Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work mainly in primary care, providing a wide range of valuable healthcare services. Their unique role means they see patients at all stages of life with a broad spectrum of health concerns. FNPs also have an important part to play in providing population-specific care for targeted groups and communities.
In this article, we will learn more about the diverse range of health services FNPs provide. We’ll also examine how their understanding of specific populations helps them deliver the best evidence-based care. If you’re intrigued by the role of an FNP, we’ll also explore how to train to become one.
Keep reading to discover more about working as an FNP and how these professionals offer high-quality care to patients from all walks of life.
What is an FNP?
An FNP is a highly trained and educated nurse who works autonomously to provide quality healthcare to their patients. Their degree of independence varies according to state regulations. One of their defining features is that they may offer many services that previously only a doctor could provide. This means that they can diagnose and treat health conditions, order tests, and prescribe medication to their patients.
In addition to treating illness and injury, they have a significant role in promoting health and well-being, so they offer advice on healthy lifestyles and provide vaccinations against disease, for example. Some FNPs specialize in a particular area of healthcare or section of the community, such as gerontology, which involves caring for older people, pediatrics or women’s health.
The role of FNP is one of the fastest growing in the states, as they plug gaps in healthcare provision. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation is set to grow by 45% over the period from 2022 to 2032. This makes them highly sought-after and respected professionals recognized as making a significant contribution to healthcare services.
What are the primary care services that FNPs provide?
Let’s take a closer look at the wide range of primary care services that FNPs provide. Before we begin, it’s important to understand that a nurse practitioner’s scope of practice may vary from state to state. The scope of practice has three main categories: full practice, reduced practice and restricted practice.
In full-practice states, nurse practitioners work independently and do not require any supervision. In reduced practice, they can perform some activities without supervision, while restricted practice means they must be supervised by a physician in all tasks.
The activities listed below are typical of the tasks a nurse practitioner may perform, with or without supervision:
One of the major parts of an FNP’s everyday practice is assessing patients who report to them with illness or injury. This will involve taking their medical history, asking questions about their current condition, carrying out a physical examination and assessing their vital signs, including respirations and heart rate.
Ordering and performing tests
To help them form a diagnosis, FNPs may perform or order tests. Tests that FNPs are likely to perform themselves include testing blood for glucose levels or urine for signs of urinary tract infections (UTIs). They may also order tests such as X-rays, ultrasound or MRI scans performed by other healthcare colleagues to learn more about a patient’s condition. Once the results of these tests are in, the FNP will analyze them and use the results to help form a diagnosis of their patient’s condition.
Creating treatment plans
When the FNP has diagnosed their patient, they will create a treatment plan to get them back to health. This may involve self-care at home, a referral to another healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or specialist, for their condition, or admission to the hospital. In the latter two cases, the FNP will coordinate care and liaise with other professionals as necessary.
If they are working in a full practice state, FNPs will be able to prescribe medication and other non-pharmacologic therapies to patients as part of their treatment plan.
Counseling and educating patients
A significant part of the FNP’s role is to counsel and educate patients about their health as part of their duty to promote well-being. This may involve providing guidance on diet and exercise and teaching techniques to achieve good mental health and well-being. As part of this scope, FNPs may refer patients to other services, such as weight loss programs or mindfulness and meditation activities.
Coordinating vaccination and screening programs
Vaccination is an important part of preventing disease. Part of the FNP’s role is to deliver vaccination programs. This may involve administering vaccines or referring their patients to other services, as appropriate. FNPs will also understand the importance of screening programs, ensuring their patients receive routine screening at the appropriate times.
Helping patients manage long-term conditions
FNPs have an important role to play in helping patients manage long-term conditions. They will support them with pain management strategies, reviewing medications and offering lifestyle advice to help them live well with their condition.
Getting involved in research programs
FNPs may also participate in research programs with the ultimate aim of providing the very best and latest evidence-based care for patients. They may lead research projects or aid others by acting as the link between researchers and patients.
How understanding population-specific care supports providing the best care
One significant feature of working in primary care as an FNP is the chance to provide targeted services to specific sectors of the patient population. Understanding differences and being aware of patients’ unique needs, as individuals or as part of a discrete population, are essential aspects of the FNP role. To achieve this, FNPs may specialize in population-specific roles, such as women’s or children’s health.
As part of their nurse practitioner training, FNPs study evidence-based care, which involves providing care based on the latest research and evidence to achieve the best patient outcomes. This is something that FNPs continue to learn about throughout their careers through self-study by attending professional events such as conferences and taking part in and leading research projects themselves.
FNPs act as the bridge between evidence-based research and translating it into the best care for specific patient groups. As part of their role, they naturally have a high level of interaction with patients and their families in community settings, which supports this.
As primary care providers, they develop long-term relationships with their patients, getting to know their individual health needs and also learning about the specific requirements of particular demographic groups.
They also have links with social services staff to ensure that patient’s social needs are met. In short, they employ a holistic approach to patient care and have a bird’s eye view of the health needs of specific populations. This means that they can seamlessly make the links between evidence-based practice and the application of care, understanding which new techniques and treatments are the best fit for specific patient groups.
Whether or not FNPs choose to specialize in administering care to a specific population, their training will ensure that they are aware of how a patient’s demographic can have implications for their health. In addition to caring for population-specific groups, FNPs will also be mindful of and sensitive to their patients’ different religious, cultural and socio-economic needs in all community sectors.
These areas are covered in training programs for FNPs, ensuring that they qualify with an enhanced awareness and understanding of addressing patients’ individual needs.
Through study, education, training, involvement in research projects and day-to-day interactions, FNPs are well-placed to understand the needs of specific patient groups and implement the most suitable evidence-based practices.
Training for a career in primary care
If the wide variety of tasks and contact with diverse populations that nurses encounter in primary care appeals to you, then consider training to become an FNP. Following this career path will enable you to practice your clinical skills while building relationships with patients of all ages and from different backgrounds over the long term. You’ll also learn how the best evidence-based care serves different patient groups and how it can be applied to day-to-day practice.
Suppose you’re already working as a nurse and wondering how to incorporate study into your busy schedule. In that case, you may wish to consider an online MSN FNP program at a reputable institution such as Spring Arbor University. This CCNE-accredited online program is designed for BSN-prepared nurses who want to expand their knowledge of evidence-based nursing practices. Students of this online BSN to MSN-FNP program delve deeply into learning how to provide primary care to patients of all ages.
This program can be completed in as little as 2.5 years and is ideal for working professionals who wish to upscale their skills and enhance their career opportunities. As it offers you the ability to take a course and then have a break before starting the next one, it can flex to suit your other commitments. This CCNE-accredited program will give you the training you need to work as an FNP, providing care to patients of all ages and from diverse backgrounds.
You’ll learn about population-specific care, the healthcare needs of underserved populations, and developing compassionate leadership skills. While coursework is completed online, you won’t be alone since you’ll receive one-to-one support throughout the program from a student success advisor.
Once you’ve graduated and taken the national FNP certification exam, you’ll be ready to embark on a new and exciting phase of your career, helping the communities who need you the most. Your skills as an FNP will be sure to sustain you throughout your career journey, giving you the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and specialize in caring for specific patient groups if you so desire.
As previously discussed, this role is very much in demand thanks to its ability to respond to the growing healthcare needs of the population and is set to continue expanding. It offers many opportunities alongside increased pay for highly trained professionals.
Help influence healthcare for the better.
Working in an FNP role is an extremely rewarding experience, offering the satisfaction of seeing patients of all ages and demographic groups thrive. It’s also a chance to directly influence healthcare for the better since highly trained FNPs may apply their understanding of evidence-based practice to the unique needs of specific patient groups.
As this role offers many opportunities to work in various settings and job security, given its predicted growth rate, it’s a wise choice for any aspiring nurse. If you see yourself helping to influence the direction of healthcare for the betterment of all communities, consider enrolling to earn an advanced degree and become a family nurse practitioner.