According to 2021 data from U.S. News & World Report, the role of nurse practitioner (NP) ranks third in best jobs and second in best healthcare jobs. NPs have become a vital part of the healthcare system, with a crucial role in providing high-quality, patient-centered healthcare to the widest possible range of patients. Among the many types of NPs, Family NPs (FNPs) are critical to improving access, quality and health care equity, especially in rural or inner-city areas.
Sometimes the terms FNP and primary care nurse practitioner (PCNP) are used interchangeably. Both provide primary care services to people of diverse ages and backgrounds. In addition, they may focus on a specialty area such as women's health services, oncology or urgent care.
What Is the Demand for FNPs?
FNPs help fill the gaps in healthcare from the uneven distribution of providers and a lack of extended care hours. The demand for FNPs is high due to many factors, including:
- Aging population
- Increase in chronic conditions
- Change in workforce
- Family primary care team-based practice
- More telehealth and portal communication
- Urgent care facility staffing
- Family or primary care physician shortage
- Faculty shortage
The United States Bureau for Labor Statistics predicts about 24,200 openings for nurse practitioners over the next decade. This demand is a 52% increase between 2019 and 2029. Workforce changes with more nurses retiring or changing careers, and severe nursing faculty shortages, contribute to lack of healthcare.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients need care all at once as they may have avoided or postponed care and routine screenings. As a result, many healthcare organizations are expanding FNP positions to extend weekday hours and Saturday appointments, improve patient portal responses and decrease prescription refill request times.
What Does an FNP Do?
The FNP is a licensed, certified, non-physician healthcare provider who provides patient care and often possesses delegated prescriptive authority. FNPs without independent practice authority follow the scope of practice by their supervising physician. Typically, FNPs can evaluate, diagnose, order and interpret tests and initiate and manage treatments, as well as prescribe medications.
NPs do not have the same practice and prescriptive authority in every state. Each state defines the scope of practice and what health professionals can and cannot do for patients. State guidelines address three policy areas: 1) practice authority 2) prescriptive authority and 3) identification as a primary care provider.
Most states allow only physicians to prescribe medication, but some consider NPs prescribers. Unlike physicians, some states require NPs to enter a business contract with physicians. This contract, called a collaborative agreement, can be a temporary (up to five years) or permanent restriction.
Depending on the state, different credentialing may be necessary to bill an insurance carrier. Medicare and Medicaid recognize most FNPs within healthcare systems.
What Are the 5 Steps to Becoming an FNP?
- Obtain your BSN. There are many academic pathways for an RN to obtain a BSN. Choose the pathway that makes most sense for you.
- Gain some experience. Although you can go directly from a BSN to MSN, having some work experience may help you find the exact fit after graduation. Furthermore, many programs require at least one or two years of work experience as a Registered Nurse prior to enrolling in an FNP program.
- Enroll in an accredited Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FNP program. You may find it easier to juggle work and home life with an online program, and a master's degree in nursing will only help you propel your career and increase your earning potential.
- Complete coursework and clinicals to graduate. Student clinical hours, also known as clinical practicums, provide students with guidance and supervision from a preceptor. Clinicals give students the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings with real patients.
- Study and take the national certification exam. FNP program graduates can sit for national certification through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Students who pass their certification boards exam can then practice as licensed advanced practice nurses.
What About FNPs in Arkansas and Tennessee?
Projections, shortages and salaries for FNPs vary. Both Arkansas and Tennessee have a diverse population with metropolitan areas and vast spaces of rural areas. The highest need for FNPs is in rural areas due to the shortage of physicians.
According to June 2021 data from Salary.com, the average NP salary for Arkansas is $103,361 and $101,819 for Tennessee. Many jobs pay bonuses in addition to a salary base, so these numbers do not match full earning potential. The highest demand for FNPs is in urgent care centers, and depending on experience, salaries can top over $200 per hour.
Today, consumers recognize the value of an NP and their vital role in healthcare services. As the focus changes from medical care to disease prevention and population health, NPs will continue to bring a comprehensive approach to each person's well-being. In addition, NPs practice with increased autonomy as more states move toward full practice authority. For example, Northwest states often allow full independent prescription authority to NPs, partly due to physicians' geographic challenges to supervise NPs. As a result, the Family Nurse Practitioner role is often the most flexible of the NP roles for job openings.
The high demand for and value of FNPs in the healthcare system mean graduates of an advanced nursing program have lucrative, promising job prospects. With an advanced degree and adherence to the five steps mentioned, you can be well on your way to a fulfilling career as a Family Nurse Practitioner.