Why you should consider doing a master’s in nursing and becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Continued professional development is important in almost every single industry and job role. Whether you need to keep on top of legal changes, practice new technical skills, or master emerging software, the moment we stop learning is the moment that we put our careers at risk of stagnation. Perhaps one of the spheres in which this is most obvious and also most critical is that of healthcare.

If you are a surgeon, therapist, dentist, or any other type of medical professional, it’s vital for you to commit to lifelong learning and personal improvement. Of course, this is no different for nurses. No matter what area of nursing you work in, you will need to stay up to date with all the new techniques, technologies, and discoveries in the field. There are many different ways that you can achieve this, from short courses run by your employer to self-directed reading at home. However, one of the most effective methods for boosting your nursing knowledge and clinical skills is to return to college and study for a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree.

Taking an MSN is also a fantastic way to open up doors to a wider range of job opportunities, including becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. This role gives you greater autonomy at work, along with a wider range of responsibilities. It also comes with a higher salary to match, meaning you can enjoy higher levels of job satisfaction, employability, and financial stability.

This article will discuss what it’s like to study for an MSN, and the many benefits you can gain from doing so. It will also cover the role of an FNP in more detail, to help you decide whether it’s the right job for you. Just in case it’s not, we’ve also included some ideas for other career options that are available to you after your MSN.

Studying for an MSN

A master of science in nursing is a graduate-level degree, meaning that it builds on what you learn at bachelor’s level in order to prepare you for more advanced duties and job roles. The specifics of each program will differ slightly depending on which college you study with, however, generally speaking, you can expect the degree to incorporate three main styles of learning:

  • Academic modules
  • Clinical placements
  • A final project

Most MSN programs also give you the opportunity to choose a specialist track that aligns with your future career goals. For example, these can include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Nurse Educator
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Nurse Executive

The academic modules that you complete will be a mixture of general nursing courses and ones that are linked with your chosen specialism. Some will be compulsory, while for others you will be able to pick from a long list of electives. Much like undergraduate study, they will involve a mixture of lectures, seminars, reading, and written assignments.

In terms of clinical placements, most MSN programs will require you to complete somewhere around 700 hours. Your college can help you to find somewhere suitable that matches your future aspirations, whether that’s to work as an FNP, a pediatric nurse, a geriatric nurse, or in a role that focuses on indirect patient care, such as a nurse researcher. These opportunities provide a chance for you to network with professionals, plus learn directly from experts out in the field as you put your knowledge into practice.

Your final research project will be centered on a relevant topic of your choice, enabling you to examine an issue that you are passionate about in-depth. As such many students find this the most rewarding, as well as academically challenging, part of the course.

The benefits of earning an MSN degree

Studying for a master of science in a nursing program can bring you a whole wealth of benefits. To begin with, you have the chance to develop your nursing knowledge and clinical skills to a more advanced level. This is valuable in and of itself, but also means that you will be able to get certified for a number of higher-level job roles within the nursing sphere, such as an FNP. Consequently having an MSN can bring you more money, more job security, and more career fulfillment – plus it shows potential employers that you’re serious about your professional development.

These are far from the only benefits of going back to college, however. You will also have the chance to network with other like-minded nursing professionals, whether that’s your fellow students, your professors, or those you work with on placements. Having a broad professional and social network brings many advantages both in and out of the workplace, so don’t be too shy to make the most of this opportunity!

Then there are all the transferable skills studying at this level results in. These are not necessarily directly linked with nursing but are a huge help in your professional life as an FNP nonetheless. For example, you’ll work on your written and verbal communication, teamwork and leadership, critical thinking and problem-solving, plus organization and time management.

In addition to this, higher levels of education – regardless of the subject that you study – are associated with many positive outcomes, including better physical health and mental wellbeing. Therefore the benefits you can expect to enjoy go further than just your work life!

The role of an FNP

A Family Nurse Practitioner, or FNP, is an advanced nursing role that involves working with patients across their entire lifespan and often with many members of the same family. This means it’s a position that’s very important to the local community and gives you the opportunity to make long-lasting and meaningful connections with those in your care. As an FNP, you can be employed in a number of different healthcare settings, from schools and hospitals to physicians’ offices and specialist clinics.

The role of an FNP involves greater levels of responsibility and autonomy in comparison to that of a registered nurse (RN), although you will usually still work alongside other healthcare professionals such as physicians in order to provide the best possible care. The precise duties and tasks that you perform will vary according to the exact healthcare setting in which you work, and also the types of patients that you see.

When working as an FNP you can expect to take patients’ medical histories, conduct routine physical examinations, and also order or conduct diagnostic tests or screenings in order to help diagnose any health conditions or diseases they may be suffering from. Once a diagnosis is made, you will also be involved in developing treatment plans for both chronic and acute illnesses.

Another important aspect of being an FNP is education. You will teach your patients about issues such as disease prevention, healthy eating, the importance of exercise, and other relevant healthcare topics. For those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, you will monitor their progress and also educate them on how best to manage their condition.

Other possible tasks include administering medication to patients and assisting other healthcare professionals with certain medical procedures. Depending on the state in which you work, you might also be able to prescribe some medications yourself. Finally, there will of course be a certain amount of administrative work, such as updating and maintaining patient records and referring patients to see other medical specialists where appropriate.

The benefits of becoming an FNP

Becoming an FNP can bring you numerous benefits. Firstly, because the role is more advanced it allows you greater levels of freedom and independence in your work. For many people, this brings higher job satisfaction and career fulfillment, which in turn is linked to better wellbeing in general. Plus, of course, it means that the position comes with a correspondingly higher salary, giving you more financial stability.

The job prospects for FMPs are also very positive. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for the role is set to grow much faster than average over the next 10 years, thus boosting your job security, too. Nurses with advanced skills will always be in high demand, particularly with the country’s population aging and the rates of certain health conditions such as obesity on the rise.

Being an FNP also puts you in a great position to provide the best possible care for your patients. You’ll be able to use your advanced knowledge and clinical skills to help underserved communities and make a real difference in your local neighborhood. For many nurses, this is the greatest reward of all.

Alternative careers after an MSN

What if you like the sound of the master’s of science in a nursing program, but are not so keen on the idea of being an FNP? No problem – there are many other careers in nursing that you can progress to after graduation. Some of these are other direct care roles, such as those which specialize in working with certain patient populations or certain healthcare conditions. For example, you could focus on pediatric or geriatric nursing, mental health nursing, oncology, emergency care, or cardiology.

The other route open to you is to move into an indirect patient care role. For instance, you could work as a nurse educator, helping to teach and train the next generation of nurses, or as a nurse researcher conducting studies into an area of nursing that you’re passionate about and then trying to publish your results in order to improve patient outcomes.

Other options include nursing informatics, which combines nursing with computing and information sciences to help implement new technologies and improve healthcare systems. Those who are particularly ambitious might like to consider trying to move into a leadership role such as a chief nursing officer, in which you are responsible for issues such as budgeting, the hiring and training of nurses, and generally maintaining high standards throughout your workplace.

It’s worth noting that some of these positions might require you to complete further study after your MSN, like taking a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) or shorter specialist certifications. You might also have to sit an exam in order to obtain the relevant license. There is a lot of guidance about this online, so if any of the careers mentioned above sound appealing to you, you’re sure to be able to find all the information that you need to get started.

Applying for an MSN

Whether you feel that becoming an FNP is the perfect career choice, or you would rather take a different route after your MSN, either way, the first stage is to apply for the course itself. Take some time to research the available programs and find a few that have curriculums that particularly appeal to you and match your career goals. You’ll also want to consider whether you want to study on a full-time or part-time basis and whether you would prefer distance learning or a course that’s held on campus. Other factors to take into account include location, tuition fees, funding options, and entry requirements.

One helpful way to narrow down your choices is to check testimonials from past students who have taken the course, and also statistics on how many of them passed their certification exams or went on to find employment shortly after graduating. It’s also worth checking whether the college has services available to help you find clinical placements, and also that the program is accredited by all the relevant bodies. This will assist you in determining the quality of different degrees.

Once you’ve found a couple of courses that you like the look of, you can start to put together your application. This will likely involve providing transcripts from your previous qualifications, contact details for academic or professional references, and a resume.

You might also have to submit a personal essay on why you want to take the program, and what your career goals are after graduation. At this stage, it’s also a good idea to start looking into what financial aid is available to you because scholarships and funding programs often have earlier deadlines than the MSN courses themselves and you don’t want to miss out. Good luck!