What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

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A Family Nurse Practitioner, who may also be referred to by the acronym FNP, is a registered nurse with specialized educational and clinical training in family practice. Nurse practitioners have a higher degree of training, in both the classroom and clinical setting, than Registered Nurses do, although becoming an RN is a prerequisite.

Family Nurse Practitioners in particular are trained to work with both children and adults, most often in the context of a family practice or clinical setting. FNPs work with patients on maintaining health and wellness over the long term with a particular focus on preventative care. Many FNPs also choose to work in underserved populations and communities.

An FNP may work under the direct supervision of a physician. More and more states, however, are allowing FNPs to work independently due to an extreme lack of doctors, particularly in the area of family practice.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

A Family Nurse Practitioner received practical and educational experience in working with a variety of populations, since the patients at a family practice can be extremely diverse. This also means the Family Nurse Practitioner scope of practice is quite broad. FNPs monitor health and wellness, as well as treat minor acute illnesses, for people of all ages. This can differ quite a bit from some of the other Nurse Practitioner specialties, which focus on pediatrics, gerontology, or mental health.

In addition to age diversity, FNPs often work in underserved communities. Family Nurse Practitioners are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the population of the community they serve as well as the challenges faced by their patients that live there. With a deeper understanding of the community they serve

Most FNPs work in ambulatory clinics, whether that means a community clinic or a private practice. This is quite different from critical care Nurse Practitioners who largely work in hospital settings, although both must be prepared to see a number of different issues and cultures.

Family Nurse Practitioners are often responsible for compiling and tracking the health histories of one or more members of a family for a long period of time. This means becoming intimately familiar with all the details of that family’s history and being able to communicate with them clearly and compassionately. Many FNPs find this type of long-term relationship extremely rewarding, as do their patients.

Skills & Personality Traits of a Successful Family Nurse Practitioner

As with any Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner, a certain set of skills and personality traits are useful when pursuing a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Because FNPs work so closely with patients, and may work with the same patients through many stages of their lives, empathy and communication are two essential skills. Further, because FNPs are often a primary line of defense when it comes to acute illnesses and overall wellness, they should be extremely organized and able to track issues over time with regard to medication interactions and other challenges.

Unlike other Nurse Practitioners, most FNPs do not work in high stress critical care environments. Although managing stress is always important, particularly when it comes to working with children who may be frightened, it is a less important skill in the Family Nurse Practitioner role than it is for other NP specialties.

Family Nurse Practitioner Role Requirements

The difference between NPs and RNs is in both education and experience. In order to qualify as a Family Nurse Practitioner, a nurse must have at minimum a Master’s degree. In the future, it will be a requirement that all nurse practitioners earn a doctorate level degree before becoming certified as an NP but as of now, only a Master’s degree is required.

Aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners may choose to attend a program with a focus on that particular specialty. However, some NP programs are more general and do not offer a special track for FNPs. In this case, those wishing to go the route of FNP may have to seek further clinical experience upon graduation in order to obtain the necessary knowledge to pursue FNP certification.

Upon completing his or her education, an FNP can obtain certification in family practice from either the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Both certifications require an application fee as well as an exam. Nurses that pass the exam are then able to advertise themselves as certified FNPs.

The status of Family Nurse Practitioner is not one in which there is very much vertical movement. Rather, experienced FNPs may be allotted more responsibilities by their supervising physician, or may build a clientele and be able to open an independent practice. There is no official educational or experiential requirement for this. Instead, Family Nurse Practitioners are free to seek employment wherever there is a need for their skills.

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