An aging population and a steady increase in the need for treatment of chronic ailments have created a sharp increase in demand for medical professionals, with the health care industry the fastest growing sector of Western economies, with tens of thousands of new jobs opening each year . Family nurse practitioners fill a critical role in both emergency and long-term medical care, providing prevention, treatment, and support throughout the entire lifespan of their patients.
Workplace and Salary
Family nurse practitioners have freedom and flexibility in their employment options.
- Physician’s Offices (48 percent)—The expanded education and skills a nurse practitioner develops make them an important addition to a doctor’s private practice. Family nurse practitioners may apply medical treatment and make diagnoses, allowing the practitioner to service the needs of a patient completely. In some states, nurse practitioners can operate without guidance from a medical doctor, and the nurse can run his or her own private office .
- Hospitals and Outpatient Clinics (35 percent)—Highly specialized nurse practitioners, especially those in oncology, cardiology, and pediatrics, are recruited by hospitals and outpatient clinics. Practitioners in hospital settings supplement care from doctors, playing an invaluable role in surgery, emergency care, and physical therapy.
- Education and Research (3 percent)—Some medical practitioners choose to work in research environments or training programs for other nurses. Nurses who want to pursue a career in academics or research must achieve at least a master’s degree in nursing practice, though most colleges and universities do require a doctorate in nursing practice for a full-time faculty position .
The salary for family nurse practitioners varies according to their workplace and their area of specialization, but the median salary rose to over $104,000 in 2015. The lowest 10 percent of practitioners averages $71,000, while the top 10 percent of earners make more than $170,000 .
Day in the Life of a Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners must be self-motivated and able to work with a minimal level of supervision. The practitioner crafts a basic treatment plan for each of the patients throughout the day, including confirmation of the patient’s medication and scheduling the appropriate tests, while coordinating with any other medical professional involved in the treatment.
Family nurse practitioners have a deep insight into the lives of their patients. A family nurse practitioner often serves as a supplement or replacement for a traditional family doctor, so the patient turns to the family nurse practitioner for most of their aches, pains, and ailments. By maintaining a long-term relationship with the patient, family nurse practitioners are better equipped to see trends and spot deviations than a medical professional who has only seen the patient once or twice.
In order to become a family nurse practitioner, candidates must complete several levels of education and experience.
- Become a registered nurse—Most practitioners begin their careers as registered nurses, entering the field after completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. Beginning this way allows nurses to receive years of practical experience while they earn their college hours.
- From RN to BSN—The second stage is completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. A BSN expands the number of procedures and decisions a nurse is allowed to make, and provides instruction in office management. Fortunately, most schools offer training options that allow nurses to continue to work while they earn their bachelor’s degree.
- From BSN to MSN—A master’s degree in nursing is required for certification as a nurse practitioner. Most programs last 1.5 to 4 years, and may be completed in-person or online, based on the program. Programs encourage nurses to continue working while they learn, and some give credit for clinical experience. With an MSN, nurses gain the education and experience necessary to take a leadership role in a clinical environment or private practice .
- Work Experience–Throughout the pursuit of education, potential family nurse practitioners must continue to gain work experience in their desired field of work.
- Gain specialization—While in graduate school, nurses can choose to add unique specializations to their degree that prepare them for the rigors and opportunities of specialized fields of medicine.
- Certification—The final step is licensing by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or other certifying authorities. The licensing procedure varies by state.
Employment growth for nurse practitioners is expected to be at least 31 percent for the next ten years. This high rate of growth exceeds nearly every other specialization, including nurse anesthetists (22 percent), midwives (29 percent), and gerontology (20 percent) . The explosive growth in employment for nurse practitioners makes the field an attractive option for those who want to enter the health care industry or advance to a leadership position.
Family nurse practitioners play a major role in today’s health care field. The responsibilities of FNPs have evolved alongside that of physicians, which means additional opportunities, autonomy, and authority. At Regis, our online Master of Science in Nursing FNP degree can help you develop the specialized skill set you need to practice at the advanced level.