How to become a family nurse practitioner

If it was possible to paint an idyllic mental picture of a nurse, the image conjured up would look a lot like a family nurse practitioner.

In the same way that a family doctor works with patients throughout their entire lives, a family nurse practitioner is there for a patient at every step – helping conduct medical exams, prescribing medications, and assisting in the diagnosis of illnesses. However, perhaps most importantly, they provide comfort and a familiar bedside manner that can help patients find comfort throughout the course of their lives.

If that’s a picture that you like the look of, then why not look into becoming a family nurse practitioner? It’s a rewarding career that may not be as difficult to break into as you think.

Here are the six steps to getting into, working as, and advancing your career as a family nurse practitioner:

1. Earn the right qualifications

As with many careers, the first step is to study and gain the qualifications needed for an entry-level role.

Usually, that first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) in order to become a registered nurse. These courses are designed to give nursing students a balance of theory and hands-on education, including both classroom learning and supervised clinical experience.

Usually, a BSN course will cover a wide curriculum that includes patient assessment, pharmacology, physiology, and anatomy. Later units in the BSN course may then offer students the opportunity to study more specialized subjects.

2. Get your nurse’s license

After completing your BSN course, it will be time to obtain your registered nurse’s license– this is necessary in order to work legally as a nurse in your state. The licenses are issued by the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

You will need to pass an examination and may be required to prove other competencies, depending onthe state in which you intend to work as a nurse.

3.Get on-the-job experience

There’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Once you’re licensed and accredited to work as a registered nurse, you can start gaining the on-the-job experience that will make you a strong candidate as a family nurse practitioner. You can gain that experience at a wide range of institutions – from general hospitals to aged care facilities. It’s therefore smart to try to amass experience working with patients of different age groups and different needs as this will serve you well in your future work as a family nurse practitioner.

4.Get your master’s degree

Once you have a few years’ professional experience under your belt, you’ll probably want to look at taking the next step in your career. For many, this means turning their BSN qualification into a doctorate of nursing practice through further study – for example, through a BSN to DNP program.

This doesn’t necessarily mean going “back to school” in the traditional sense; earning your nursing qualifications online means that you can work your studies around your existing commitments – work, your family, and your home life. Studying mostly from home, there’s no need to uproot yourself (as on-campus study often requires), and course fees for online nursing degrees are often far lower than their on-campus counterparts.

5. Get certified

With a master’s degree to your name, the next step towards becoming a family nurse practitioner is to become a certified advanced practice nurse.

Depending on the awarding body for your state, you may be required to take a number of exams, as well as demonstrate a minimum number of hours’ experience. For example, the Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC) requires at least 500 hours of supervised clinical practice experience.

It’s also critical to note that each awarding body has differing requirements for staying certified – for example, a certified nurse must prove that they have amassed a further set number of supervised hours by a future date. Make sure that you look for information from the issuing body in your state on their exact certification requirements.

6.Consider further career advancement

Congratulations – once you make it to this point, you’ve achieved your ambition of becoming a family nurse practitioner. Such is human nature, however, that you’ll probably want to know what your options are to advance your career even further by this point.

Many nurse practitioners eventually choose to move on to teaching. In addition, many choose to move on to more senior roles within nursing by studying for a doctorate.