Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are a fundamental part of the modern healthcare system, providing comprehensive and ongoing holistic care to individuals and families. This care is both preventative and acute depending on the situation and can support patients of all ages during various life stages. FNPs work diligently in a range of environments and generally have a broad scope of responsibilities. The role is also characterized by its diversity in terms of providing care to people from different backgrounds and cultures and supporting local communities in the quest for healthier lifestyles.
Because FNPs are as adept at providing care for babies as they are older people, they are a vital cog in the healthcare system, especially with the ongoing shortage of qualified physicians in states across the US. With a quarter of Americans expected to be aged 65 and over by 2060, FNPs will also play a key role in improving health outcomes for an aging population. The importance of their work cannot be understated.
What role do family nurse practitioners undertake in healthcare?
FNPs have a number of different responsibilities. They conduct wellness checks via physical exams, assess symptoms patients are suffering from and complete tests to get a better understanding of their condition. They have the skills to diagnose conditions and come up with comprehensive treatment plans and track them over time. One area in which FNPs excel is promoting healthy living and educating people about best practices for exercise, eating and lifestyle. They are also great at communicating, keeping in close contact with families and coordinating treatment plans around the needs of a family unit.
FNPs have a variety of positive personal traits and characteristics, which are honed during higher education and work experience, to complete these tasks to the best of their abilities on a daily basis. They are compassionate and considerate to patients but are able to work tirelessly and independently to make important decisions. FNPs are detail-oriented, resourceful and resilient. These three characteristics in particular are critical in the busy and high-pressure health environments they work in.
What qualifications do family nurse practitioners need?
If you want to become an FNP, you must first complete a Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing (BSN) degree and then earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). As a qualified nurse practitioner (NP), you will then be able to continue your career growth and become an advanced practice nurse. Acquiring a post-masters FNP certificate online at an institution such as Carson-Newman University will enable you to specialize in the role of a family nurse practitioner. FNP certificates allow MSN-trained nurses to acquire the skills needed to deliver high-quality care to patients in family-based settings. These certificate courses include Advanced Primary Nursing Care for Women and Advance Pathophysiology, among others.
FNPs also need to complete several exams and acquire licensure to practice in states across the US. After earning a BSN, nurses generally go on to pass an NCLEX-RN exam, obtain an RN and NP licensure and become board certified to apply for FNP job roles. It can be a very long process, but the rigorous standards ensure FNPs have the skills and knowledge to provide safe, high-quality care.
Proven to improve patient outcomes
FNPs are nurse practitioners (NPs) with a specialty in family medicine and care. The vital role that NPs play in improving patient care in healthcare environments is supported by data from a recent study that highlights the range of positive outcomes they help to achieve. The study’s author, Linda H. Aiken, says NPs are now invaluable in the sector.
She adds: “Hospitals that employ more NPs per 100 beds have lower mortality, higher patient satisfaction, and lower health care spending per episode of care even after taking into account other investments in RN staffing.”
Family nurse practitioners are also vital to high-quality care and advancing positive outcomes within their field. A study of 136,000 adult patients by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed FNPs consistently used their knowledge and expertise to deliver education and care that helped those with chronic illnesses to either return to full health or improve their conditions.
One of the reasons why FNPs are so effective is their emphasis on long-term health and wellness rather than short-term fixes. FNPs work within the family unit and are adept at analyzing, assessing and evaluating patients’ needs to deliver the right treatment and support. FNPs ask more questions and consider a large number of factors for this treatment.
Serve overlooked areas and demographics
FNPs provide care to people of all ages and genders from different social and cultural backgrounds. This role is very important in today’s society where certain patients can often get overlooked and not receive the treatment they need and deserve. FNPs work with families in both urban and rural locations. They do not discriminate and are ready and willing to serve those who may not have immediate access to other providers and healthcare resources. FNPs visit people in underserved areas, either in person or via phone and digital comms. This reduces the disparity in health education between the rich and poor, which is of enormous benefit to society at large. It also raises the bar for healthcare for the broader population. The role they play here is invaluable.
FNPs are capable of working in a number of different environments, which increases their accessibility to patients, especially in harder-to-reach rural areas in the US. These work settings include schools and community clinics where FNPs can bridge the gap between local communities and high-quality care services. FNPs can also serve patients in hospitals and urgent care centers.
Approach care holistically
FNPs are trained nurse practitioners and have the skills and experience to adopt a holistic approach to care. This means every patient is essentially more than just a patient. FNPs look at the person and take a broader approach to care beyond just physical health and illnesses. They will consider how mental, spiritual, emotional and cultural factors can contribute to a person’s health. In addition, they will also consider how things affect the entire family and will offer advice and treatment where necessary.
If a single family member is ill, FNPs will talk to close relatives if they have consent from the patient. Getting others involved can reduce the burden on patients at a time when the mental strain and stress can be difficult to bear. Working within family units also leads to a greater understanding of ongoing illnesses and the logistics required for assessment, testing and treatment and how the illness could develop and change over time.
Fill crucial skills and role shortages
An FNP’s skill set can be wielded to fulfil a variety of roles in healthcare settings, which is vital amid an acute shortage of physicians in the current economic climate. The Association of American Medical Colleges believes there will be a significant shortage of physicians through to 2034, with particular high demand for key skills in family practice. FNPs can be versatile in this climate, adapting to changing circumstances to provide the solutions patients need. FNPs can also work closely with physicians to improve the quality of care in certain states. Again, this is of huge benefit to patients and broader society as it helps people to live longer, healthier lives.
Care and support for babies and children
As the job title makes clear, FNPs have a specialty in family medicine and providing long-term care to all members of a family. They don’t just provide one-and-done treatments for a single patient in isolation. It is not uncommon for FNPs to provide care to different members of the same family over many years, supporting them through a number of different life stages. FNPs can have a great influence on a child’s development in particular, especially if they are there to provide support on an ongoing basis.
Health experts have found the interactions and treatment FNPs provide when children are growing are of particular importance. This is because babies and children are vulnerable and really benefit from safe, positive and predictable interactions with FNPs. These experiences have a positive effect on a child’s brain during an impressionable age, which gives the child an environment to grow and learn skills that will then benefit them into adulthood.
The support FNPs provide to young families is very important because children can be more prone to poorer health outcomes when there is a lack of stability. FNPs act as sort of protective figure here, providing positive interactions and guiding children through those crucial stages of early life. This support can start during pregnancy when FNPs can monitor a baby and track their conditions to ensure a successful birth. FNPs will also factor in certain genetic traits from parents and tailor caregiving accordingly.
Provide acute services
While there is a primary focus on family medicine and long-term support, FNPs will also provide acute services in hospitals at short notice. They will diagnose and treat patients who have just been admitted to the hospital or have recently had surgery. FNPs will then follow that patient’s medical journey through to the end, offering care at the point of admission and then using their skills to achieve positive outcomes and in the best cases, ending with discharge and a patient on their way back to full health. FNPs will usually work alone in hospitals, but they also regularly team up with physicians. Again, due to pressing skills shortages, this versatility is vital.
Provide preventative care
One aspect of caregiving that FNPs excel in is promoting the well-being of patients through a variety of preventative services and educational tools. This work is vital at a time when seven in ten US deaths are caused by chronic diseases that are often preventable. FNPs conduct regular checkups and routine screenings for illnesses and poor health factors such as cancer, cholesterol and blood pressure. These screenings identify problems earlier, which can prevent more serious conditions from developing. Acting on risk factors early and improving health outcomes is not only in the best interests of patients but also healthcare systems. Preventative care lowers costs for everyone involved.
FNPs also promote healthy living by empowering individuals to make the necessary changes to their diet and lifestyle to reduce the risk of chronic diseases occurring. They often do this via personal, one-on-one conversations that, when conducted over time, can build strong and lasting relationships with patients. When patients trust FNPs, they are more likely to follow through on the advice given and remain committed to positive lifestyle changes. This health advocacy is not just limited to exam rooms in hospitals. It also extends to the broader community, which can have a profound impact on society as more people will have the support, knowledge and aptitude to improve their lifestyle and overcome health issues.
Highly skilled and knowledgeable
FNPs must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BNS) and then a master’s degree, which gives them an extensive range of skills and medical knowledge to call on to inform their decisions in healthcare settings. FNPs will learn about key disciplines like pathophysiology and pharmacology during their educational programs. Many also acquire additional qualifications at the graduate level, which increases their knowledge and skill even further. In addition to hard skills, FNPs are also able to call on a litany of positive soft skills such as patient counselling and crisis management, the latter of which allows them to react to emergency situations in the right way.
What’s more, FNPs must meet rigorous standards set by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) to deliver care in a professional capacity. The AANP and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) ensure FNPs are capable of performing a range of responsibilities and tasks safely and competently. The certification boards evaluate FNPs in different areas to ensure they can assess and diagnose patients and plan necessary courses of treatment. FNPs are well-versed in disease prevention, medicinal therapies and diagnostic procedures, among other skills.
During the AANP exam, which tests the clinical knowledge of nurse practitioners, individuals will need to showcase their expertise in four main areas: assessment, diagnosis, planning and evaluation. The first stage ensures FNPs can ask the right questions and gather information to make an accurate, formal diagnosis. FNPs must then be able to come up with a treatment plan and communicate this to patients while offering the support they need. All of this adds up to an exceptionally high level of care.
Another soft skill that increases the quality of care is active, compassionate listening. FNPs learn how to listen attentively with positive body language at degree level and during clinical rotations and placements. In family settings, FNPs are able to listen to each individual’s concerns and ask follow-up questions to get a complete understanding of the situation at hand. By listening actively for long periods and engaging with families for months and often years as they guide individuals through various life stages, FNPs can again build stronger bonds and relationships within the family unit, which helps to improve the quality of care. These respectful, trusting interactions are more likely to lead to positive health outcomes for everyone involved.
Coordinate patient care
As previously noted, FNPs are not just involved in a single stage of a patient’s treatment and care. They must regularly coordinate each of the four main stages of care and other tasks. For example, they will be thinking about how they can promote a patient’s well-being and educate them about treatments and lifestyle changes after making a formal diagnosis. They will then try to connect patients to a network of services to assist them in the next stage of their treatment and recovery. This “total” approach to every single detail is why FNPs are so renowned for holistic, patient-centered care. It links together every component of care and provides a synergy that simply wouldn’t be possible without them. This ensures continuity of service, which is vital for consistent, high-quality interactions between FNPs and patients.
This level of coordination can pay dividends when treating certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, epilepsy and diabetes, which are often complex and ongoing. These conditions can affect patients in a multitude of ways. FNPs will recognize how these specific symptoms are interlinked and educate patients accordingly so that they can manage their condition and make long-term changes to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact their day-to-day lives.
It’s no surprise then, considering the high level of coordination, that NPs are proven to reduce consultation times and mortality rates while improving treatment courses and patient satisfaction levels. Again, the role that FNPs play in the modern healthcare system is invaluable, and with a shortage of key skills in the industry, qualified nurse practitioners are in very high demand. If you are thinking about becoming an FNP and already have an MSN degree, you can apply for an online FNP certification today that will take you a step closer to realizing your dream career.