Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner: What to Expect

There are a number of specialisms and career progression options available to registered nurses (RN). A popular choice, however, is to become a Nurse Practitioner specializing in primary care (FNP).

If you’re looking to boost your career or have already started the journey to becoming an FNP, we’re discussing what the job entails and what you can expect from the profession.

What does a Nurse Practitioner do?

Nurse practitioners work in a number of areas within the healthcare sector. They can specialize in areas such as pediatrics and acute care or work with patients suffering from mental health and psychiatric conditions. Practitioners can also go on to work in their own family practice. There is becoming an increasing number of states in the US that allow FNPs to have full practice authority in the hope that this balances out the distinct shortage of primary care physicians in the country. Many FNPs are able to become self-employed, opening the door to plenty of lucrative career choices.

The difference between a registered nurse and a practitioner is their authority. FNPs are able to care for patients without additional supervision. In most cases, they can do check-ups and physicals and prescribe medications and diagnose patients.

How can nurses become practitioners?

A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). They’ll have already qualified with a Master’s or doctorate in nursing and will have taken and passed their national licensure exam.

As well as their academic qualifications, practitioners also need to complete a number of clinical placements to help them transition into their new roles.

Click here for info about how you can study your MSN Family Nurse Practitioner qualification online.

Owning your own career development

It’s no secret that promotions or changes in careers can be difficult to manage. Becoming an NP is no different. While there will be several crossovers between the roles of RN and practitioner, the change will still require flexibility and the ability to adapt quickly. Finding ways to manage the change and prioritize self-care along the way is the first step to ensuring you’re as successful as possible in your new career.

The biggest change for RNs that join the workforce as practitioners is the step back in their expertise. As a registered nurse, it’s easy to get into a routine where daily tasks seem second nature. As a nurse, you might have had all the knowledge you needed at your disposal. But Nurse Practitioners will spend a lot of their first year learning new skills, mastering new tasks and routines, and developing new solutions and instincts to problems head-on.

But that doesn’t mean that your years as an RN are redundant. In fact, they’ll prepare you for the world of FNPs much better. You’ll already be equipped with the skills to interact and care for patients, and you’ll already have built up the focus and endurance needed for a role in a fast-paced medical field.

Those that have access to a formal orientation process in their first year as an NP should take the opportunity and run with it. Not all health organizations offer this orientation process, but research suggests that those that are able to take part in training or orientation have a more positive experience in their first year on the job.

If the orientation isn’t available in your area, you might be expected to dive into the deep end only. Being prepared and knowing what support is going to be available in advance is important so that you can take matters into your own hands and take charge of your own development.

To help you build your own support network, there are plenty of online nursing community forums available to join. Alternatively, you could try to speak to other people within your field to help you navigate your new role. If you’re using your new FNP qualification to switch health care facilities, enquire about structured guidance before applying for new roles.

What can I expect in my new role?

While the lack of guidance can seem daunting, there are lots of positives to transitioning from RN to NP.

According to the US News and World Report, nurse practitioners ranked number 5 in the best 100 jobs of 2020. And, as the demand for new NPs is so high, you’ll enjoy a huge playing field of job opportunities to choose from. The number of jobs available for NPs is also expected to increase by 28% by the year 2028 – making the overall growth rate of the health industry five times higher than other professions.

NPs that focus or specialize in primary care could potentially go on to having their own practices across the country, too. With the shortage of physicians across the States, FNPs will continue to be in high demand, with 50,000 physician roles to fill by 2030.

Family nurse practitioners hold the skills and knowledge to treat patients across a variety of age groups. As such, more and more FNPs are being used to bridge the gaps in access to healthcare in rural areas where GPs or services are few and far between.

Nurse practitioners can also enjoy a significant boost to their salary potential. On average, NPS can make an annual income of around $109,820, while their RN counterparts make $73,000. And, the more experience you gain, the more pay increase you’re likely to see.

Although the paycheque is very rarely the reason people get into healthcare professions, combined with high job satisfaction rates and the never-ending list of progression routes to take, those that choose a career as a Nurse Practitioner can create a hugely rewarding career for themselves.

Taking the plunge to become a nurse practitioner is both scary and exciting. Thanks to the number of online courses now available, transitioning from RN to FNP has never been easier, and there’s no time like the present to start exploring your options. You’ll have more autonomy and the chance to help more patients, which can be incredibly rewarding.

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