Being knowledgeable about technology opens many doors. It’s broadly applicable to different careers which provides flexibility to study for a variety of interesting positions. When you discover that you’re a people person where technology tends to be isolating, it presents a bit of a dilemma though. However, if you’re also someone who’s technical with a head for details, good at managing multiple priorities in a given day,and you like a challenge, then you might want to consider working in the healthcare field.
The role of a family nurse practitioner is one of the top 10 jobs according to aU.S. News & World Report. It’s a position that is well remunerated, with improved independence from micro-management, and considerablejob satisfaction within the role.
In this article, we cover what it is to be a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and why it might interest someone technically minded who’s also an outgoing person.
Family Nurse Practitioner 101
The family nurse practitioner works as a highly advanced medical nurse. This person will have qualified as a registered nurse (RN) having gone through the relevant education to qualify for the medical profession.
An FNP is a more advanced practicing nurse who typically has attained a relevant master’s degree or possibly even a doctorate in a nursing subject. There’s clinical work and a more vigorous certification to qualify as an FNP. This goes well beyond what someone studied to become a nurse.
A family nurse practitioner is trained in different areas such as psychiatric health, acute care, women’s health, and other specialist fields. While there are nurse practitioners who also work in healthcare, they have a broader remit, whereas an FNP technically is a subspecialty where family care is given a far higher priority.
If you’re family oriented and want to care for patients whether they’re newborns or the elderly, you’ll fit right in. Indeed, when working in this area, you’ll often see the same patients through much of their lifecycle and maintain a connection with them.
Is the Job of Nurse Practitioner New?
When you’re thinking about how to become a family nurse practitioner, it’s natural to wonder how new this role is in the profession?
In fact, the broader job of a nurse practitioner has been in existence in the U.S. healthcare field since the 1960s. The broader remit given both to Medicaid and Medicare around this time which extended it to women on reduced incomes, senior citizens, children and those with disabilities, meant that nurse practitioners took on a greater role too.
With far more people to care for, there were insufficient physicians to care for everyone. While not true in every state, many states authorized nurse practitioners to undertake the care for the patients without physician supervision. This gave them greater independence, particularly within rural locations where the shortage of trained physicians was even more acute.
With the introduction of the Council of Primary Care Nurse Practitioners in 1974, and what is now called the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, in 1985, Nurse Practitioner certification exams set the standard and those qualifying were tracked in a searchable database.
Around the country, currently there are over 270,000 nurse practitioners who are licensed to work in the field with roughly two-thirds of them having gone into family programs. Since the year 2000, all nurse practitioners with a current license can work in any of the 50 states.
Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Choose to Work?
While you might think that an FNP only works at a hospital, that’s not entirely true. There are many different settings where an FNP can provide unique insights and assist in the care of different family members.
Here are just a few of the more common places of work:
- Local clinics–Working at a health clinic is growing in popularity for FNPs who are looking to get more in touch with the local community. Many people attend a clinic because it’s more affordable than a hospital, or because they enjoy a smaller healthcare facility. Building up a rapport with patients who live locally is possible in this environment too.
- Hospital – Contrary to what some people believe, not all FNPs decide to take a job at a hospital. Usually, additional education is required to qualify for specialist areas such as an emergency nurse or to provide acute care in order to be use of their nurse practitioner training in a different healthcare specialty.
- Non-emergency care – A healthcare facility that provides non-emergency care for patients is a regular employer of FNPs. They have the experience and background to treat sprains, broken bones, and other patient issues that don’t require an accident and emergency response.
- Own practice – A significant percentage of FNPs choose to provide patient care in clinics that treat outpatients. The FNP may directly provide care to their patients or in coordination with a physician who acts in a supervisory role. This is a situation where some states require a physician supervisor to be present whereas others do not have this stipulation.
- Education – Some family-oriented nurses who particularly enjoy working with children provide their medical care by being a nurse at an educational facility. For instance, some FNPs who have previously worked at a hospital in a pediatric ward, but want a slower pace later in their career, might opt for a nursing position on staff at a local school.
Key Responsibilities of an FNP
The family nurse practitioner enjoys a variety of responsibilities across the different types of work they engage in throughout their careers.
They will often be involved with seeing patients, diagnosing their symptoms, ordering tests, and deciding on treatment. Providing health-related knowledge to patients to prevent future medical issues is also part of their role too.
The responsibilities and degree of their autonomy depends on which state they operate in. Some permit the FNP to complete their patient review and diagnose, whereas others require a supervising physician. For FNPs who prefer to treat patients personally, they can opt to work in states that provide greater freedom to do their jobs.
In cooperating states, the FNP can also issue medical prescriptions, treat injuries, work with women on women’s health issues and treat chronic issues like diabetes too.
What Do FNP Careers Offer Compared to a Technology-based Career?
Unlike with a career as a software engineer, many FNPs have long careers that can go well into their 50s and 60s. There’s little concern about ageism in the healthcare field when compared to technology where younger is often looked at as “in touch” and most people in their 50s age out of the profession entirely. For anyone who’s worried about career longevity, this is a strong net positive for taking their technical mindset and caring nature to combine them into a more practical career.
While someone working in technology such as a graphics designer or programmer might earn $40,000-70,000, only skilled programmers working for major software companies see a consistent six-figure salary. Startups are plentiful, but the remuneration there is often lower initially with the carrot or stick options should the startup succeed; few startups survive to become a public company.
By contrast, the median salary for a nurse practitioner is over $100,000 as of 2017. While this is over $30,000 more annually than an RN, it’s also highly competitive with that of a software engineer too. Indeed, with an expected job growth of over 30 percent by 2026, there’s sufficient demand to keep FNPs gainfully employed without the bumpy employment offered in the tech profession. Healthcare continues on an expansion path – especially considering the baby boomer generation are getting older and requiring greater care – so, there’s no dotcom crash to be concerned about in this sector either.
What’s the Work/Life Balance Like?
Given the variety of working hours in different employment settings, the working hours vary from place to place.
For instance, a nurse in a school keeps earlier hours that might start closer to 8am, but likely finish earlier in the afternoon too. An FNP in a clinic may see different shifts from earlies to late ones depending on when the clinic is open to patients.
It’s certainly true that many roles work a more traditional nine to five, and an FNP can select a job based upon that. There are no crazy long hours like is common in some healthcare roles which can make the work/life balance a real challenge.
One of the benefits of studying to work as a family nurse practitioner is the freedom that it provides compared to a traditional nursing role. The remuneration and career path are certainly pleasing with a six-figure earning potential along with a long career for licensed nurses in this role. The variety of places to work and different activities in each job makes it possible for FNPs to adjust their work style, hours of work, and level of commitment depending on their life situation. There’s sufficient demand across the country for FNPs on staff, that relocating to more affordable or sunnier locales and resuming a career is not difficult at all. This helps with life planning, including the possibly of reducing down to part-time hours at some point in the future too.
Image Credits: Healthcare from S_L /Shutterstock