Nurse practitioners have exploded onto the scene due to the growing demand for medical professionals by an aging population and the increased awareness of preventative health and close monitoring of health conditions.
They’re also in demand because the AMA capped medical school slots in the 1990s. So, nurse practitioners became the de facto replacements for the doctors we don’t have enough of and need even more of. Nurse practitioners can specialize in areas like anesthesia and pediatrics, but family care, also known as general practice, is an ideal choice. Here are six reasons you should consider becoming a family nurse practitioner.
We already mentioned the high demand for doctors created by the AMA limiting medical school slots, thus restricting the supply of doctors. Another challenge for patients is the fact that the few medical school graduates have their choice of lucrative programs, and many choose better-paying jobs like obstetrics, cosmetic surgery or medical specialties like cardiology over family practice. So, there are fewer doctors coming into family practice than retiring from it. This is causing FNP pay rates to grow faster than the general pay rate for nurse practitioners.
Family nurse practitioners reported an average annual salary of just under $96,000 in 2015. Median pay was just under $90,000 in 2018, though that number is pulled down by newer graduates working for around $80,000 relative to the few who work in urgent care centers or fully replace doctors in states where they can do everything a doctor does. For example, the average FNP salary is higher in states where they can work without a physician’s supervision. This is a step up for many nurses since they must always work under the supervision of a doctor.
At the top of the scale are nurse practitioners earning $120,000 a year. In any case, you’ll earn far more than you would as just a registered nurse.
The Social Benefits
Family practice professionals are the people we see when we’re sick. They’re the experts we consult when something is wrong, but we have no idea what it is. When you’re a family nurse practitioner, you’re literally treating everyone for everything. Of course, there will be referrals to medical specialists as necessary. However, you’re the front line of defense when it comes to public health and the first person your patients see for help barring a visit to the emergency room. And every so often, you save lives by referring someone who does need to go to the emergency room.
In small towns and poorer communities, nurse practitioners fill in the gaps in the public health system, providing healthcare when there may not be physicians in family medicine. Medical systems are also hiring nurse practitioners actively because they earn a significant amount less than physicians. This lowers the cost of care for patients without impacting the quality of care. Nearly 300 nurse-run clinics in the country were set up specifically to provide primary and preventative care in communities that otherwise don’t have affordable care.
In short, your work makes a real difference for everyone in the community.
The Working Conditions
Family nurse practitioners enjoy some of the best working conditions NPs face. You can work in any doctor’s office or wellness center. You could work in an urgent care center, knowing that you are treating people before they need to go to the ER and may not have anywhere else to go for care. You could work in a hospital providing assessments and referring people to specialists as necessary. You could work in a pediatric office with children of any age or assist patients in nursing homes. You’re in demand as a telehealth professional, providing wellness calls and online consultations.
You’ll be able to find a job in small rural clinics, suburban doctor’s offices or large hospitals. You could work for the Veteran’s Administration, the Peace Corps or Indian Health Services. You could work in a nursing home or college clinic, a hospice or private practice. Take your pick because they all need you. Depending on the business structure, you could even end up owning a formal share of a medical practice, eventually able to take home part of the profits from the business whether or not you’re working there full-time.
You’ll still work directly with patients as an FNP, and this matters to many nurses. Other advanced practice degrees move to you to office positions or other roles behind the scenes. A side benefit of family nurse practitioners is that you could work weekends, evenings or part-time in nearly any facility, earning a very high pay rate for your part-time work. And that’s aside from the ability to work part-time while earning an advanced degree in nursing.
Many Employers Will Pay for Your Education
Here’s one reason you should consider becoming a family nurse practitioner you may not know about. Because of the need for skilled nurses at all levels, most employers pay for the nursing degrees of their nurses in exchange for a commitment to work there longer.
This means that if you have an associate degree in nursing, your employer will probably pay for your tuition as you complete a bridge degree to earn a bachelors’ degree in nursing. If you have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, your employer will probably pay for you to become an FNP because they need those skills so much. They’ll also accommodate your school schedule, whether you earn an FNP online or in a traditional brick and mortar school.
The Long-Term Benefits for Your Patients
There’s one benefit of family nurse practitioners for patients that is not properly appreciated. Family nurse practitioners work using the nursing model of healthcare. Instead of patients coming in when they are severely ill, or an existing health condition has deteriorated, their care shifts to constant monitoring and proactive treatment of issues. They get more attention while they become better educated in monitoring their own conditions. The end result is better long-term outcomes for patients. For example, diabetics under this system maintain tighter control over their blood sugar; they have fewer amputations and are less likely to go blind. Patients whose blood pressure is better managed by both patients and doctors are less likely to have heart attacks and strokes, while their overall health remains stable.
Appreciation and Respect
Many years ago, when asked what jobs had the highest prestige, we’d say doctor or lawyer. We’re now seeing the benefit nurses bring to the table, while the shift toward skilled nursing sets nurses far above the orderly. You’ll receive the respect of your peers and community while your patients will appreciate everything you do for them.
Demand for family practice professionals and the shortage of MDs has led to an incredible demand for family nurse practitioners. The benefits to society the FNP brings are incredible and they enjoy excellent benefits like fully paid continuing education and employers begging to pay for them to earn an advanced degree. If you’re in it to help people, know that becoming an FNP provides your patients an excellent level of care that can impact their quality of life for a lifetime. You’ll become a respected and appreciated member of the community no matter what role you choose to fill.
By Nina Mosely