Is Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner Worth It?

A nurse practitioner consulting with one of their patients
A nurse practitioner consulting with one of their patients

Family nurse practitioners provide health care for patients of all ages. There is a growing need for nurse practitioner program graduates to enter this specialty. Registered nurses considering their career options may ask, “Is becoming a nurse practitioner worth it?”

An increasing portion of patients relies on nurse practitioners as primary care providers. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) found that 70% of respondents provided primary care in their current roles. This trend means that there are abundant opportunities for career growth for family nurse practitioners.

 

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Responsibilities

Family nurse practitioners are trained to provide a full range of primary care services across the life cycle. AANP notes that nurse practitioners “combine the roles of provider, mentor, educator, researcher, advocate and administrator.” Their clinical experiences and graduate education prepare practitioners for the daily challenges of family medicine.

Nurse practitioner programs train family medicine practitioners to diagnose and treat a variety of patients. They develop long-term treatment plans with patients monitored through regular visits. Family nurse practitioners diagnose medication, provide health counseling and work with care teams on improved patient outcomes.

Registered nurses often pursue nurse practitioner careers because they want to spend more time with patients. As primary care providers, nurse practitioners are afforded more time for patient interactions than nurses. Former RN and FNP Jamesetta A. Newland described the difference between the two career paths:

“I wanted patients who were able to participate fully in their care and take more responsibility for their health with my guidance, so I decided to become a nurse practitioner. I prefer being a generalist and collaborating with colleagues and experts when the need arises.”

 

Career Trends for Nurse Practitioner Program Graduates

Hospital recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins reported nurse practitioners were more in demand than physicians in 2021, reversing a 27-year pattern. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 52% growth in nurse practitioner jobs from 2020 to 2030. Graduates of nurse practitioner programs face a favorable job market because of a few trends.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a primary care physician shortage of up to 48,000 by 2034. Eighty million Americans will be aged 65 and older by 2040, representing about 20% of the country’s population. An aging population and a shortfall in primary care providers drive the demand for family nurse practitioners.

 

Trends in Full Practice Authority

State regulations on the level of authority for nurse practitioners have broadened in response to these trends. AANP defines three levels of practice environments for nurse practitioners: 

  • Restricted Practice: Career-long supervision or delegation by a physician
  • Reduced Practice: Career-long collaboration with a physician
  • Full Practice: No required supervision or collaboration with the physician

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia offered full practice authority in 2015. AANP determined that 26 states and the District of Columbia allowed full practice by nurse practitioners in 2022. In short, family nurse practitioners can establish their own practices in a majority of states.

 

Career Settings and Paths

The ever-present need for family medical care means a variety of work settings for family nurse practitioners. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) found the most common setting for nurse practitioners is a private doctor’s office. Nurse practitioners are also frequently found in:

  • Inpatient and outpatient hospital units
  • Federally funded health clinics
  • Private nurse practitioner offices
  • Urgent care clinics

Family nurse practitioners find multiple career options once they’ve accrued years of clinical experience. The leadership and administrative skills required for FNP careers are useful in administrative positions. Experienced practitioners can guide departments, agencies and hospitals in their pursuit of excellence in care.

The global need for effective family medicine means a world of opportunities for nurse practitioners beyond their communities. There is also a shortage of nursing faculty that can be filled by practitioners who want to shape future generations of nurses. Nurse practitioner programs prepare graduates for impactful careers focused on patient needs.

A nurse practitioner treating a young patient

 

Benefits of Family Nurse Practitioner Degrees

Nurses asking, “Why get an FNP?” find an abundance of answers, starting with high career satisfaction. The HRSA found that 92% of nurse practitioners were satisfied with their careers. Respondents cited the following reasons for why they are fulfilled by their jobs:

  • The proportion of time spent in patient care
  • Diverse patient demographics
  • Respect from other colleagues
  • Patient load

The most popular reason among “Very Satisfied” respondents was the level of autonomy offered by their jobs. Family nurse practitioners handle most or all of their patients’ care needs in many states. Enterprising practitioners can open their own practices and find other methods for care innovation unavailable to registered nurses.

 

Professional Flexibility

The weekly time commitment for a family nurse practitioner makes a good work-life balance possible. Practitioners in private practices and clinics typically work during weekday business hours with nights and weekends the exception rather than the rule. Regular schedules without long shifts add flexibility to personal and professional pursuits.

The family medicine specialization provides a good platform for the exploration of other practice areas. Family nurse practitioners can specialize in areas like diabetes management and weight management. Nurse practitioner programs also provide the breadth and depth of knowledge necessary for collaborations with specialists. 

 

Financial Incentives

Nurse practitioners focus on family medicine to support quality care and healthy lives in their communities. The hard work required for success in this field is often repaid through fulfilling interactions with patients and colleagues. Strong earning potentials for family nurse practitioners provide another incentive for this career choice.

The BLS found a median salary of $120,680 for nurse practitioners in 2021. Merritt Hawkins listed a high salary of $300,000 for nurse practitioners during its 2020/2021 study period. The recruiting firm reported a 12% average salary increase from 2019/2020 to 2020/2021.

 

Nurse Practitioner Programs at Marymount University

The answer to “Is becoming a nurse practitioner worth it?” is easier to find in an innovative degree program. Marymount University accommodates multiple paths to family nurse practitioner careers with its online degree programs. Your path to a family nurse practitioner career can be built through the following degrees:

Applicants with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing may qualify for the Online DNP-FNP and the Online MSN-FNP. The Post-Master’s FNP Certificate builds on the lessons taught in previously acquired Master of Science in Nursing programs. Each program requires clinical hours ranging from 700 for the MSN-FNP and certificate to 1,000 for the DNP-FNP.

Marymount University fosters collaborative environments among students through on-campus residencies and online courses. Every FNP student receives free clinical placement assistance in their home communities. Assigned Student Success Advisors shepherd degree candidates from application through graduation.

Graduates of Marymount University’s nurse practitioner programs benefit from its national reputation. U.S. News & World Report placed the University’s Nursing programs in the top third of nearly 700 ranked schools. High placements in the following regional categories show the value of a Marymount degree:

  • No. 1 BSN program among all Virginia private institutions
  • No. 17 in Best Colleges for Veterans
  • No. 38 in Regional Universities South
  • No. 57 in Best Value Schools

Contact a Marymount University admissions advisor to discuss which FNP pathway is right for you.