Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is one of the most ideal paths for nurses who want to move on to more advanced roles and treat a complete range of patient populations, from children to the elderly. Family Nurse Practitioners have the authority to operate with more autonomy, have higher paying jobs and brighter career prospects, which is why this nursing specialization is fast gaining popularity.
The following guide highlights the important aspects of the career of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), along with detailed information on how to become one and specialization options.
What is a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)?
A Family Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse, with a concentration in healthcare provision for all age groups. These professionals focus on health education and general promotion of healthy lifestyles among people of all age groups. FNPs work with patients on maintaining healthy bodily functions over a long period of time, with a strong focus on preventive care measures.
Many healthcare professionals in this field prefer to work in underserved communities and populations, and are required to have a complete understanding of the community they work with. In addition to that, FNPs need to be very familiar with all the health-related details of the entire family they treat. This level of involvement and knowledge can make the career of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) highly fulfilling for those who like to develop long-term relationships with their patients.
What Does an FNP Do?
Family Nurse Practitioners can find work in hospitals, medical centers, offices of physicians or with nurse practitioners. However, some FNPs prefer to work independently. FNPs are responsible for performing a series of important medical tasks such as prescribing medication, conducting physical exams, updating medical records and educating patients. Family Nurse Practitioners also consult with other healthcare professionals to discuss treatment plans when needed.
Advantages of Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner
If you want to enter the field of healthcare as a nurse, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner might be the path for you. There are numerous benefits of becoming an FNP. For instance, FNPs typically enjoy a greater deal of professional freedom, as compared to Registered Nurses (RNs). They have a much stronger and more comprehensive understanding of the field of healthcare.
In addition to the above, Family Nurse Practitioners typically earn higher salaries, and get better job opportunities. The job outlook for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners was an impressive 45%, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. As per this figure from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth expected for Nurse Practitioners and Family Nurse Practitioner is quite high.
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
In order to become a Family Nurse Practitioner, there are several requirements that need to be cleared. Have a look at the following list of requirements that aspiring nurses will have to fulfil before being eligible to practice.
Education Requirements to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioners would require at least a graduate degree before qualifying for a career in this field. Most employers expect FNPs to have a master’s degree from an accredited institute. To enroll in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, students will first have to complete a 4-year long undergraduate degree from an accredited college.
The coursework and degree requirements of an MSN degree would vary according to the school and state. Students are advised to check the website of the school they intend to apply to in detail.
Clinical Hour Requirements to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
FNP students need to complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to graduate from the MSN program successfully. Most programs would have a requirement of around 500-700 clinical hours, however, this is variable according to institute. Students may have to complete some of these clinical hours in a supervised medical setup, under the mentorship of a senior physician.
To make the learning experience more comprehensive and enhanced, students will have clinical rotations that will allow them to work in a variety of healthcare sectors. These include cardiology, palliative care, maternity etc. Most MSN programs would help students find the right placement at local healthcare centers.
Aspiring FNPs would require a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours to qualify for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam. Please note that this number of hours may vary according to the chosen specialty.
Certification and Licensure Requirements for Family Nurse Practitioners
The certification exam for FNPs is administered by the ANCC and is designed to test the applicant’s understanding of the healthcare system and health provision across a lifespan with questions on prenatal, pediatric, adult and geriatric healthcare. This competency-based exam has 150 questions.
Before applying for the exam, students need to ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria which includes the completion of an accredited graduate program. Students may also be required to complete certain coursework requirements in subject areas like pharmacology, pathophysiology and advanced physical assessment. Once the exam is successfully cleared, you will be awarded the credential of ‘Family Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified’. This credential would be valid for 5 years and can be maintained through renewals.
Concentrations Offered for Family Nurse Practitioners
Family Nurse Practitioners have a variety of concentrations to choose from. Let’s take a detailed look at some of these options:
- Cardiology: Nursing graduates with a cardiology concentration would find work in healthcare facilities that treat heart diseases, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and other heart-related concerns. Candidates for this specialization have to complete 200 clinical hours of supervised clinical hours under the mentorship of a cardiovascular expert.
- Neonatology: Neonatology is a part of the broader field of pediatrics. However, this area of studies focuses largely on infants, newborns or those who are born prematurely or with some sickness. Aspiring neonatal FNPs have to complete specialized coursework and clinical hours in order to make sure that they develop the right amount of expertise required in clinical management of chronically unwell neonates.
- Emergency Medicine: Family Nurse Practitioners can also go for a specialization in emergency medicine. This specialization would help them learn how to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who have acute or life-threatening health concerns. This is a high pressure specialty where nurses are required to remain calm and composed in stressful situations and come up with quick solutions. Coursework in this specialty would prepare FNPs to provide urgent, evidence-based healthcare to individuals suffering from emergency medical crises. FNPs specializing in Emergency Medicine might be able to find work in local hospitals or urgent care medical facilities.
- Oncology: FNP graduates can also go for a specialization in oncology, which would enable them to treat cancer patients and their families. Typical coursework in this specialization would include topics like disease treatment, cancer prevention, palliative care, epidemiology and symptom management. Students enrolled in these programs would typically have to complete more than 200 clinical hours and several specialty courses. The exact requirements of this program may vary according to institute and location.
- Women’s Health: This specialty focuses on health concerns related to women, including gynaecological issues, reproductive health issues, prenatal and postpartum care. The women’s healthcare specialization also covers subject areas like disease prevention among women and health education specific to women. FNPs in women health may be able to find work in hospitals, medical centers, ambulatory services any family health clinics.
Salary and Career Outlook for Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs)
As per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners in the US made an annual median income of $111,680 in May 2020. The top paying industries for these healthcare professionals were; Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services, paying an annual mean wage of $143,480, followed by Religious Organizations, which paid an annual mean income of $131,710 in May 2020, Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Facilities, which paid an annual mean income of $130,830, Social Advocacy Organizations, which paid an annual mean income of $127,970 and Outpatient Care Centers, which paid an annual mean income of $123,850. Please note that all the above are occupational categories extracted from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
States that had the highest employment for Nurse Practitioners include California, with an employment figure of 15,100, followed by New York, with an employment figure of 14,850, Texas, with an employment figure of 14,680, Florida, with an employment figure of 13,010 and Ohio, with an employment figure of 9,430.
The top paying states for Nurse Practitioners were California, paying an annual mean wage of $145,970, New Jersey, paying an annual mean wage of $130,890, Washington, paying an annual mean wage of $126,480, New York, paying an annual mean wage of $126,440 and Massachusetts, with an annual mean wage of $126,050.
Please note that all of the above salary and employment figures have been taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for May 2020.