Nurses vary greatly in terms of the amount of education they have and what kind of treatment they are able to offer their patients.
The highest nurse in the nursing food chain is the nurse practitioner, sometimes called NP. Unlike other nurses, NPs can prescribe and adjust their patients medications, and can perform a wider array of lab tests. In other words, short of surgery or specialized medicine, a nurse practitioner can do many of the same things that a doctor can do.
A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a nurse practitioner who specializes in general family medicine, and FNPs are often the sole healthcare provider in many small towns and rural areas in the United States. Through routine screenings and checkups, if the FNP finds something in a patient that requires a specialist, he or she can easily refer the patient to an MD. But run-of-the-mill health problems, as well as health education and preventative health, can be handled by the nurse practitioner in his or her office.
Family nurse practitioners work in numerous settings, including clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. Many have their own private practices, especially in small town areas. In these small towns, much of an FNPs work focuses on preventative medicine and education, trying to teach patients to make healthy lifestyle choices or lifestyle changes in order to prevent disease.
Requirements for Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners require a master's degree in nursing, or MSN. Some nurse practitioners are RNs who take post-baccalaureate work to become an NP. Generally, nurse practitioners must complete at least five to six years of higher education. Four of these years will be spent completing a bachelor's degree in nursing, and one or two additional years for completing either post-baccalaureate degrees or master's degrees. Like all nurses, once NPs gain their degrees, they must pass a board exam.
Almost all nurse practitioner programs require that their candidates have spent time working as an RN first, usually at least for one to two years. Most MSN programs also generally prefer nurses who completed a bachelor's degree in nursing, rather than an associate's degree.
Becoming a nurse practitioner can be quite costly: $20 - $27,000 for a bachelor's degree and an additional $15 - $20,000 for a master's degree is about average.
Job Prospects for FNPs
However, all this education does eventually provide a significant return on investment; family nurse practitioners are some of the best-paid nurses in the field. An average FNP earns $70 - $80,000 per year, and some FNPs earn six figure incomes. By comparison, a highly skilled RN earns around $65,000 per year.
As with most other fields of nursing, family nurse practitioners are in high demand. At least for the time being, the job prospects for FNPs are very good.
Reference: Michael Morales is an EMT - Paramedic and program director for Vital Ethics Inc., providing basic and advanced life support training and certification programs to health care professionals. www.vitalethics.org/lpn-rn-schools-programs-10.html
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