Some experienced licensed nurses who already are practicing in the health care field are headed back to school to become family nurse practitioners.
Isn’t being a registered nurse already a fulfilling career? What does an experienced nurse stand to gain?
What are the differences between a nurse practitioner and a registered nurse?
A registered nurse (RN) holds a diploma, an associate degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. A family nurse practitioner (FNP) must have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and clinical education above that required for an RN.
RNs are qualified to practice in a variety of settings. They must be licensed by the state in which they practice and maintain continuing education. FNPs must be licensed as an RN and as an advanced practice nurse (APN) by the state in which they practice. They also must obtain national certification in their specialty area and meet continuing education requirements.
Typically, an RN provides holistic care to patients and their families. Depending on the area of practice, their focus may be on direct patient care, education, health promotion and/or disease prevention.
FNPs provide primary care to patients. They are experts at assessing (through history and physical examination), diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses. Depending on each state’s nurse practice act, FNPs may practice independently or in collaboration with a physician.
Why would an experienced nurse take on so much additional responsibility?
The average salary of an RN is $65,470. A nurse practitioner averages $92,670 annually. Of course, salary varies by region and specialty, but according to U.S.News & World Report, the top 25 percent earn $110,130 and the lower 25 percent make $80,560.
Both RNs and FNPs can work in acute care, long-term care, clinics, schools and community agencies. RNs provide direct patient care, and FNPs provide primary and specialized health care.
While job growth for RNs is expected to be a little over 19 percent, the need for FNPs is expected to grow by 31 percent. The Affordable Care Act has much to do with this forecast, as the increase in the number of families covered by insurance has increased the need for primary health care providers.
FNPs may lower the cost of health care by educating their patients about health promotion and disease prevention. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, individuals who see FNPs for their primary care typically have fewer emergency room visits and shorter hospital stays.
There are many reasons an experienced nurse might choose to become an FNP, but perhaps the greatest is the personal satisfaction that comes from making a difference in patients’ lives.