How would you like to participate in the transformation of health care? As a practicing nurse, you already are. But, there’s more to prepare for, including a doctor shortage that will require more advanced practice registered nurses.
By 2030, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the shortage of primary care physicians will be anywhere from 7,300 to 43,100. The need for advanced practice registered nurses — which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes as nurse family nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists — will climb. The BLS predicts these professions will experience an increase of 53,000 jobs between 2014 and 2024, according to Occupational Outlook Handbook.
As family nurse practitioners take on increased treatment responsibility, they require a unique set of leadership skills to manage the care of families in a primary care setting. Enrolling in an online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) degree program is a good next step. Your program will cover:
- Diagnosing and treating common health problems
- Creating and managing treatment plans for infants, children and adults
- Prescribing medications
- Educating patients on disease prevention and ongoing health
Following graduation from an FNP program, you may be required to obtain national certification and/or state licensing, depending upon the requirements where you live or work.
If you’re passionate about caring for others and want to do more in your career, think about becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. FNPs serve as primary care providers and have many of the same responsibilities and privileges as family doctors. Most states even allow FNPs to prescribe medication. As an FNP you will also have more practice autonomy. States that allow Nurse Practitioners to practice independently also allow NPs to open offices or clinics to treat patients.
Family Nurse Practitioner vs Family Doctor
|Family Nurse Practitioner||Family Doctor|
|Education||A Master of Nursing (MSN) is the minimum degree requirement to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP).||Medical Doctors (MDs) must earn a bachelor’s degree and then complete medical school as well as a residency.|
|Licensing and Certification||Active, licensed Registered Nurses must obtain state licensure to practice as NPs before taking the Family Nurse Practitioner exam.||MDs must complete the United States Medical Licensing Examination and earn licensure by the licensing board in the state(s) they practice.|
|Time to Practice||It takes on average between two and four years to complete a Master of Nursing program and other requirements to practice as an FNP.||It takes at least six years to become a doctor: three to four years in medical school plus a minimum of three years for residency, more if you want to practice specialized medicine.|
|Career & Salary Outlook||According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 31 percent from 2016 to 2026. The median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $107,460 in May 2016.||The BLS projects employment of health diagnosing and treating practitioners to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. The median annual wage for physicians practicing primary care in 2015 was $251,578.|
Nurses who want to move into management roles or expand their clinical responsibilities might consider enrolling in an FNP program. Look for an online FNP degree program that focuses on leadership and strategic decision-making in addition to the day-to-day diagnostic and treatment skills needed to be a primary patient care provider. The program should also provide a foundation of knowledge and experience to prepare you for the national certification exam.
The curriculum and program structure should support the development of these key skills, but what does such a program look like? Can these skills be acquired in a non-accredited school, or should you only be considering accredited institutions? What about faculty – should they be academics, licensed practitioners, or both?
Accreditation can be attached to a degree program, and there can be regional and national accreditation at the institutional level. Accreditation is recognition for achieving a certain standard as established by the accrediting organization. When a college receives accreditation, they have passed an evaluation to ensure their schools and programs meet an established standard.
Although accredited online FNP programs can suggest quality, there are other factors to consider, such as faculty and how many of the graduates pass the certification exam the first time.
Institutions that are committed to excellence hire faculty that have a combination of hands-on and academic experience, with the ability to communicate to a broad range of individuals and adapt to changing environments. When looking at schools, evaluate the faculty on:
- Years of experience
- Balance of clinical and academic faculty
- Faculty credentials
- How many years they’ve taught at the school
- Whether they’ve had research or articles published in nursing journals
An online FNP degree program offers foundational knowledge to help nurses step into leadership roles and prepare them to pass the certification exams by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Check if the college you’re targeting posts first-time pass rates to see how well they prepare graduates to sit for the FNP certification exam. If this information is not made public, you may be able to contact the school directly to ask about examination pass rates for graduates of their online FNP program.
FNP certification exam questions:
- Test applicant’s knowledge in areas of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, as well as health promotion and wellness.
- Are presented as fact-oriented or knowledge-based (generalizations, principles or theories), comprehension-based (application of clinical assessment and management skills).
An education designed to develop leaders in health care environments requires a combination of academic study and hands-on clinical experience. An online FNP will also require clinical hours to be completed as part of the program and on-campus immersion or intensive programs to help achieve high levels of functional expertise.
Although specific coursework may vary, some programs integrate medical practice theories and strategic thinking skills, as well as analytical, diagnostic and patient management skills. When evaluating online FNP program, ask about the mix of theoretical vs practical coursework so you know what type of education and training you will receive.
- Advanced pharmacology
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Evidence-based nursing practice
- Clinical decision making
- Professional role development
- Nursing leadership
- Research methods
To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s a look at a sample full-time Family Nurse Practitioner course schedule.
Online learning offers greater flexibility than traditional on-campus degree requirements , which allows working students and individuals with a family the opportunity to fit school into their busy lives. However, some online courses may have on-campus or clinical requirements that students should plan for.
Although some programs may advertise themselves as “100 percent online,” an advanced clinical nursing degree often requires hands-on practice as part of the course requirement to build confidence and expertise. Clinical requirements must be completed in a college-approved clinical setting and usually begin about halfway through the degree program.
Colleges have different requirements about where students practice clinical hours, but most will work with you to allow you to do so in or near your community. Before enrolling in an online degree program, check out the requirements for clinical hours.
As an online student, you may be required attend immersion events that will help you integrate advanced clinical techniques and interact with professors to evaluate your progress in the degree program. These events may last a few days or a week. This is something else you’ll want to plan for before enrolling in an online FNP program.
The time it takes to complete an online FNP program varies depending on credit requirements and whether you go to school full or part time. Some institutions offer accelerated FNP degree programs. Average full-time completion for an online FNP program is between 19 months and two years; a part-time program can take between two and a half and three years to complete.
This is possibly the most important question to ask if you’re considering your first online class. Although it sounds ideal to have the flexibility to study and attend class from almost anywhere, some programs may be more engaging than others. Depending on the type of student you are, programs that offer a rich human component (live-streaming classes and group projects, for example) may feel more engaging and may even help motivate you to stay on top of your studies.
Ask yourself these questions if you are considering enrolling in your first online class:
- Do I have the proper technology, fast-speed internet, up-to-date software and hardware?
- Can I commit to the study time necessary, about 10 hours weekly per class?
- Can I work independently to meet the program requirements?
- Will I get the same satisfaction collaborating with my peers in an online discussion group?
If you’ve answered yes to most of the questions, then online education may be a good fit for you. Want to learn more about college costs or degree program requirements? Read on to learn more.
Online AG-ACNP Program
Focus your career on providing care to older adults as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner.