Over the last half century, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have proven themselves an invaluable part of the primary care system and an asset to patients. An FNP is an advanced practice registered nurse whose scope of practice mirrors that of a primary care physician in many respects. FNPs serve patients across the lifespan, from pediatrics to geriatrics, helping them maintain long-term health and well-being. They perform annual wellness exams, help patients manage chronic conditions, administer vaccines and are usually the first touchpoint when a patient isn’t feeling well.
Registered nurses and nurses with advanced nonclinical degrees may find that the FNP nursing career path allows them to learn with purpose and live with purpose by acquiring the knowledge needed to expand their practice authority and the credentials needed to play a more influential role in the health and well-being of their patients.
FNP nursing outcomes consistently show that they improve the quality of patient care across five key indicators.
1. FNPs Make Primary Care More Accessible to Underserved Communities
American healthcare is grappling with labor shortages, but one of the most troubling gaps is the shortage of primary care providers. Last year the Association of American Medical Colleges projected that the country would face a shortage of as many as 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034. This is due to a number of factors including retiring physicians and the relatively lower pay of primary care physicians, which is driving many medical students into specialty practices.
As they did after the passage of the Medicare Act in 1965, NPs are filling this widening gap between patient demand and provider supply. This is especially true in underserved areas, such as rural communities where primary care physicians are less likely to work. One study found that from 2010 to 2016, the growth in primary care NPs outpaced physician growth in every setting (metropolitan, urban and rural), but the biggest gap was in rural healthcare service areas. This demonstrates FNPs’ commitment to live with purpose by committing their nursing career paths to improving the quality of patient care.
2. Patients of FNPs Report Higher Satisfaction
Service providers across industries strive for customer satisfaction, but in healthcare, this metric predicts more than just repeat business. Patients who report satisfaction with their healthcare providers are better able to manage chronic illness, more likely to be compliant with treatment plans and more likely to have better health outcomes.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are among the most-liked health professionals by patients. Multiple studies have found that patients rate NPs higher than other providers, such as MDs, in satisfaction ratings. One even found that 80% of NP patients believed their nurse practitioner listened carefully to them all the time, while only 50% of physician patients reported the same.
Because FNPs provide primary care, they are uniquely positioned to leverage the high level of trust and satisfaction they have with patients to improve nursing outcomes. FNPs often help patients manage chronic illness with long-term strategies that may require a commitment to lifestyle changes. When patients like and trust their FNPs, they are more likely to take their advice and make the changes necessary to improve their health.
3. Patients of FNPs Have Shorter Hospital Stays
Multiple studies have found that when compared to patients of physicians, NP patients experience shorter hospitalizations. Building on the strong relationships FNPs establish with their patients, they are better able to influence patients to comply with treatment plans and take necessary steps to maintain good health. These efforts to establish long-lasting health and well-being pay off in the long term as patients require less hospitalization for episodic health concerns.
4. FNP Patients Have Fewer Avoidable ER Visits and Lower Readmission Rates
Like with hospital stays, multiple studies have borne out that the quality of patient care under NPs is correlated with fewer ER visits and hospital readmissions. One study in particular describes the specific benefits NPs provide and how they lead to these positive nursing outcomes.
Researchers at Loyola University Health System found that when a nurse practitioner was included in the patient care team, they were able to offer more follow-up care with a patient-centered approach, such as answering questions, ordering tests, ordering medication and arranging outpatient care. These interventions were absent from follow-up care when NPs were not included in the care team.
Because of the nature of their relationships with patients, which span a lifetime, as well as their training, which is rooted in holistic health and consideration of social determinants of health, FNPs are able to provide this level of personalized attention to patients and improve their health outcomes.
5. FNPs Provide High-Quality Care at a Lower Cost
With shorter hospital stays, lower readmission rates and fewer ER admissions, NPs reduce patient medical expenses simply by decreasing the amount of acute and inpatient care they require. NPs have been shown to reduce healthcare costs in a variety of settings, including primary care. One study found that NP-delivered care in managed care settings was 23% less expensive than the primary care average. And research by the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at U Penn Nursing and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania found, “When we compared hospitals with the most and fewest NPs, we estimated that hospitals with more NPs had 5% lower Medicare costs per beneficiary.”
How to Become an FNP
There are multiple nursing career paths, but for those who feel called to play a bigger role in their patients’ overall health while exercising greater autonomy, the FNP role is a rewarding option. Becoming an FNP begins with a bachelor’s degree and a nursing license. Registered nurses who have at least a bachelor’s degree can then embark on a graduate nursing degree.
At Marymount University, there are three routes for aspiring FNPs to choose from:
- Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN-FNP)
- Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree (DNP-FNP)
- Post Master’s FNP Certificate
Who Is the MSN-FNP Program Right For?
Marymount University’s MSN-FNP program is a great option for working nurses with a bachelor’s degree who want to take their clinical career to the next level and gain more practice authority with their patients. The MSN-FNP program’s online offering makes it flexible for completion without putting employment or personal commitments on pause.
Who Is the DNP-FNP Program Right For?
The DNP-FNP program at Marymount University is good for nurses who aspire to reach the highest level of education in their nursing career and who wish to work in a research, academic or policymaking role, where they can impact nursing practice at a broader level.
Who Is the Post Master’s FNP Certificate Right For?
The Post Master’s FNP Certificate program at Marymount University provides a nursing career path back to clinical work for nurses who may have earned a nonclinical master’s degree, such as in administration. Like the MSN-FNP program, the online format allows working students to stay in their jobs and earn income while earning a degree.
Learn and Live With Purpose at Marymount
Located in the nation’s capital, Marymount provides a living lab for aspiring advanced practice nurses (APRNs) to experience clinical, advocacy and academic opportunities. As a nationally recognized and awarded university, students learn with purpose—they aren’t taught just what they need to pass an exam, but the instincts and critical thinking to face the unexpected challenges they will face on the job. With a degree from Marymount, APRNs are able to live with purpose and pursue the nursing career paths they aspire to take.
If you’re interested in becoming an FNP at Marymount, contact one of our student advisors to discuss which pathway is right for you.