Diverse Career Options for Family Nurse Practitioners

The role of doctor has seen an evolution over the past couple of decades. Gone are the days when there was a distinct hierarchy between physicians and nurses — where going to the doctor’s office meant you would only see a traditional doctor of medicine (MD). Advanced practice providers, such as family nurse practitioners (FNPs), have stepped in to provide patients greater access to high-quality healthcare.

A higher education degree can propel your career aspirations in the healthcare field. Educational tracts including online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner programs can be completed in as few as 20 months.

The 2019 National NP Sample Survey revealed that as of December 2019, more than 290,000 nurse practitioners were licensed to practice in the U.S. This represents a 20,000 increase in just one year (270,000 NPs in January 2019). Given the national (and global) physician shortage, this is good news.

What Exactly Is an FNP?

A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) with specialized educational and clinical training in family practice. They can prescribe medications and create treatment plans for patients with both acute and chronic conditions. FNPs must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and already have a background as a registered nurse (RN). The position also involves both certification and licensure.

While many FNPs have traditionally worked within a larger practice under the supervision of a physician, an increasing number are venturing off to work independently — again, a reflection of the need to fill the physician void.

FNP Subspecialties Offer Variety

An FNP cares for patients of all ages, from children to seniors. Some choose to go into more specialized areas such as oncology, endocrinology, pulmonology, medical-surgical or pediatrics. Here are a few different paths FNPs can follow upon entering the profession.

1) Primary Care/Family Practice

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the most popular areas for FNPs include internal medicine and primary care. In geographic areas across the country where the physician shortage hits particularly hard, FNPs may be extremely valuable in these specialties.

Medical Economics reports that the Health Resources and Services Administration has designated 7,200 regions across the country as “Health Professional Shortage Areas,” of which nearly 60 percent are in rural regions. “Because healthcare access is widely recognized as a key determinant of health outcomes, these statistics highlight a large and growing issue,” states the article’s author, Kayt Sukel.

If these populations embrace FNPs as leading medical professionals, they will be better served from an overall healthcare perspective.

2) Gerontology

While all nursing areas are experiencing a shortage, the specialty of gerontology is witnessing a dire demand. Older adults, specifically the Baby Boomer generation, have longer expected life spans but also often require more specialized care. To compound the problem, healthcare providers of this generation (aged 65 and older) are retiring. Choosing a subspecialty in this area will likely open FNPs up to profitable opportunities.

3) Midwifery

The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed 2020 the “Year of the Nurse & Midwife” to raise awareness about the need for these professionals within the global healthcare landscape. The WHO states that “midwifery, where care includes proven interventions for maternal and newborn health, as well as for family planning, could avert over 80 percent of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths.”

FNPs who enter this field can significantly impact infant mortality rates, which are surprisingly high in the United States.

4) Mental Health

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reports that suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. and that mortality has increased in almost every state over time. Its data showed that in 2018, the age-adjusted suicide rate was 14.2 per 100,000 people.

Substance abuse is also closely related to mental health. KFF’s data indicates that deaths due to drug overdose have increased nearly fourfold from 1999 to 2018. In the U.S. overall, the 2018 age-adjusted death rate for all drug overdoses was 20.7 per 100,000.

Clearly, there’s a great need for care in the area of mental health — one which the COVID-19 pandemic heightened even more. KFF has been tracking rates of anxiety and depression among adults since the pandemic took hold. While it’s not yet known whether or not the pandemic will have long-lasting effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many experts believe it has forever impacted our collective mental health.

How Much Do FNPs Earn?

Across the nation, ZipRecruiter lists the annual average salary for an FNP as $105,898, but some FNPs could earn annual salaries as high as $140,000. As with any industry, these figures depend on location and population. For example, in a bigger city like Los Angeles, California, the average is $105,954 annually, as of February 2021. Comparatively, in Cleveland, Ohio, the standard is $109,082 annually.

If you are looking to expand your career as an FNP while advancing the collective health of communities around the nation, opportunities are increasing and within reach.

Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner program.


American Association of Nurse Practitioners:
Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?
AANP Data Integrity: National NP Estimates

Nurse Journal: What is a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)?

Medical Economics: Dealing With the Shortage of Rural Physicians

Registered Nursing.org: Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

World Health Organization: Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020

America’s Health Rankings: 2018 Annual Report: International Comparison

Kaiser Family Foundation:
Mental Health and Substance Use State Fact Sheets
One in Four Older Adults Report Anxiety or Depression Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary
Family Nurse Practitioner Salary in Los Angeles, CA
Family Nurse Practitioner Salary in Cleveland, OH

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