The work of a family nurse practitioner (FNP) is always likely to be varied. That’s not just because of the scale of different patients and cases they’ll see daily, but also because they care for a wide demographic. As the name suggests, they care for everyone in the family, from children to the elderly.
While some specialties in working as an FNP allow nurses to “niche down” into demographics they wish to support the most, the vast majority of practitioners need to oversee a broad selection of needs and concerns.
Given that FNPs have to care for such a broad cross-section, it’s easy to assume this is a job that requires a lot of balance. But, how do they manage to care for so many people with so many different demands at once?
Let’s take a look at the typical support FNPs offer to patients of varying ages.
FNPs and pediatric care
FNPs providing care to children are involved in their well-being from birth onward. This means they’ll typically ensure that infants receive necessary vaccinations and support as they head toward becoming toddlers.
Growth monitoring is one of the most vital aspects of pediatric care for FNPs. Are the children in their care growing healthily and at a rate they’d typically expect? Are there any inherited illnesses or conditions that may impede their psychological or physical growth?
FNPs will also take charge of caring for various childhood illnesses. These may include chicken pox, for example, which can be deadly in adults but are highly common in children.
It’s also vital that FNPs look carefully for any signs of neurological and/or physical problems that may restrict children in later life. While FNPs may not specialize fully in pediatric care, they can at least look carefully for signs of concern and refer to pediatric nurses and consultants further down the line.
FNPs will also take charge of treating childhood injuries with sensitivity, and they will support adolescents as they head toward puberty. The latter can be a highly-stressful and confusing time for families, which means FNPs must be ready to offer gentle guidance as well as medical care and advice along the way.
FNPs and adult care
Adults’ medical needs are just as complex as children’s, if not more so. Adults develop chronic illnesses and conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Many people develop debilitating conditions as a result of poor advice during their childhoods, which means FNPs need to be on hand to help offer advice and guidance to turn things around.
Many people studying for a post-master’s FNP program with a recognized body such as Rockhurst University, for example, will learn how to address complex adult medical needs as well as how to approach people with sensitivity. Rockhurst, in fact, provides a detailed program that covers both “soft skills” and necessary techniques.
Adult patients arrive from many different backgrounds, andsome may be underprivileged and may not have access to money for certain medicines and care options. It’s vital, therefore, that FNPs act with empathy and look at the big picture to help people find the support they need.
Adult care also takes into account childbearing and all the complications that may arise through pregnancy. FNPs can care for pregnant women and may refer families to specialists if there are complications beyond their abilities.
FNPs can also provide specialized advice in these cases, such as to advise on healthy eating during pregnancy and how to manage postpartum emotions.
A large part of caring for adults as an FNP, too, is ensuring patients have the care and support they need as they approach later life. As people get older, they show signs of problems that may exacerbate as they age, which means FNPs must act with efficient care to spot any potential concerns.
FNPs and gerontological care
Gerontological care surrounds the diagnosis and treatment of older patients, and while it’s possible to specialize in caring for older adults specifically, the work of an FNP will still cover the main bases.
For example, an FNP will firstly be careful to assess for illnesses and conditions that arise or worsen with advancing age, even if patients show no prior signs of such problems. FNPs will help patients adapt to mobility problems and may help them to find physical support should they struggle to get around as they used to.
FNPs will also take care to help prevent falls and assess the safety of each of their patients. As we get older, we are more at risk of falling, breaking bones due to frailty, and even ending up in hospital for extended stays. We also generally require more regular medication, which means FNPs must be careful to assess intake balance from patient to patient.
In many cases, FNPs will also assist with end-of-life care. Where appropriate, they may help families adjust to the concept of retirement or care homes, dementia care, or late-stage oncology.
Crucially, FNPs care for older people who may feel scared or in pain due to conditions related to their age. It’s the role of a community FNP to make sure they receive gentle care and the “bedside manner” to help them acclimatize to new medication, treatments, and future visits.
FNPs are some of the hardest-working medical professionals in the US and are likely to expect continued high demand for the years to come. They’re pivotal caregivers in communities, often helping those of all ages and backgrounds to find the support they desperately need.
FNPs can niche into specific care realms if they wish; however, those who choose to remain as family practitioners largely do so, thanks to the daily variety and the foundations such a career provides. If they’d like to explore specifically working with older people or children, for example, they can do so with FNP experience as a springboard.
One thing is certain – an FNP’s work is never dull and is certainly going to be challenging in the best ways possible.