If you are a registered nurse, you might be considering expanding your role. One pathway that you can consider is becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP). There are many benefits of being a family nurse practitioner. You will enjoy a wider scope of practice and more autonomy in your clinical decision-making. You will also have an opportunity to care for patients of all ages across the life span, from infants to seniors.
In the U.S., the nurse practitioner role falls among the group defined as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Family nurse practitioners have a graduate-level education—either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)—have earned their FNP certification, and have completed more clinical hours to ensure familiarity with patients across the life span.
Pursuing graduate- or post-graduate-level education is a necessary step on the path to becoming an FNP. The University of Indianapolis has online MSN and DNP family nurse practitioner programs that prepare candidates to take on this challenging and rewarding role.
Let’s take a closer look at the role of an FNP and examine its parameters and opportunities.
FNPs as Primary Care Providers
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, most nurse practitioners in the U.S. are certified as family nurse practitioners and make up nearly 70% of the total. For many FNPs, one of the best benefits of being a family nurse practitioner is being able to care for the same patients over many years, fostering and maintaining a patient-centered care relationship.
As a primary care provider, an FNP can:
- Manage a patient’s care.
- Order or perform diagnostic tests, such as lab work or x-rays.
- Diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions.
- Prescribe medications and other treatments.
- Offer counseling.
- Educate patients on healthy lifestyle choices to prevent or manage the disease.
In addition to these practice competencies, nurse practitioners are expected to comprehend and apply other important facets of nursing, including the scientific foundations of nursing practice, quality measures, ethical decision-making, health delivery systems, and more.
The FNP’s Scope of Practice
One of the principal benefits of being a nurse practitioner is being able to practice independently. This means that FNPs are permitted to make certain clinical care decisions and deliver treatments to their patients without the immediate oversight of a physician. However, the level of autonomy and scope of practice for FNPs vary from state to state.
NPs can perform many, but not all, of the same procedures as medical doctors. State boards of nursing and/or state medical boards define the procedures NPs can do independently and those that must be done under a physician’s supervision, and this varies by state. All NPs can prescribe medications, but each state has guidelines regarding prescriptive authority with or without physician oversight.
For years, groups that support nurse practitioners have been advocating for increased autonomy and full practice authority for NPs in every state. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia allow full practice authority, while the remaining 26 states allow either reduced or restricted practice authority.
States with reduced authority require FNPs to have either a collaborative agreement with another health provider or limit the setting where they can practice. In states with restricted practice, the law requires FNPs to be supervised by another health provider. In both these circumstances, this oversight lasts for the FNPs entire career, no matter how much experience they have.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have temporarily waived or modified their practice restrictions for nurse practitioners. Check the guidelines in the state where you plan to practice to understand its current requirements.
An Exceptional Career Outlook
Another benefit of being a nurse practitioner is job security. As of its reporting in November 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics placed nurse practitioners among the fastest-growing occupations with a projected growth rate of 52% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the 8% average for all jobs. It also showed a median salary for NPs at $111,680.
As various care centers seek to round out their staff and as more physicians retire, family nurse practitioners are stepping up to provide high-quality health care. The majority of FNPs are delivering care as members of clinical groups where they collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
Opportunities to Grow and Specialize
Nurse practitioners at the MSN level and above have additional opportunities beyond primary care practice. There are numerous specialty areas for those who are interested in pursuing additional education and certification. Some of these specialties include:
- Critical Care
- Long-Term Care
- Pain Management
Depending on the specialty, you will have to complete a certain number of years of experience within the field (for example, at least 2,000 hours in emergency care) at or around the time of applying to the certification program, and follow a regular schedule of certification renewal to ensure that you are up to date on current methodologies.
Evaluating Degree Options: MSN or DNP
When you are thinking about how you would like your career to unfold, give some thought to the educational level you would like to achieve. While it is possible to fully enjoy a role as a family nurse practitioner with either a master’s degree or a doctor of nursing practice degree, there are some differences that you will want to evaluate.
- A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is required to become an advanced practice registered nurse, a designation that covers nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists. It expands upon the knowledge base of registered nurses with further education on illness prevention, health promotion, and how to develop and implement care plans for patients with acute or chronic conditions. For those looking to develop a clinical practice, this is a great basis from which to launch a career as an FNP.
- A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is more advanced. The degree represents the highest level of nursing education, alongside the Ph.D. While those with Ph.D.s in nursing tend to have a more research-based orientation, DNPs usually focus on clinical practice—often with an emphasis on quality improvement, health information technology, health policy, and population health.
As an RN who holds a BSN, you are probably considering how you would like to make an even bigger impact with patients and on the health care landscape in general. You can start by working with an institution that will give you a quality education, support your goals, and prepare you for success in the field.
Select a Top Program for Your Advanced Nursing Degree
The University of Indianapolis has two programs that can meet your needs. Both are offered online, so you can fit them into your schedule and minimize the need for travel.
Students in the MSN-FNP program receive core master’s coursework on leadership, policy, and interprofessional communication. The FNP curriculum offers education that will allow you to apply the foundational health care principles, advanced health assessment and critical-thinking skills, developmental and family theories, and health promotion strategies.
Students who wish to pursue a DNP have two qualification options: They may enter with either a BSN or with an MSN. The programs are slightly different but have the same goal of preparing candidates at the doctoral level. Coursework and lectures will prepare candidates with the skills needed for policy analysis and advocacy within healthcare organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Candidates will also learn to apply business theories and concepts, such as planning, developing, organizing, and evaluating new programs or projects for care delivery and/or health promotion.
Prepare to be an FNP in a Nationally Ranked Program
The University of Indianapolis has maintained a culture of respect and has celebrated all forms of diversity for more than a century. UIndy, as it’s known to students, faculty, and the community, is known for its leading-edge nursing programs at all degree levels and the development of skilled, caring, and compassionate servant leaders.
Nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and are nationally ranked and recognized. Nurse practitioner certification exam pass rates exceed the national average.
UIndy graduates are prepared through a top-tier education, a culture of service and inclusion, and comprehensive student support, including clinical placement services. Supportive faculty and a state-of-the-art simulation lab assure students get the resources and support they need to succeed.