People in the medical field are known as caregivers, nurturers, and custodians of health and wellness, and this is certainly true for nurses. Nurses are often held in high esteem by doctors, surgeons and various medical staff because they have the human connection with patients which translates to specialized care. Doctors and surgeons are too busy to connect with their patients on a more personal level and rely heavily on nurses to convey what their patients are feeling or in need of. 

Doctors, surgeons, and specialists in any medical field simply cannot operate effectively without the aid of nurses. Medical care relies heavily on qualified and passionate nurses who go above and beyond the call of patient care. Family nurse practitioners are especially crucial to the healthcare industry as they are not only highly-skilled but take a family-based approach to healthcare. 

If you have ever heard of the term Family Nurse Practitioner or FNP, you may have wondered how these nurses differ in qualification, stature or specialty and why the need for FNPs exists? Or perhaps you have started out in your nursing career and would like to advance in the ranks, let us explore these questions in more detail. 

What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

A Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is a registered nurse who has completed a post-master’s degree in nursing, meaning they are advanced in their field of nursing. Generally, graduates who have completed a degree will qualify for a nurse practitioner certificate program which will certify them as an FNP. Family nurse practitioners can work on their own or with other healthcare providers in order to service patients with a holistic approach to care and wellbeing. Family nurse practitioners are highly sought after within healthcare because of their complete education which includes clinical training and experience, especially in family medicine.

Family medicine encompasses the entire family of a patient, ranging from infants to the elderly, and provides a holistic approach to treating patients. Family nurse practitioners understand the need for family members to be healthy, and that the health of one family member affects the entire family. FNPs often treat patients from the same family unit and can thereby recommend medical intervention and treatment plans that will benefit the family as a whole instead of just the patient alone. 

The emphasis of family-centric care means that family nurse practitioners deliver healthcare services such as diagnosis, health promotion, disease prevention, medical care and counseling for healthy to terminally ill patients. Therefore, these nurses focus on the family unit and associated care which provides a complete approach to healthcare and wellness. 

What Are Family Nurse Practitioners Qualified to Do?

FNPs are defined as the first point of contact with patients and are prepared for primary care focused healthcare in:

  • Neonatal care
  • Pediatric care
  • Adult care
  • Aged care
  • Family care
  • Oncology care
  • Mental healthcare
  • Women’s healthcare
  • Acute and Chronic conditions
  • Health promotion
  • Health education
  • Preventative care

Apart from surgery, FNPs are qualified to carry out many healthcare duties that a primary care physician does. NFPs work in a collaborative effort with specialists, physicians, pharmacists, and psychologists in order to provide the best in nursing healthcare possible. This collaboration within the medical industry is highly advantageous to both the industry and the patients. 

Community Outreach

The most important aspect of nursing can be put down to the care provided to communities by family nurse practitionersThe reality of clinical healthcare is highlighted by the needs of low-income communities who cannot afford medical insurance or are underinsured. The need for family nurse practitioners in these community establishments is crucial as they provide expert care for patients who may not normally seek medical intervention because they simply cannot afford it. 

Family nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat simple ailments to complex or life-threatening conditions because of their advanced experience and education. Lower-income earners, therefore, have access to great healthcare and advice which they would otherwise not be able to afford. Often, poorer patients will not seek healthcare for long periods of time, because affordability prevents them from receiving optimal care when they need it most. The importance of family nurse practitioners in these communities is crucial and much-needed. 

Primary Care

Primary care is defined as day-to-day healthcare within the medical system and is typically serviced by medical doctors and family nurse practitioners. Primary care includes health promotion, maintenance, and counseling, disease prevention, patient education as well as the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. 

Chronic and acute illnesses can be diagnosed and treated by family nurse practitioners with an emphasis on care and counseling of these conditions long-term with the patient and their family. Family nurse practitioners are therefore primary care providers (PCP) who can also determine if patients need surgical or specialty care and therefore refer patients to these specialists for further intervention. Primary care can be conducted in hospitals, community centers or clinics servicing communities. 

FNPs are especially crucial in closing the gap between the diminished availability of primary care physicians within the medical sector, which is one of the various needs for these highly trained and skilled nurses within medicine. Although FNPs do not exist to replace medical doctors, they are able to provide high-quality care at reduced costs to patients in need.

Hospitals and Clinics

Another need for FNPs arises in healthcare within hospitals and clinics. Administrative leadership and associated responsibilities are taken up by FNPs as their invaluable skills and experience with regards to patient care is unprecedented in these establishments. Nurse practitioners are encouraged to open and operate private care facilities in order to service communities on a larger scale. 

FNPs are successful in private care facilities as their extensive wealth of knowledge, medicinal skills and practice serve their patients well. Private practice FNPs, however, will need to shoulder additional responsibilities in addition to healthcare such as the administrative and operational requirements in order to run a proper healthcare facility. 

Clinics in underserved communities are an additional need that can be served by family nurse practitioners, as these communities are often overlooked when it comes to healthcare, disease prevention, healthcare education, and treatment. Women’s health especially benefits from the placement of FNPs within inner-city or rural clinics, as gynecology and associated women care is extremely expensive for women who do not have health insurance. 

The Difference in Care

Various studies have indicated that the care that FNPs provide to both patients and the healthcare system is invaluable and impacts directly on the decrease of patients being admitted to hospital, needing surgery, or requiring specialist care. High-quality medical care at affordable rates means that members of the community can see a medical professional for treatment, thereby preventing further complications or healthcare needs. This, in turn, alleviates the pressure on specialists and surgeons who can attend to more cases on their overly full schedules. 

In-home care requires FNPs that can visit patients who are unable to travel for various medical reasons. The high-quality of healthcare provided by FNPs doing home visits minimizes the travel and waiting time for a patient that needs immediate care. Many patients require this service as they are either too ill or frail to travel. FNPs doing house-calls takes the risk of further sustained injury or stress to the patient out of the equation and prevents the possible risk of infection transmission during the process. 

Home-care FNPs are not bound by schedules or appointments and can thus dedicate the proper time needed to assist the patient until they are satisfied enough to leave. This level of care is not possible without home visits or hospitalization which once again closes a very important healthcare gap in the system. 

As FNPs usually work with individuals on a long-term basis and know their family history, they are better equipped to diagnose and treat patients by involving the family and occasionally the community. The shortage of general practitioners (GPs) able to conduct home visits means that FNPs easily fill this gap and provide a much-needed service to their communities. It is very rare for doctors to visit patients at their homes due to scheduling conflicts and the rising need for GPs at medical institutions. 

Palliative care is the healthcare-associated with terminally ill patients and the effect it has on their families. Family nurse practitioners are especially well-equipped to provide healthcare advice and care for not only the patient but the family too. FNPs are highly skilled nurses who can adapt to the healthcare demands of palliative patients and provide support and care for their families too. The difference in this type of care is what sets the physicians and nurse practitioners apart. 

With the increasing demand for both physicians and nurse practitioners in the world, it is little wonder that FNPs are so highly sought after. One only needs to look at their skills and expertise to understand their worth within the medical industry and the communities in which they operate. Without family nurse practitioners, the healthcare industry will surely buckle under the pressure of a system not well supported, as collaboration and teamwork is the key. 

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