Navigating the world of healthcare can be tough enough without adding confusion about titles and roles. While the nurse practitioner profession continues to grow, many people aren’t familiar with what family nurse practitioners do and the services they offer. Today, we look at the role of family nurse practitioners and the care they can provide for you and your family.
What’s a Nurse Practitioner?
For those unfamiliar with the profession, nurse practitioners are healthcare providers who deliver a blend of nursing and medical care, focusing equally on treating and on educating patients.
Nurse practitioners can help patients to manage acute or long-term, chronic illnesses, and have been found to have primary care outcomes as good as or superior to those of physicians. They conduct physical exams, perform diagnostic tests and procedures, and can write prescriptions in all 50 states.
You can read more about the role of nurse practitioners in healthcare here.
What is the Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Building relationships with and caring for families is at the heart of the family nurse practitioner profession. Nurse practitioners specializing in family practice can diagnose, examine, and treat patients of all ages, from childhood to adulthood, much like a family doctor.
In addition, family nurse practitioners are committed to educating patients on disease prevention and promoting positive, healthy behaviors for all developmental stages. Because nurse practitioners closely work with their patients to understand their needs, concerns, and lifestyles and to guide their patients in living healthy lifestyles, many patients find themselves able to develop trusting, familiar relationships with their family nurse practitioners.
Some family nurse practitioners work with or under physicians in private practices, while others work at community treatment centers or walk-in clinics. Although nurse practitioners’ scope of practice varies by state law, family nurse practitioners in some states may operate their own private family practices.
“We’re in the role of helping people get well and stay healthy,” explains Dr. Cherie Howk, a family nurse practitioner and faculty member at South University, Online Programs. “We’re not replacing physicians; we are augmenting that practice.”
As demand continues to grow for medical services from aging baby boomers and those newly insured by recent healthcare reform, the laws regarding independent practice for family nurse practitioners are likely to continue evolving. In medically underserved populations with a shortage of physicians, family nurse practitioners can fill an important community need and many nursing organizations support nurse practitioners gaining more professional autonomy.
“There are a lot of primary care positions that need to be filled, especially in rural areas, that aren’t being filled by physicians,” explains Dr. Howk. “Nurse practitioners are stepping up and taking care of patients in areas that don’t have primary care providers.”
What Education Do Family Nurse Practitioners Have?
All family nurse practitioners have achieved licensure and credentialing well beyond what is required to work as registered nurses (RNs). To practice, all nurse practitioners also complete a graduate education and some earn additional post graduate certificates and even doctoral degrees. Throughout their career, nurse practitioners also complete courses in support of continuing their education and growing their knowledge in the healthcare field.
To learn more about this career, find more articles about nurse practitioners on our blog, or explore our Nursing programs, including those designed to prepare students for careers as Nurse Practitioners.
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