More than 140,000 family nurse practitioners serve patients in the U.S., according to research from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners collected in 2018. These medical professionals possess full practice authority in 23 states and have slightly more pared down clinical privileges in 15 others, the AANP found. FNPs are likely to make an even more pronounced impact in the years to come, as health care systems grapple with the growing shortage of primary care physicians, which could reach more than 43,000 by 2030, according to the American Medical Association.
For registered nurses looking to transition into FNP roles, the time to pursue advanced clinical opportunities is now.
Perhaps the most popular question is: “Where can I work as a family nurse practitioner?”
Here are some of the most common clinical environments employing modern FNPs:
U.S. hospitals began welcoming FNPs decades ago, Becker’s Hospital Review reported in 2017. Now, almost 50 percent of these medical professionals hold hospital admitting privileges, with more than 11 percent permitted to facilitate long-term care regimens, according to AANP data from 2018. Why are these traditional health care centers so keen to embrace FNPs? They solve one major problem affecting hospitals of all sizes: operational fragmentation.
These institutions often employ health care workers with highly specialized skill sets. While this ensures that patients interact with top-level professionals who have the specific training to meet their needs, it also lays the groundwork for slowdowns and pauses in treatment, as hospital staff struggle to connect over committed clinical talent with those in need. FNPs ameliorate this situation, for they have the multifaceted skills needed to perform multiple clinical roles. For example, an FNP might be able to facilitate more seamless patient journeys by making diagnoses, drafting care plans, ushering their charges through critical procedures and prescribing medications – duties that three or more medical professionals might take on in an entirely fragmented workflow.
This versatility has made FNPs mainstays at many hospitals and makes it likely that administrators will continue to hire them in the coming years as the primary care physician shortage worsens. However, it is important to note that the practice of FNPs is dependent on the hospital or institution.
While the declining number of qualified doctors has affected patients across the U.S., those living in rural locations are more likely to be affected. In these isolated areas, the doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 39.8 physicians to every 100,000 residents, according to data from the National Rural Health Association gathered in 2016. By contrast, the average American city maintains a doctor-to-patient ratio of 53.3 physicians to every 100,000 residents.
Poverty plays a big role in this disparity. Rural residents tend to be poorer compared to their city-dwelling neighbors, analysts for the U.S. Census Bureau found in 2016. The current poverty rate for nonmetro areas is 16.9 percent, while 13.6 percent of families in cities live below the poverty line. The depressed nature of the economies in rural areas discourages doctors from launching local practices and prevents hospitals from subsidizing world-class care. This situation has forced health systems and local, state and federal entities to launch clinics to cover the gaps in care. And, in most cases, FNPs are at the center of these vital operations, according to the National Council of State Legislators.
These professionals leverage their immense skill sets to coordinate high-level care for the most vulnerable populations. Patients not only receive optimal medical care but also pay less than they would if seen by a physician. One study published in the Health Services Research Journal revealed that most rural patients who worked with FNPs in local clinics saw medical expense reductions of almost 30 percent.
This kind of clinical environment is beneficial for FNPs as well. Another study published in Medical Care Research and Review showed that the vast majority of FNPs found great satisfaction working in rural areas, as they could use their practice authority to the fullest extent and make a demonstrable impact on the lives of their patients.
Nearly 13 percent of all FNPs operating nationwide work in or run private practices, according to AANP from 2018. These medical professionals get the most they can out of their practice authority by developing large patient pools and coordinating effective treatment plans comparable to any formulated in private physician practices or hospital general medicine departments.
Like doctors, FNPs also cultivate collaborative relationships with surrounding health care providers and prescribe medications, with the average FNP writing 23 scripts per day, the AANP found in 2018.
In recent years, commercial pharmacies have begun expanding their offerings, providing in-store medical services to go along with medication fulfillment. Today, an estimated 2,805 retail clinics are operating in the U.S., according to research from Accenture collected in 2017. That figure is likely to grow, as local communities embrace these one-stop shops where medical care and medication meet.
FNPs play critical roles in these establishments, researchers for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discovered in 2015. Their wide-ranging skill sets and prescriptive powers make them the ideal health care professionals to staff retail clinics.
Finding the right environment
Prospective FNPs yearning for more fulfilling work can find it in the aforementioned clinical spaces. Of course, before pursuing opportunities in these spaces, aspiring FNPs must gain the requisite graduate education – something 97 percent of working FNPs possess, according to the AANP.
The online Master of Science in Nursing Program – Family Nurse Practitioner at Bradley University is the ideal instructional track for RNs with their sights set on FNP positions. Potential students can learn more about the program at the Bradley University website.