What Can I Do as a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are valuable members of the health care community. They are advanced practice registered nurses who receive both didactic education and clinical training to serve patients and families across the lifespan.
If you are considering a future as a family nurse practitioner, this blog will help answer the question, “What does a family nurse practitioner do?” As you read, you may envision yourself in the role of a family nurse practitioner and find that it is an excellent fit for your aspirations and personality.
Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice
The scope of practice for a nurse practitioner is determined at the state level and is typically published in the legal rules and regulations that make up the state nurse practice act. Scope of practice is essentially a definition of the work that a licensed nurse is permitted and expected to do when acting in that capacity within the state where the nurse is licensed.
State rules and regulations are especially important for understanding the details regarding whether nurse practitioners are able to act independently or require formal or informal collaboration with a physician for certain responsibilities like prescribing medications.
Some states allow nurse practitioners full practice authority, which is essentially full autonomy to carry out advanced nursing practice in an independent, nurse practitioner role. Other states allow partial or restricted practice authority where there are mandates and stipulations addressing how the responsibilities of a nurse practitioner are expected to be practiced.
The primary goal of rules and regulations is to protect the public and ensure the highest quality of safe and effective health care by trained nurse practitioner professionals. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has outlined nurse practitioner practice information by state in a concise guide that will help you see some distinctions of each jurisdiction.
Family Nurse Practitioner Specialization
One of the benefits of becoming a family nurse practitioner is that this specialty area focuses on the care of patients and families of all ages across the lifespan. The FNP has a focus on continuity of care where they are able to build longer-term, professional relationships with the patients and families they serve.
Educational programs that prepare NPs are created with a particular specialty in mind. In addition to the FNP specialty, there are other types of NPs including:
- Pediatric Primary Care NP
- Pediatric Acute Care NP
- Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP
- Psychiatric Mental Health NP
Becoming an FNP is one way to specialize as an advanced practice nurse. There are also nursing certifications available for RNs who do not wish to move forward into advanced practice nursing but want to expand their credentials. Attaining a specialty certification is one way to demonstrate competency and expertise in a particular area of nursing practice.
Next, let’s look at some of the key differences between RN and NP practice.
Differences Between RN and NP Practice
When an RN chooses to further their education and become an NP, the ability to practice nursing is expanded. The RN role and the NP role both require subjective and objective health assessment through history taking and physical examination. The NP role is advanced nursing practice, which includes the ability to order rather than facilitate diagnostic testing.
Patient education and coordination of care communication are important for the RN, who is often working to prioritize tasks with efficient time management skills. Both the RN and NP are versed in patient education. An NP may have a greater ability to work proactively in educating patients and families because they also serve as the primary care manager. Next, let’s explore these areas of FNP practice in greater detail.
Diagnostic Testing Responsibilities of the FNP
The FNP will use the information collected from the subjective and objective health assessment to make decisions about diagnostic testing options that may provide additional information to help pinpoint a diagnosis of a patient’s health condition. Examples of diagnostic testing include:
- Routine and problem-specific bloodwork
- Laboratory testing such as urine culture and sensitivity to determine the pathogen causing infection and the most effective antibiotic treatment
- Pregnancy-related labs to assist with determination of due date and monitoring for complications that may be treatable
- Imaging studies including ultrasound, x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans
A family nurse practitioner will both order and interpret the results of diagnostic tests with the goal of making an accurate diagnosis. Diagnostic testing aids the nurse practitioner in narrowing down the most likely cause of illness so that a specific and effective treatment plan can be created and implemented in partnership with the patient and family.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Ongoing Education
The family nurse practitioner role is unique because of the focus on diagnosis and management of complex health conditions within the family context. An FNP will make an accurate diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan that may include the prescription of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies. Prescribing controlled substances when needed may be the responsibility of an FNP depending on the state in which the licensed practitioner is licensed.
An FNP will typically be the primary care provider who makes referrals to appropriate specialists, such as in treating mental health conditions or illnesses that may benefit from specialized evaluations and intervention. Once a patient has received specialist treatment, the FNP will serve as the primary point of contact for ongoing evaluation.
Patient and family education is a major role of the FNP. Topics for education may include:
- Health promotion
- Disease prevention
- Management of chronic health conditions
- Implementation of home therapies
- Navigation of consumer health information on the internet
- Connection with community resources as the FNP serves as patient and family advocate
Now that you have an idea of the work that a family nurse practitioner does, let’s take a brief look at the job outlook and employment landscape for this professional position.
FNP Career Outlook and Employment Opportunities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced practice nursing jobs are growing at a rapid rate of approximately 40%, which is higher than average. In 2021, the average nurse practitioner annual salary was reported to be $124,680 with the highest levels of employment in offices of physicians.
There are many potential employment settings where nurse practitioners work in both clinical and non-clinical positions. FNPs are most frequently trained for employment in outpatient or community health settings rather than the hospital because the curriculum that prepares students for these professional positions has a focus on primary care.
A major benefit of becoming an FNP is the versatility in employment opportunities. To become an FNP, you will need to graduate from an accredited educational program of study and complete the certification and licensing requirements for your state. From there, you can explore a range of career options from home health to educational roles where you can apply your critical thinking and advanced practice nursing skills.
Become a Thoughtful Family Nurse Practitioner with American International College
American International College offers two different entry points into the education required for aspiring FNPs. You can choose from either the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program or obtain a post-master’s certificate with an FNP concentration (for those that have earned an MSN degree already). Topics such as ethics, scholarly development, and incorporation of health care technology are included.
You can make a meaningful impact in your community by pursuing a career as an FNP with American International College. To learn more, visit our nursing page today where you can download the program guide and connect with an enrollment advisor.