When considering a nurse practitioner career, RNs are typically looking for a change – to practice more autonomously, provide mid-level care, or change up their schedule or work setting.
“Becoming an FNP can give you so many job opportunities,” said Sue Ann Maughmer, a graduate of Chamberlain’s MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specialty track. “Becoming an FNP has been one of the best decisions that I have made for my professional career.”
You might be asking, where do nurse practitioners work? And in particular, where do family nurse practitioners work? The answer is: many places.
One of the great advantages of a nurse practitioner career path is the variety of settings where you can practice. Let’s take a look.
Family Nurse Practitioner Career Path
An FNP is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who focuses on comprehensive healthcare across all ages and demographics, body systems and diseases. Read more: What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
So, where do nurse practitioners work? Your nurse practitioner career could see you practice nursing in a diverse range of settings, from a doctor’s office, to a prison, to a factory.
Acute or Urgent Care Centers
People typically come to urgent care centers when they can’t get an appointment with their regular doctor, or when the issue is relatively minor and patients expect they will get attention more quickly than at their local hospital emergency room. These kinds of centers are, however, designed for more serious issues than would be seen at a walk-in or retail clinic.
The type of care needed is unpredictable, you’ll see new patients every day, and the pace of work can be quick. Although broken bones and burn wounds are quite common, the fast pace of this setting also means that you’ll be getting a variety of experiences with different patient populations and conditions.
My day starts with seeing patients of all ages and with chronic & acute illnesses. I do a lot of school, employment and annual physicals. I see around 20-30 patients a day. Right now, with COVID-19, I see a lot of patients with respiratory illness that may or may not be positive.
My hours are 8am - 5pm. Sometimes it fluctuates depending on circumstances of patient load. [The most rewarding part is] leaving at the end of the day knowing I’ve made a positive impact on each patient by just listening, educating and providing treatment. – Chamberlain FNP Graduate Crystal Thomas, FNP-BC
Doctor’s Office or Private Clinic
When considering the question ‘where do nurse practitioners work?’, your mind may go immediately to doctors’ offices – and you’d be spot on. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the largest employer of nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists were doctors’ offices in 2019, where nurses tend to work traditional hours during the week.
The majority of my patients are walk-ins so what I do varies from day to day,” said Chamberlain FNP grad Holly Cox, who works in a private clinic. “We may be very busy one day and have a much more laidback day the next. We see a lot of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) patients, as well as those with diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
You may see fewer patients per day in a clinic or doctor’s office than in a hospital setting. You’ll also likely have more time to spend with your patients, and will see them on repeat visits. On the flip side, you might be exposed to a greater variety of patients and illnesses in a hospital setting. You have to consider the kind of work atmosphere you prefer.
Holly’s favorite part of her nurse practitioner career? “When a patient returns for follow up after I’ve treated them for something and they feel better, or the treatment plan is helping their issue.”
After a doctor’s office, the hospital is the second most common clinical setting for a nurse practitioner, according to the BLS. In hospitals, nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings – from the emergency room, to critical care, a cardiac floor or the maternity ward. As a step in your nurse practitioner career path, it can be a helpful way to gain exposure to a wide variety of conditions and patient populations.
Hospital work requires working in shifts, so you may have non-traditional work hours – including nights, weekends and holidays.
Skilled Nursing Facilities and Long-Term Care Facilities
If you enjoy working with patients in later life, you could work in either a skilled nursing facility (SNF) or a long-term care facility (nursing home). Skilled nursing facilities typically admit older patients who have been released from the hospital but who still need rehabilitation and supportive care before they can return to their homes or to long-term care facilities. Such care consists of physical rehabilitation, occupational therapy and determining proper medical treatment and making sure patients are stabilized on their medication plan. One of the biggest issues with those later in life is falling, so nurses in SNFs help patients strengthen their muscles and learn to regain their ability to live as independently as possible. You’ll also work with patients’ families so they can help in the healing process.
SNFs sit in the interface between hospitals and a return to the patient’s previous life. As such, you’ll probably spend a few months with your clients and get to know them well.
If you would prefer to work with the same patients over much longer periods of time and you prefer a little slower pace (at least most of the time), then long-term health facilities might be where you want to focus your nurse practitioner career. It’s important to be a good listener in this role. There may also be a fair amount of physical activity required, as you’ll be helping patients get up and sit down, take baths and assist with other activities of daily living. You may want to specialize in gerontology if this is the career path of interest.
As difficult as the job is, I get up every morning and happy to go to my workplace because every day is a new day with new challenges and new rewards. The rewards are plentiful when my patients and their families say thank you. My patients are 99% elderly, chronically ill people. I cannot cure them but my goal is to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible, especially now, when families cannot visit their loved ones. – Chamberlain University alum Eleina Sapoz
Hospice Centers & Patients’ Homes
Some FNPs are drawn to working with those who are in the final stages of illness. Palliative care nurses assist patients with their medications, make sure they are as comfortable as possible and provide emotional support. If the medical team decides that death will mostly likely occur within 6 months, the patient may be provided with a hospice nurse during these final months. Both palliative and hospice nurses work with patients in the hospital, a nursing home or assisted living facility, a hospice center or in the patient’s home.
A typical day for me is seeing patients in their home setting for symptom management to include acute symptoms and chronic symptoms, recent visits, and support visits for patients who are actively dying. I am also a support person for our nursing team and help them with any clinical needs they may have during their day. The most rewarding part of my job is the job's mission. Hospice is a unique clinical setting and it's an honor to be able to walk this journey with any patient and their family during such a critical time in their lives. Being able to provide physical care, emotional care and spiritual care during the last days of a patient's life is not only a blessing to them but a blessing to me. Also, providing supportive care to their family/caregiver is very rewarding. – Chamberlain Sue Ann Maughmer, APRN, MSN, FNP-BC
Convenient Care (e.g., Retail) Clinics
You may have noticed that large chain stores, such as Target and Walmart, have an area of the store set aside for a clinic. These stores, as well as places such as CVS Minute Clinics, Rite Aid Rediclinics, are new locations your nurse practitioner career may take you. If you were working in this setting, you would be involved in many aspects of healthcare, such as giving flu shots, treating minor injuries, fevers and colds, immunizations or COVID-19 testing.
These kinds of locations are becoming more popular primarily because they are convenient, low cost places to be seen by a healthcare worker, and there are often lower wait times for patients than at an ER.
If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire for autonomy, then you might want to look into opening your own, or joining, a private practice. The first thing to know is that not all states permit nurses to open their own practice. Read more: Check your state’s requirements.
The desire for autonomy can be compelling, but owning your own practice involves many activities outside of providing health services. For example, you would now have to pay your own malpractice insurance. You’ll have to learn more about insurance reimbursements, and how you’re going to advertise your business.
If asked, ‘where do nurse practitioners work?’, your first thought likely isn’t a correctional facility. It wasn’t the first thought for Chamberlain FNP grad Tracey Yeboah either, but she found this first step in her nurse practitioner career path to be exceptionally rewarding:
I gave the prison a try and it's been amazing. On a typical day, I see about 10-15 scheduled patients. You may also see some acute conditions like chest pain, foreign body obstruction, nausea or vomiting. – Tracey Yeboah, FNP-C
Where Do Nurse Practitioners Work? Additional Healthcare Settings
The nurse practitioner career path can take you to a diverse range of healthcare settings, beyond what we’ve listed here - that may include schools or college campuses, health departments or even occupational sites, like factories.
I work on site in a factory setting managing all the new workers. We also provide primary care services as well as urgent care/sick visits, lab work as needed, vaccinations as needed to all employees on site. - Candice Dyer, MSN, FNP-C
So when asking yourself the question, ‘Where can I work as a family nurse practitioner?’ know that earning your certification as a nurse practitioner allows for flexibility and options for work settings, schedules and specialization.
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