Nursing is an evolving medical practice with it’s own specializations and standards of care. Nurse practitioners are an essential part of the healthcare system. Often spending many years in training and continuing education, the family nurse practitioner is responsible for taking care of family health in primary care facilities. But what do they do exactly?
Family nurse practitioners, like a family physician, are first line responders in the community. Operating out of clinics, offices, hospitals, urgent care sites, nursing homes, they are required by law to have completed a masters or PhD and have advanced clinical training. They can be found in rural or urban areas and often play a much needed role in the community.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nurse practitioners (including family nurse practitioners) offer a vital service, often supplementing the role of the family doctor, as they can write prescriptions, order medical tests, treat and assess acute and chronic health issues and conditions, and provide counseling. In areas that are suffering primary care physician shortages, they can become a feasible alternative to long wait lists.
Family nurse practitioners specialize in the support and wellbeing of the family unit, this includes training in pediatrics, adult, and geriatrics. Family practitioners can offer advice on contraceptive and family planning issues, administer immunizations, and provide genetic evaluations and screenings. From everything from musculoskeletal disorders to psychosocial and behavioral issues, there is a broad range of knowledge and training that goes into being a family nurse practitioner.
Like a physician, family nurse practitioners must adhere to a strict ethical code of conduct and act in the best interest of their patients. They must also be licensed to practice in the state they are in and undergo periodic peer review and in-practice evaluations. They are also required to commit to continuing education and re-certification, ensuring that patients receive the best possible care. As well, many practitioners involve themselves in ongoing medical research and write articles for peer reviewed medical journals.
Family nurse practitioners are an essential part of the healthcare arena. They offer vital family oriented services such as contraception and family planning counseling, pediatric and geriatric care, immunizations, psychosocial counseling and patient outreach. In areas that are experiencing a primary care physician shortage, they can also bridge the gap, filling a vital need and ensuring top quality patient care. They are trained and certified, and must comply to the same ethical standards required by physicians and are dedicated to continuing their education and passing their research and knowledge onto their patients.
For those interested in becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, education and certification has never been more accessible. There are numerous schools and organizations available to train with and professional associations, such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners often offer scholarships to those interested in joining their ranks.
Healthcare in America is evolving day by day, and family nurse practitioners are a vital part of that evolution. They bridge primary care gaps and offer a holistic approach centered on total patient and family care.