Nurses who want to take their careers to the next level have many options. Becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a popular choice. FNPs are in demand, and the FNP specialization is among the nursing profession's top-paying choices.
Nurses can prepare for a career as an FNP by earning a Master of Science in Nursing — FNP, as FNP certification requires a master's at a minimum.
St. Thomas University (STU) offers a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN – FNP) that prepares graduates for the FNP certification exam. Graduates can go on to care for patients of all ages.
What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Journal lists over 100 nursing specializations, and "Family Nurse Practitioner" is one of them. With so many different nursing roles, it is easy to see where confusion comes in.
Simply put, a nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). FNPs have a "population focus" within the NP role. FNPs have the flexibility to work with any age group. This ranges from prenatal and pediatric, all the way to the elderly.
Many states recognize FNPs as primary care providers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, NPs can deliver 80 to 90 percent of the care that primary care physicians provide. For example, FNPs can:
- Perform physical exams and wellness checkups.
- Order tests and procedures.
- Diagnose and treat patients.
- Prescribe medications and other therapies.
- Teach patients about healthy habits and lifestyles.
Like physicians, FNPs work in diverse settings. Medical offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, community health centers and long-term care facilities are just a few examples.
How Strong Is the Demand for NPs?
Nurses at every level are in demand. But the demand for NPs is especially strong. NPs made the top 10 in a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report charting the fastest-growing occupations. The projected growth for NPs is four and a half times the average for all occupations.
A quick comparison of job growth in general and across different levels of nursing highlights the excellent job outlook for FNPs:
- Average growth rate, all occupations: 7 percent growth
- Nursing assistants: 11 percent growth
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (LPNs and LVNs): 12 percent growth
- Registered nurses: 15 percent growth
- NPs: 31 percent growth
Burning Glass Technologies puts job growth for NPs at closer to 45 percent. Either way, demand for NPs is sky high, and it is not likely to slow down anytime soon.
This demand is driven in part by population growth and aging. A projected physician shortage also explains the demand for FNPs. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), 37 states will face a primary care physician shortage by 2025. FNPs can help fill this urgent need for primary care.
How Do Salaries for FNPs Compare?
FNP salaries are a selling point. On average, FNPs earn over 50 percent more than RNs. As of May 2017, the BLS reports that RNs earn $70,000 per year (median annual salary). By comparison, NPs earn $110,930. At the high end, NPs earn more than $180,460.
Salaries may vary for a number of reasons, including experience and geographic location. Taking a look at top NP employers, salaries can also vary by industry:
- Hospitals: $117,850
- Outpatient care centers: $112,940
- Offices of physicians: $108,300
- Offices of other health practitioners: $107,700
- Educational services: $101,600
Wherever FNPs choose to work, they are likely to enjoy a significant salary bump compared to the jobs they had before becoming family nurse practitioners. Bonuses may boost compensation.
How Are FNPs Making a Difference?
The majority of NPs deliver primary care, and they play an important role in improving clinical outcomes. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, patients who see NPs experience the following benefits:
- Fewer emergency room visits
- Shorter hospital stays
- Lower medication costs
In particular, FNPs can make a critical difference in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Nationally, there are nearly 7,026 "primary care HPSA designations" as of December 2018. These are areas where the number of providers falls below federally defined standards.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that NPs are much more likely than primary care physicians to:
- Practice in urban and rural areas.
- Provide care in a wider range of community settings.
- Serve a higher proportion of vulnerable populations, including uninsured patients.
Six-figure salaries and high demand add to the appeal of becoming an FNP. More than that, FNPs play an important role in increasing access to healthcare, bringing with them the compassionate, patient-centered care that is central to the nursing profession. As KFF notes, NPs have an "untapped potential" for improving access to primary care.
Sources:American Association of Nurse Practitioners: What's a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
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