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Conquer the Curveballs: Overcoming Seven Common Hurdles in the World of Family Nurse Practitioners

Nurses play a significant role in the healthcare industry, particularly family nurse practitioners (FNPs). While many find the role rewarding, FNPs may face challenges as part of their role as primary care providers, such as balancing personal obligations and the responsibilities of clinical practice management. 

Luckily enough, with the right education and training, FNPs can overcome these hurdles. They’ll need to plan, build a solid support network, and leverage their resources to deliver quality patient care and maintain a high quality of life.

The FNP Landscape: Thriving in a Dynamic Field

FNPs play a critical role in the modern healthcare landscape that’s likely to increase in size and scope, with many filling primary care roles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for NPs are projected to grow by 45 percent between 2022 and 2032. The BLS attributes this growth to the increasing use of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including FNPs, in team-based care in hospitals and clinics for primary and preventive care.

Seven Common Hurdles Faced by FNPs and How to Conquer Them

From managing work-life balance to navigating the complexities of clinical practice management, an FNP career may contain challenges that many may find overwhelming. Nearly a third of NPs of various specialties considered exiting the healthcare industry in 2022, primarily due to issues such as burnout and poor mental health, according to a Medscape report.

Overcoming these challenges is part of an FNP’s job. Understanding and meeting these challenges can help FNPs make the most of their careers.

Hurdle 1: Clinical Practice Management

Beyond scheduling staff, ensuring accurate billing, and providing correct patient documentation and medical coding, clinical practice management requires a significant understanding of medical administration. Not accounting for these details can delay patient care or reduce medical claim reimbursement. 

FNPs can overcome this obstacle by streamlining clinical practice management, freeing up their energy for other activities. For example, they can use practice management software to track many administrative tasks and delegate tasks such as billing maintenance and inventory control.

nurse eating and spending time on her phone

Hurdle 2: Work-Life Balance

Being an FNP can require long hours and working with patients struggling with complex healthcare issues. This can lead to burnout, and mental and physical exhaustion, reducing nurses’ abilities to do their jobs effectively. Significant burnout can lead NPs to choose to leave the industry; this can cause long-term staffing shortages that further exacerbate personnel shortages.

Ensuring proper work-life balance is critical to reducing burnout, as allowing FNPs and their staff time away from work can refresh and revitalize their outlook on their roles. FNPs should engage in proper time management techniques to prevent being overwhelmed. They should establish firm boundaries that separate their responsibilities from work and home life, such as prohibiting contact after work. They should also practice self-care, including engaging in hobbies and affirming mental health exercises.

As leaders, FNPs should promote work-life balance for their staff and coworkers. The compounding effects of burnout, including staffing shortages, can lead to lower morale and increased workplace stress.

Hurdle 3: Time Management

Working as an FNP necessitates juggling multiple responsibilities, such as leading a team, providing patient care, and managing administrative elements that keep everything running. With so many critical tasks, it can be challenging to budget time to ensure they’re completed efficiently. For example, while an FNP may have blocked out time to perform administrative duties, such as filling out patient documents, a sudden patient emergency could set them behind by hours.

Overcoming the time management hurdle requires proactive planning, such as scheduling time for tasks and anticipating hiccups by including buffer time to account for any delays. Additionally, tasks should be prioritized based on their importance and how long they’ll take to complete, with time allotted to review and reorder the rankings should things change. Scheduling software can also improve efficiency, freeing time for more critical tasks.

Hurdle 4: Scope of Practice

FNPs must have a solid understanding of the different scopes of practice within their state. The different levels of practice include the following: 

  • Full practice. NPs can perform all available aspects of patient care that they’re trained for, such as offering patient evaluations, ordering and diagnosing tests, and writing prescriptions for medication. 
  • Reduced practice. At least one full-practice NP capability is reduced in scope.
  • Restricted practice. At least one full-practice NP capability is restricted entirely.

FNPs should know the legal limitations in their state by monitoring the scope of practice regulations in their area. For example, those intending to become NPs in Massachusetts will have full practice capabilities, unlike states with restricted practice, such as Texas or California. These regulations may change due to amendments or new laws. 

Information can typically be found online at the state government’s website or from official resources, such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Hurdle 5: Reimbursement

NPs can receive reimbursement through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but only partially—unless the NP bills their work as “incident to” a practicing physician’s services. While private insurers aren’t required to follow the CMS policies, they typically use them as a guideline, which can result in a disparity in reimbursement.

The incident-to-billing method means that FNPs who work independently of physicians receive a reduced cap on reimbursement of 85 percent of a claim, even when they offer the same healthcare services. The initial rationale behind this policy decision was the misconception that NPs paid lower insurance premiums and overhead costs than physicians, which did not require the same level of reimbursement—despite many NPs, such as FNPs, fulfilling the same role as physicians, with similar costs to their practices. 

While many gains have been made in expanding reimbursement equity for NPs, it remains an ongoing challenge. Despite this disparity, there are means to reduce reimbursement disparity by reducing the load on administration work, such as: 

  • Documenting all medical decisions regarding patients to indicate the extent of an NP’s involvement
  • Noting the complexity of a patient’s visit, including evaluations and prescriptions
  • Ensuring proper use of medical codes in documentation
busy nurse overwhelmed by work

Hurdle 6: Developing Leadership Skills

FNPs rely heavily on leadership skills, especially when heading independent practices. In addition to managing clinical and administrative tasks, they also lead their teams. In collaborative care models, this is critical, with FNPs working to guide interdisciplinary teams to ensure that patients receive exceptional care. 

FNPs who want to improve their leadership abilities may seek resources for continuous learning, such as workshops or online courses. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) offers an online leadership module that prepares nurses to tackle real-world professional challenges.

Hurdle 7: Finding a Mentor

Mentorship is valuable across career disciplines but can significantly benefit those who want to develop their FNP careers. Mentors can help FNPs improve their critical thinking skills, offer guidance on handling stress, and help grow a professional network. Mentorship is also valuable for those assisting mentees, allowing established NPs to give back to the industry and help prepare new professionals for the field.

Using resources through personal networking or academic institutions can be an excellent way to match for mentorship, whether as a mentor or a mentee. Additionally, resources such as AANP offer mentorship programs between members of their organizations. 

American International College Master of Science in FNP: Your Partner in Overcoming Challenges

By working proactively to take on the many hurdles they face, FNPs can provide high-quality primary care without struggling with career challenges such as clinical practice management. For those ready to advance their nursing careers, the support that American International College offers is worth considering. 

Clinical Placement Services

One additional challenge aspiring FNPs face is gaining in-person experience through clinical rotations when studying via an online program. AIC’s online Master of Science – Family Nurse Practitioner offers a solution. Our team of dedicated placement coordinators assists students throughout the process. The placement coordinator helps students identify an appropriate clinical site and preceptor within their local area, giving students the knowledge and clinical skills necessary to take the FNP licensure exam.

Overcome Obstacles to Reach Your Career Goals

While FNPs face hurdles, these challenges don’t have to hold you back from a successful career. If you’re interested in advancing nursing practice and learning how to navigate the inevitable challenges, consider AIC’s online MSN-FNP program

Our program, designed with working RNs in mind, can help students practice critical thinking and collaboration without having to leave their established careers. The curriculum covers topics such as nursing research, how policy and politics impact healthcare, and advanced concepts in health assessment to help you dive deeper into nursing knowledge. With this advanced foundation in nursing and healthcare, you can be better equipped to tackle the hurdles in this career and achieve your goals as an FNP.

Discover how you can overcome the challenges in your career journey with AIC.


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