Family nurse practitioners (FNP) are a fast-growing sector of primary healthcare providers. You may be wondering if becoming a family nurse practitioner is a good career choice, one that allows you to combine your nursing background and values with medical training, allowing you greater autonomy in caring for your patients. Let’s take a look at what family nurse practitioners do and what makes them a valuable asset to the healthcare system.
Family nurse practitioners have a unique view of healthcare. As nurses, they are trained in advocacy and nursing care that encompasses the patient’s health needs, psychosocial needs, and spiritual needs. The family nurse practitioner duties do not revolve around just one type of patient, one symptom or condition, or one age bracket. Family nurse practitioners deliver many different healthcare services to patients of all ages and socioeconomic classes.
The future for family nurse practitioners is looking bright. As the U.S. faces a shortage of primary care physicians, between 17,800 and 48,000 by the year 2034 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of graduate-level providers is growing and will likely double by 2036. Family nurse practitioners are in a position to positively impact the future of primary healthcare services.
What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
So, what does a family nurse practitioner do? At the heart of a family nurse practitioner’s mission is the desire to provide patient-centered care. As a nurse, you know that your duties are based on the nursing scope of practice. Likewise, the family nurse practitioner job responsibilities must align with the nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.
The scope of practice for nurse practitioners includes:
- Ordering, performing, and interpreting tests
- Diagnosing, treating, and managing acute and chronic conditions, including prescribing medication
- Counseling and education
- Care coordination
A family nurse practitioner job description might include the following tasks:
- Complete physicals for all ages
- Diagnose, treat, and manage acute and chronic conditions
- Perform procedures
- Prescribe medications
- Display excellent communication skills
- Provide health counseling
- Keep accurate patient records
Some states allow family nurse practitioners to set up their own practices without oversight by a physician. This is especially helpful in rural areas where there may be a shortage of primary care physicians.
Family nurse practitioners are not limited to providing medical care. While most family nurse practitioners work as family care providers, some may also perform research, serve as consultants, or teach future nurse practitioners.
The family nurse practitioner job description and responsibilities vary depending on where they work and the needs of the patients.
Family nurse practitioners practice locations include:
- Primary care practices
- Family care practices
- Urgent care centers
- Specialty clinics
- Emergency departments
- Nursing homes
- Educational institutions
- Public health departments
- Drug store clinics
- Community health centers
The family nurse practitioner duties and responsibilities will depend on the facility and the area in which they practice. Since many family nurse practitioners work in family medicine clinics, let’s look at what the family nurse practitioner responsibilities may be in this type of setting.
The day might start with a 5-year-old male patient and his mother who walked into the clinic without an appointment. The child is complaining of ear pain after having a cold for 3 days. The family nurse practitioner examines the patient and treats him for an ear infection, but also finds that the child is underweight. After talking with the mother, the family nurse practitioner discovers that this family needs assistance affording adequate food. The mother agrees to a referral to a local food pantry and is given a list of other resources to help with bills so that more of the family’s income can go toward food.
The next appointment is an annual wellness visit for a geriatric patient, consisting of multiple evaluation tools that assess the holistic health of the patient, followed by the development of a care plan. The family nurse practitioner finds that this patient is at risk for falling and the patient reveals that she has fallen twice in the past two weeks. The patient agrees to a home risk assessment and the family nurse practitioner coordinates a referral for a home health agency to perform the risk assessment in the patient’s home.
After lunch, the family nurse practitioner sees a 1-week-old baby girl and her teenage mother for a check-up. The family nurse practitioner discovers the mother desires information on the care of a newborn and spends some time providing education for the mom on the needs of a newborn. The new mom agrees to a referral to a local non-profit that helps teenage mothers learn to care for their child, along with education on finances, getting a job, and obtaining daycare.
The family nurse practitioner’s next patient is a 50-year-old man who is new to the practice. The records from his previous provider indicate that he is being treated for high blood pressure and monitored for slightly elevated cholesterol. The family nurse practitioner examines him, reviews his bloodwork, and finds that his blood pressure is normal but his cholesterol numbers are high. The patient says he does not want to be put on a cholesterol-lowering drug. The family nurse practitioner counsels him on dietary changes he can try that may help to lower his cholesterol and schedules him for a 6-month recheck. When the family nurse practitioner asks if the patient has faced any major life changes recently, the patient reveals that he has been having anxiety related to a recent job change. The family nurse practitioner does some counseling on anxiety with the patient and the patient agrees to a referral to a local psychologist for ongoing support.
As you can see, the family nurse practitioner job duties will vary greatly from day to day and patient to patient. Chamberlain’s MSN-FNP program prepares future nurse practitioners to practice in a variety of settings caring for patients of all ages. Our accredited online MSN program can be completed in as few as eight semesters, preparing students for the FNP National Certification examinations. Chamberlain’s preceptor matching service assists students to find practicum sites and preceptors and provides coaching along the way.
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By Chamberlain University
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