Healthcare occupations are booming. A 28% job growth rate between 2018 and 2028 puts nurse practitioners (NPs) in the top 20 fastest growing occupations overall.
Pennsylvania has one of the highest employment levels for NPs. In particular, there is a need for family nurse practitioners (FNPs), who can help address a growing primary care provider shortage.
Aspiring FNPs can gain the education and training they need for this high-demand career at La Salle University. La Salle offers a Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN FNP) online program that prepares NPs to deliver community-based primary care to individuals and families across the lifespan.
What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) prepared at the master’s level or higher.
APRNs can choose from four practice-focused roles:
- Nurse practitioner (NP)
- Certified nurse midwife (CNM)
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
- Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
The path to becoming an FNP begins with choosing to specialize as a nurse practitioner. NPs specialize in one of six population focus areas: family (individual/across the lifespan), adult-gerontology, neonatal, pediatrics, women’s health/gender-related and psychiatric-mental health.
Thus, an FNP is an NP who selects “family” as a population focus.
Why Does Healthcare Need NPs?
FNPs are prepared to care for patients across the lifespan — from pediatrics to geriatrics. They work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, family practice clinics, physicians’ offices, nursing facilities and other healthcare settings. With the U.S. facing a physician shortage in primary care, FNPs are in a perfect position to help close the gap.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AACN) cites a growing, aging population as a major reason for the physician shortage. Primary care alone may see a deficit of up to 35,600 physicians by 2025.
A few facts from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) help explain why FNPs may be a solution to the physician shortage:
- 1% of NPs are certified in an area of primary care; 72.6% of all NPs deliver primary care
- 9% of full-time NPs accept Medicare patients; 80.2% accept Medicaid
- 7% of full-time NPs hold hospital privileges
- 7% of NPs prescribe medications
What Is the Need for NPs in Pennsylvania?
Not all states will see a primary care physician shortage. But most are expected to. Pennsylvania is one of 37 states where demand for primary care physicians will exceed supply. Based on projections for NPs, however, Pennsylvania can expect a plentiful supply of these primary care practitioners.
Rural areas are typically the hardest hit when it comes to healthcare access, and this may compound the impact of physician shortages in Pennsylvania:
- 48 of the state’s 67 counties meet the demographic definition of rural
- All but eight of the state’s 67 counties have Health Professional Shortage Areas
Physician shortages contribute to serious healthcare disparities in rural communities. According to the AAMC, this includes:
- Higher rates of the five leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer
- Higher infant mortality
- Greater rates of disorders in children
- Higher rates of suicide for rural youth and veterans
- Higher risk of cancers related to tobacco use and other modifiable risk factors
- Higher rates of tobacco use among rural youth
- A 45% higher rate of opioid overdose deaths
NPs are twice as likely to practice in rural areas as physicians, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners. It is no wonder then that many are behind a bill that would expand the scope of practice for NPs in Pennsylvania to give them full practice authority.
How Can an MSN Prepare RNs for an FNP Career?
In general, advanced practice RNs have a strong job outlook and high salaries. With median annual wages of $113,930, NPs earn significantly more than the median RN salary of $71,730. With job growth that is more than double that for RNs, the Master of Science in Nursing degree that FNP roles require is well worth the investment.
La Salle’s MSN FNP program prepares FNPs to meet the needs of diverse groups and populations in primary care. Students graduate with core competencies that include:
- Independent and collaborative practice
- Use of nursing research to inform clinical decision-making and influence policy
- Delivery of culturally competent care
- Ethical decision-making
- Professional standards of care
- Healthcare delivery systems
- Coalition building and leadership roles
National certification is a requirement for all APRNs. La Salle’s program prepares graduates for the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) exam.
RNs who are ready to take their careers to a new level have many options to consider. For those who want to be part of the solution to the nation’s primary care crisis, becoming a family nurse practitioner may be the answer. As advocates for vulnerable and underserved populations, FNPs can make a meaningful difference in improving health outcomes for all ages.