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Nursing School & Career: Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

A wide variety of nursing degrees exist within the nursing field. Unlike medical doctors, who all go through similar medical training and choose specialize in a particular field towards the end of their training during their internships and residencies, nursing education varies greatly depending upon the level of nursing care a nurse wishes to be able to administer. The most basic level of nursing care is a CNA, or Certified Nursing Assistant. CNAs are essentially blue-collar positions that help with basic care of patients, such as changing bed pans, assisting patients with showering and dressing, assisting patients getting to and from the toilet, and assisting higher level nurses. The next level of nursing care is an LPN, or Licensed Practical Nurse. An LPN is certified to give more care than a CNA and receives a higher salary. LPNs are found most frequently in nursing home facilities, where patients require basic but constant care. An RN, or Registered Nurse, can provide a higher level of care still. One of the main responsibilities of an RN on a hospital floor is to administer patients with the correct dosage and timing of medication.

Finally, there is the Nurse Practitioner, the highest level of education and practice a nurse can achieve. A Nurse Practitioner can provide nearly the same level of care as a medical doctor, even prescribing medication to patients. There are different types of Nurse Practitioners, including Nurse Practitioners who specialize in women’s health, neonatal and pediatric care, geriatric care, and general family medicine.

In many small towns across America, it is the local Family Nurse Practitioner (or FNP), rather than a medical doctor, who provides healthcare for the community. Many families rely upon FNPs as their primary healthcare providers. These Nurse Practitioners are still supervised by medical doctors; often times, an FNP will refer a patient to a doctor or a specialist if the medical problem is beyond his/her expertise, but the FNPs have a greater ability to help patients make important medical decisions.

 

 

Nurse Practitioner Education

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner usually requires a Master’s Degree in Nursing, or MSN. There are also some programs with post-baccalaureate degrees to become a Nurse Practitioner – a degree for someone who already has a Bachelor’s Degree but does not wish to complete an entire Master’s Program. All in all, Nurse Practitioners can expect to complete five to six years of higher education – four years receiving a Bachelor’s degree, and one to two additional years either completing post-baccalaureate programs to increase their level of certification, or receiving an MSN degree. Also, like other nurses, FNPs also have to pass a national certification exam.

To summarize, the general educational path of a Nurse Practitioner generally goes something like this:

- First, a Nurse Practitioner must obtain a traditional, four-year Bachelor’s Degree.
- Second, a Nurse Practitioner passes the licensing degree of a Registered Nurse and begins to work as an RN.
- Third, the Nurse Practitioner returns to school to obtain his or her Master’s Degree in nursing. Some MSN degree programs require RN experience first, while others do not. Furthermore, in general the MSN programs look for candidates whose Bachelor’s Degree is in nursing.
- Finally, the Nurse Practitioner chooses a specialty area (such as becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner or a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner) and takes national licensing exams for his or her specialty area.

All this education can be costly; on average, expect to pay $20 - $27,000 for a Bachelor’s Degree and another $15 - $20,000 for a Master’s Degree.

 

Family Nurse Practitioner Employment & Salary

Family Nurse Practitioners work in a wide variety of settings, from clinics and hospitals to nursing homes. As previously mentioned, FNPs are increasingly becoming primary healthcare providers for families, especially in areas where there is less access to large healthcare facilities. As such, FNPs focus much of their work with their patients on health education and prevention, helping patients to make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent disease.

Unlike other nurses, FNPs are more involved in the process of diagnosis and choosing a path of treatment. They collect information from their patients through similar interview processes and lab tests that doctors use, and like doctors, they can prescribe medication to their patients.

Job Statistics about Family Nurse Practitioners

FNPs earn significantly more than their nursing counterparts. The average FNP can expect to earn $70,000 to $80,000 per year. By comparison, CNAs earn as low as $15,000 and as much as $30,000 per year; LPNs earn between $32,000 and $42,000 per year; and RNs earn $52,000 to $65,000 per year. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Nurse Practitioner field in general is expected to grow significantly in upcoming years, as an ever-increasing population outstrips the supply of medical doctors, and more families turn to Nurse Practitioners to be the new “town doctor”.

 

 

 

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