Having worked your way up through the ranks, achieving the highly regarded status of registered nurse, and then going on to study for a master’s degree in the science of nursing (MSN), as a qualified nurse practitioner (NP), you now have the skill set to diagnose and treat patients in primary healthcare settings; you prescribe medicines, order tests for your patients, analyze the results, administer treatment, or refer your patients to general practitioners and specialists. In most states, you should be able to run your own primary healthcare practice, or alternatively, work in a medical practice where you may have your own patients and the backup of medical practitioners to assist with the more advanced cases.
When it comes to finding your niche as a nurse practitioner, there is a wide scope of opportunity in various settings, and there’s no harm in trying a few of them out if you have the opportunity so that you can determine where your interests lie. As an MSN graduate, there are options to take your professional career in nursing a step further through courses such as the Rockhurst post-master’s FNP program. Earning a post-master’s qualification will broaden your horizons in terms of job opportunities and knowledge, enabling you to work in specialized roles, such as that of a family nurse practitioner, and offer a more holistic set of skills as you make a difference in the lives of your patients.
For those specializing as family nurse practitioners, your options for workplace settings are varied. Below are some of the specific settings and roles that a family nurse practitioner can move into.
Scope of work for family nurse practitioners
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) work in hospitals and clinics, private practice, ambulance centers, or specialized nursing homes that cater for elderly, disabled, or mentally ill patients. FNPs may even find employment in schools or research facilities. Caring for patients in the comfort of their own homes is another consideration for nurse practitioners who have a busy family life and are looking for flexibility—these nurses spend a couple of hours a day monitoring patients’ vital signs, ensuring adherence to medication, changing dressings, and giving injections.
Family nurse practitioners have the widest scope of practice when compared to other nurse practitioners, and care for people of all ages. FNPs work with a variety of people and problems, such as mothers and newborn babies, childhood diseases, fractured bones, and chronic illnesses, gaining a wealth of experience and finding satisfaction in the diversity of their work.
FNPs are also qualified to work in community settings, where they can open clinics. As they treat patients, they get to know the families and, in time, the community. FNPs are well-placed to advocate on behalf of communities where there is a need. They can promote the building of a library, an adult training center, or a daycare center for children whose parents are out at work.
Family nurse practitioners and specializations
Some of the more popular areas that FNPs specialize in are the adult-gerontology, pediatric, and psychiatric disciplines. However, there are numerous options, including an additional qualification in acute care nursing that takes them into emergency centers, hospital recovery wards, and intensive care units.
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
A specialization in adult gerontology gives FNPs additional skills in caring for elderly patients. Typically, nurses with adult gerontology qualifications work in homes for the elderly, managing treatment plans and medication schedules, supervising and teaching nursing staff, and ensuring that health and safety regulations are adhered to.
With their advanced skills in adult gerontology, the FNP would be an asset in a clinical environment, working with elderly patients who are chronically ill or injured, or recovering from surgery. FNPs with gerontology acute care as an extra qualification are also valued in hospice settings where they care for terminally ill patients of all ages, counseling and giving comfort to patients and their families.
Pediatric nurse practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) work with children from infancy through adulthood, treating childhood illnesses, administering inoculations, and managing chronic illnesses in children. A family nurse practitioner who has additional pediatric nursing skills may also become qualified in acute care, working with critically ill children in settings such as specialty clinics, hospitals, intensive-care units, and emergency departments. Working in this environment requires compassion and empathy, as nurses deal not only with children but also help parents cope with their situation.
Psychiatric mental health practitioner
Psychiatric nurse practitioners are trained to nurse patients with a wide range of mental health problems, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic disorders, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, dementia, and substance abuse problems. They diagnose and counsel people with common acute psychiatric problems, manage their medication with the help of a psychiatrist, educate patients on general and mental well-being, and monitor their physical health.
When patients present with more complex mental health problems, the nurse practitioner will refer them to a psychiatric practitioner for further counseling.
Pulmonary nurse practitioner
Nurse practitioners who specialize in pulmonology nursing treat patients suffering from asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and sleep apnea. In an outpatient situation, the pulmonary NP will order X-rays or lab tests, analyze the results, prescribe medication, or refer the patient to a specialist. In a hospital environment, the pulmonary NP’s focus is on acute cases, as they form part of the multidisciplinary teams that treat patients.
Oncology nurse practitioner
Oncology nurse practitioners work closely with surgeons and specialist physicians to deliver the best possible treatment to cancer patients. They coordinate appointments for blood tests and screenings, administer treatments and medication, educate patients and their families, monitor patients who have completed treatment for recurrence of the disease, and care for terminally ill patients. Oncology NPs generally work in clinical environments as part of a multidisciplinary team responsible for treating patients with all forms of cancer.
Women’s health nurse practitioner
Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) provide a range of services, such as gynecological care or diagnosis and treatment of reproductive system disorders.
WHNPs can be found in fertility clinics, hospitals, and private practice, often working with obstetricians and gynecologists.
Make it happen
Being an FNP and specializing in a field of your choice is an achievement that not everyone has access to. Each discipline within the realm of nurse practitioner roles has its own challenges and rewards. Find out where your passion lies and make it happen with an online course.