MSN-FNP degrees. There are a variety of MSN degrees, each designed to prepare and qualify you for the APRN role that you have your heart set on.
When to Get a DNP
The MSN, however, is not the furthest you can take your education. Some APRN roles, like that of the Nurse Anesthetist, will even require a doctorate degree in order to practice in the future. While you don’t need a doctorate to work as an FNP, there are reasons why you will want to consider it.
A doctorate for nurse practitioners is known as the DNP. It can prepare you for leadership positions, help you negotiate higher salaries, and put you above the competition in the job market, making it ideal for those who want to work in less-than-conventional settings.