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The Role of Family Nurse Practitioners

As healthcare becomes more complex and the number of primary care physicians decreases, many patients start relying heavily on family nurse practitioners (FNP) if they require meeting their basic care needs. FNPs easily approach every patient as they possess relevant knowledge and promote values while providing family-centered and collaborative care. These specialists are proficient in managing chronic and acute illnesses as well as performing procedures, physical examinations, and diagnostic tests. Family nurse practitioners set a diagnosis and treat individuals from childhood to adulthood, and they continue engaging patients in care, increasing their awareness about their health conditions and practical measures undertaken to reach improvement and favorable health outcome.

The Role, Duties, Services, and Approaches of FNPs

The roles of both physicians and nurse practitioners have evolved simultaneously, which has helped to expand opportunities in the medical field and ease providers’ accommodations to current trends. The ability of FNPs to operate independently and the scope of their clinical and nursing practice widely vary across the USA. Thus, the role of nurse practitioner was developed in the 1960s (Lundy & Janes, 2016). Since then, their duties have changed; nurse practitioners have started working not only as assistants but also as qualified and educated specialists who meet patients’ healthcare demands in the case of absence of primary care physicians. The role of these healthcare providers varies by the state, the scope of nursing practice, and their level of independence. After the graduation, FNPs become familiar not only with pharmacology, physiology, and anatomy but also the way medical care is provided to American families. Some states require the certification of this specialty.

Like other advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners provide the same services and perform the same duties as physicians do. The basic services include minor surgeries, rehabilitation, disease specific screening, family planning, prenatal care, physical therapy, and prescription of medications. Family nurse practitioners may also send patients to other healthcare specialists for further examination and clarifications regarding their health status.

Family nurse practitioners have a unique approach to every client, and these medical specialists are nurses first of all. They acquire relevant training and view patients as their partners in caring process. FNPs emphasize person’s well-being and health, making everything possible to accelerate the healing process. These health providers spend significant time on preventing diseases, fulfilling professional duties, promoting education, counseling, positive lifestyle choices, and overall health (Lundy & Janes, 2016). The application of a unique approach in nursing practice will enable family nurse practitioners to lower their costs and provide affordable care. Individuals under the primary care of FNPs have low medication costs, short hospital stays, and fewer emergency room visits.

Research Articles

In their article “Where Is Family in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program? Results of a US Family Nurse Practitioner Program Survey”, Nyirati, Denham, Raffle, and Ware (2012) highlight lack of clear advances that FNPs receive after their graduation despite progress in science, regulation, and intervention. In the majority of the programs introduced in the USA, family has been examined in the context of individual’s care. Despite possessing theoretical basics, FPN students do not often apply family assessment methods in practice. The authors encourage educators to include such an aspect as family nursing science in FNP program, thereby enabling them to engage in advanced practice. Family nursing theories should be included in curriculum to increase the awareness of family nurse practitioners on their fundamental roles as well as to explain them how to take care of patients and entire families and plan necessary interventions (Nyirati et al., 2012). FPN program prepares nurses to deliver primary care in various settings. This program also encourages future specialists to work in team, as this approach will help to them fulfill all their duties, including the coordination of healthcare, the collaboration with clinicians, physical assessment, and the documentation of health history.

Family nurse practitioners are also responsible for developing educational, therapeutic, and diagnostic plans. High education, practice, and training in acute and intensive care units will substantially expand their opportunities and help these medical specialists make wise and balanced decisions when delivering care to individuals and entire families (Nyirati et al., 2012). Family nurse practitioners are encouraged to approach every patient individually and specifically to reach the favorable health outcome. Only the precise fulfillment of all assigned roles will guarantee the successful outcome of nurse professional activity and clinical practice.

Further, in their article “Educational Role of Nurse Practitioners in a Family Practice Centre”, Walsh, Moore, Barber, and Opsteen (2014) have deeply examined the role of nurse practitioners in family medicine, clarified roles, formed professional identities, and enhanced the educational role of family nurse practitioners as well as factors that limit their roles. After conducting the review, researchers have found no clarification on the scope of practice of FNPs. However, they have managed to identify the areas of specialized knowledge and values that team functioning brings to patients’ healing.

Walsh et al. (2014) have also highlighted the importance of interprofessional collaboration that can be challenged by education that specialists require for this practice. Extended classes can significantly broaden clinical expertise and provide more opportunities for educational and cooperation, considering numerous aspects of family medicine (Walsh et al., 2014). Family nurse practitioners are responsible not only for providing direct care to patients but also for sharing their experience and teaching students in other professions.

The possession of teaching skills expands nurse teaching capacity, thereby enabling them to fulfill necessary roles. The valuable step-to-step instructional approach, which nurse practitioners widely use, significantly decreases the sense of vulnerability during the educational process and further professional career (Walsh et al., 2014). Attitude, time, and given opportunities will optimize education and eliminate all barriers that prevent nurses from realizing their main goals – the facilitation of team functions, the organization of professionalization process, the promotion of health, positive lifestyle, and the prevention of diseases.

Expert Opinion

An expert’s opinion can be found in the article “As U.S. Relies More on Nurse Practitioners, We Need to Learn More About Them” by Hoff (2015). This article highlights the critical role played by nurse practitioners, including those professionals who operate in family medicine. Americans continue to rely heavily on these medical specialists to receive affordable and high-quality care. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of FNPs constantly increases. The role of these specialists in primary care has become more prominent in recent years mostly due to the aging population and the expansion of health insurance in the country (Hoff, 2015). Nurse practitioners, including those who assist families, perform on a par with physicians.

The utilization of care and patients’ satisfaction with provided services occur mostly due to the commitment and engagement of NPs and FNPs. Hoff (2015) mentions that the future of primary care physicians will mainly depend on their efforts and cooperation with nurse practitioners. The main roles, assigned to these specialists, include the establishment of a good, productive, and mutually beneficial relationship with patients and providers, the promotion of autonomy, organizational support, their interaction with colleagues, and the prevention of social isolation in case of diseases.

Conclusion

The role of family nurse practitioners was developed in the 1960s. Nowadays, it remains significant and, therefore, numerous studies and research have been dedicated to the examination of this issue. After reviewing three articles, it has been revealed that the role of FNPs becomes more evident due to the aging population of the USA and the expansion of health insurance. The main obligations of these specialists include the management of chronic and acute illnesses in patients, performing tests and procedures as well as conducting physical exams. Family nurse practitioners provide care to the people of various ages and genders, including entire families. These specialists are responsible not only for providing direct care to their patients but also for sharing their experience with other providers and for teaching students.

References

Hoff, T. (2015, June 27). As U.S. relies more on nurse practitioners, we need to learn more about them. Modern Healthcare. Retrieved from http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150627/MAGAZINE/306279949

Lundy, K. S., & Janes, S. (Eds.). (2016). Community health nursing: Caring for the public’s health (3d ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Nyirati, C. M., Denham, S. A., Raffle, H., & Ware, L. (2012). Where is family in the family nurse practitioner program? Results of a US family nurse practitioner program survey. Journal of Family Nursing, 18(3), 378-408. doi: 10.1177/1074840712443872

Walsh, A., Moore, A., Barber, A., & Opsteen, J. (2014). Educational role of nurse practitioners in a family practice centre. Canadian Family Physician, 60(6), e316-e321. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055343/