Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner: Reasons and Benefits

fnp with her patients
fnp with her patients

Becoming a nurse practitioner has become increasingly popular as the profession grows in demand. This is primarily due to the aging population, clinician burnout, and a rise in physician retirement. Nurses nationwide are discovering the benefits of being a nurse with an advanced practice degree and have made the decision to accelerate their careers. 

Registered nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can seamlessly enter into a nurse practitioner program such as the online Master of Science in Nursing–Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) program at Rockhurst University. These students dive into a world of opportunity, leadership, and autonomy as nurse practitioners gain greater status in the health care system. 

Learn more about Rockhurst University's Online MSN-FNP program

The Demand

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nurse practitioner (NP) is the fourth fastest-growing occupation in the nation with an expected growth rate of 52% from 2020 to 2030. Reasons include:

Physician shortage—Doctors are reaching retirement age in numbers that vastly exceed the number of doctors entering the profession. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that two out of five of the nation’s physicians will be 65 and older within 10 years. This retirement boom, coupled with career changes and burnout, all lead to decreased quality patient care and high demand for nurse practitioners. 

Aging population—The oldest baby boomer turned 65 in 2011 and all boomers will be 65 and older by 2030. In addition, humans are living longer due to the ever-improving health care system. This results in an older overall population, on average. The elderly will also outnumber children (18 and under) by 2035, and the current health system is not sufficiently staffed for this magnitude. Therefore, health care leaders are encouraging RNs with bachelor degrees to pursue becoming a nurse practitioner through programs like Rockhurst University’s MSN-FNP program.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide advanced care with a family-centered focus to patients in diverse communities across the life span—prenatal, pediatric, adolescent, adult, older adult, and geriatric. In addition to diagnosis and treatment, FNPs counsel and educate patients to encourage disease prevention and healthy lifestyle choices, integrating a more comprehensive approach to patient care. Depending on the state, a nurse practitioner has the authority to practice with restricted, reduced, or full permission.

Online MSN programs for FNPs incorporate superior education to promote disease prevention, patient involvement, and healthy choices. Matching a physician’s level of care, FNPs can: 

  • provide long-term care plans.
  • diagnose and treat conditions.
  • prescribe medications and supplies.
  • provide patient education and counseling.
  • synergize ethics into management and evaluate health care delivery.

FNPs are well-suited for outpatient settings such as primary care offices, but they can also provide effective health care in other areas such as clinics, ambulatory centers, immediate care facilities, and hospitals.

benefits of becoming an FNP

The Benefits of Becoming an FNP

Serving as a provider in the health care community reaps rewards and career satisfaction in an abundance of ways. An MSN degree is more affordable than an MD, and a master’s degree offers valuable skills for the modern professional. With reputable NPs in high demand across the U.S., there are plenty of job opportunities. Moreover, studies have shown that NPs provide cost-effective care.

Cost-Effective Care

Throughout the past decade, creditable medical articles consistently claim nurse practitioners are cost-effective in health care. One study, looked at whether NPs and physician assistants (PAs) were cost-effective compared to physicians because of persistent concern “that NPs’ and PAs’ care of vulnerable populations could increase care costs compared to the traditional physician-dominated system.” It found NPs and PAs were “associated with less use of acute care services and lower total costs.” 

Another study from the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that “nurse practitioners are key to the modernization of the National Health Service. Studies have shown that compared with doctors, nurse practitioners can be efficient and cost-effective in consultations.” In yet another example, a three-year study published in 2019 determined the “outcomes from a Urology Nurse Practitioner-led service” were cost-saving.

Career Outcomes and Salary Outlook

Interested in becoming a nurse practitioner? Here are some of the career outcomes an online MSN-FNP degree can offer:

Contributions to Health Care Skills Job Opportunity
Improve the quality of patient care Provide comprehensive care for all ages Establish job security
Provide cost-effective* health care Sharpen critical thinking skills Greater independence
Optimize patient access to medical care Take a leadership role within the multidisciplinary team Full Practice Authority and private practice (depending on the state)
Influential in policy development and collaborate within the health care system to drive productive outcomes Research and apply to diagnose and implement treatment plans Rural areas in high demand may offer incentives

*The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) maintains and supports the NP profession as cost-effective due to the “comprehensive, patient-centered health care.” An article abstract in 2020 from the Journal of the AANP reports, “NPs provide access to effective primary care in a variety of settings, equal in quality outcomes and safety, and [are] cost-effective compared with physicians.”

Full Practice Authority

The benefits of being a family nurse practitioner in a Full Practice Authority (FPA) state include maintaining the privilege to run a private practice and gain more independence. FPA is a licensure law that allows nurse practitioners to assess, diagnose, and treat patients as well as order and interpret tests under the state board of nursing instead of under a physician. The AANP reports that this has resulted in the more efficient delivery of quality care, increased patient access to healthcare, and lower costs. 

The AANP also explains the licensure code, adding how “studies show that in FPA states, NPs are more likely to practice in rural and underserved areas and have improved NP workforce recruitment while meeting the highest care quality and safety standards.” The NIH further supports FPA by stating “if [nurse practitioners] are permitted to practice to the full extent of their education and training, this could build the necessary workforce to satisfy the health care needs of an increasing number of people, especially those living in medically underserved regions.”

Rural Area Opportunity

In most cities and towns, NP jobs are easy to find and pay well. However, the number of primary care providers in rural areas is steadily decreasing. This shortage is causing significant challenges for residents in those areas and the future does not show improvement. Therefore, many nonmetropolitan areas are offering incentives to bring in more practitioners to fill the gaps in the health care system. This is a great opportunity for FNPs to advance their career in an underserved population.

Family Nurse Practitioner Income

According to the BLS, the median RN wage was $75,330 in 2020, and the median FNP annual wage was $117,670, revealing that the FNP’s pay is 50% higher than the RN’s pay. The family NP salary is substantially higher than the average RN salary in the U.S., therefore offering additional incentives for career advancement. FNP salaries typically run in the six-figure range, but earnings can vary by region.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

AANP explains how RNs can advance their careers as an NP. The five steps to becoming a family nurse practitioner include:

  1. Holding a BSN in nursing.
  2. Maintaining an active nursing license.
  3. Researching and attending a school or university that offers FNP programs with an MSN degree.
  4. Completing the advanced nursing practitioner program.
  5. Passing the board-certification exam.

Family NPs have grown to be highly trusted and dependable sources for delivering quality patient care in the clinical setting. 

Rockhurst University offers the ideal online program for nurses who are ready to advance their careers and become a family nurse practitioner. Earn your master’s degree and join one of the largest, fastest-growing professions in the U.S. With Rockhurst’s robust online curriculum, state-of-the-art simulation lab, and flexible course options, achieving career satisfaction and higher earnings are well within your grasp. Learn more about Rockhurst’s online MSN-FNP program.