Comprehensive healthcare: How family nurse practitioners make a difference

HomeArticlesComprehensive healthcare: How family nurse practitioners make a difference

The family nurse practitioner (FNP) role is among the most sought-after careers in the US today. Individuals in this field assist physicians in treating patients with a variety of medical issues by offering specialized care. This article will cover the numerous responsibilities of an FNP in different healthcare settings.

The role of FNPs

FNPs are advanced practice nurses who provide patient-centered essential care and advanced medical services. Unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners can perform the same tasks as primary physicians. This means that they can diagnose, prescribe a treatment, and order lab tests.

They can work in many healthcare fields and settings, such as hospitals, community health centers, government agencies (e.g., military and federal correctional institutions), specialty clinics (e.g., women’s health clinics and geriatric clinics), private practices, and schools.

To become a nurse practitioner, you need to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing and pass the applicable licensure exam in your state. If possible, try to gain experience as a licensed nurse for at least a year before applying to an accredited FNP program. Wilkes University offers excellent opportunities to its students. The university has a wide range of Online Nurse Practitioner programs, including an online FNP program. This program allows students to expand their knowledge and skills through clinical placement, ensuring they know how to organize, schedule and deliver excellent primary care, as well as being able to diagnose and provide treatment at the bedside.

The role of FNPs in chronic disease management

Almost half (around 45%) of all Americans are suffering from at least one chronic illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines chronic disease as a condition that lasts at least one year. Most chronic diseases don’t have a cure but can be managed.

Examples of common chronic illnesses are arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart diseases, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, mood disorders (including bipolar disorder and depression), multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Here are some ways that FNPs can help manage these conditions.


FNPs perform thorough assessments to determine the concerns and unique needs of patients who are struggling with a chronic disease. They might inquire about the patient’s present medications, possible risk factors and medical history, including those of their family. They could do a physical examination, arrange for diagnostic tests, and conduct an interview with the patient to achieve this.

Patient education

Health education provides numerous benefits to patients, FNPs and other medical team members. Firstly, patients are empowered with essential knowledge to make informed decisions. They are encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle and adhere to their prescribed treatment plan. As a result, this proactive approach aids in minimizing unnecessary hospital visits and preventing potential complications associated with their illness.

Personalized care planning

By conducting a thorough evaluation, FNPs can use the information they gather to design a care plan that addresses the patient’s condition, objectives and preferences. Collaborating with healthcare practitioners, including physicians and therapists, proves advantageous as it equips nurse practitioners with valuable insights to develop comprehensive and evidence-based care plans.

Preventive care

FNPs are also very important in providing preventive healthcare. They use various methods to promote preventive care, such as counseling, health risk evaluations, immunizations, patient education, early detection, screenings, and the development of customized plans for disease prevention and health promotion.

The role of FNPs in managing acute illnesses

Unlike illnesses that are chronic, acute illnesses are often sudden and brief. They can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks.

Examples of acute illnesses include asthma, bronchitis, burns, bone fractures, heart attacks, inflamed sinuses (sinusitis), injuries due to vehicular accidents or falls, misuse of medications, and pneumonia.

There are instances where acute illnesses can become life-threatening. FNPs need to make a prompt diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment to prevent this from happening. However, rather than hospital emergency rooms, they typically provide similar treatments in community-based settings.

Here are some ways that a nurse practitioner can help to manage acute illnesses in communities.

Timely diagnosis

As we pointed out earlier, accurate and timely diagnosis is important because some acute illnesses can progress into something more severe. For instance, while it usually resolves on its own after a week, flu can sometimes lead to serious respiratory infections, such as pneumonia.

During the initial intervention, one of the first things that nurse practitioners need to do is perform a comprehensive patient assessment. This will help them make an accurate diagnosis, which is the basis for choosing the best treatment approach.

Treatment planning and implementation

Based on their collected data and initial diagnosis, the FNP’s next step is to develop an appropriate treatment plan that is specific to the patient. They may take into account the patient’s age, allergies, drug-to-drug interactions, lifestyle, past medications, symptoms and previous responses to past treatments, to name a few.

Progress monitoring

Continuous close monitoring is an important step for FNPs to take to ensure that the prescribed treatments are effective or do not have negative effects. This allows FNPs and the patient’s other healthcare providers to adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

Here are a few ways that FNPs monitor their patients in a community setting:

  • Regular check-ups allow them to assess the effectiveness of the treatment, perform physical examinations, ask relevant questions, and address any concerns that the patient may have.
  • Telehealth is another option that benefits both FNPs and their patients. It is efficient, convenient and more affordable than a visit to a doctor’s office.
  • FNPs may also take advantage of available remote patient monitoring apps and devices, such as blood sugar meters, fitness trackers and pulse oximeters (which measure oxygen in the patient’s blood).

Medical team collaboration

FNPs often collaborate with other medical professionals (nurses, physicians, social workers, etc.), especially if the patient’s case is complicated or requires specialized care. Interdisciplinary collaboration ensures that the patient benefits from effective and holistic medical care. This can lead to better patient outcomes through medication dosage optimization, reduction of medication adverse effects, and prevention of emergency admissions.

The role of FNPs in women’s health

Inadequate medical care for women’s health needs is one of the leading issues in the US today. With their expert knowledge and skills, FNPs are in a good position to address the unique health needs of women of all ages and at all stages of their lives.

Here is a comprehensive overview of the vital role that FNPs play in promoting women’s health.

Promoting preventive care for women

Preventive care is crucial for detecting potential problems before they cause other health issues or become more difficult to treat. FNPs offer a wide range of preventive care services for women, from annual check-ups to regular screenings to menopause management.

For example, FNPs are qualified to perform a Pap test (also called a Pap smear). This test is used to detect cervical cancer early, giving women a greater chance of a successful outcome.

A Pap smear is not the only screening test that FNPs can perform. They can also perform blood pressure monitoring, breast exams, pelvic exams, osteoporosis screening and sexually transmitted infection testing. They can also order and interpret the results of a mammogram and cholesterol test.

Medical care during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a wonderful and life-changing milestone in a woman’s life. It is the job of healthcare providers to ensure that both mother and baby stay healthy throughout those nine months.

FNPs are trained to offer comprehensive medical services to women in all stages of their pregnancy. They conduct regular prenatal visits, order diagnostic tests and interpret results, and educate expectant mothers on different aspects of pregnancy (breastfeeding, exercises, proper nutrition, after-childbirth care, etc.).

Managing women’s reproductive health

You can also rely on FNPs to identify and manage various health issues involving the female reproductive organs, such as severe menstrual pain, polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS), sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections. Depending on the state they are practicing in, FNPs can prescribe oral contraceptives and insert or remove birth control devices.

Assisting in menopause management

Menopause can be a tough time in a woman’s life. FNPs can help make the transition into menopause more comfortable by recommending or prescribing hormones and supplements to ease symptoms. They can also educate, provide resources or give advice to patients about specific concerns, such as menopausal symptoms, bone health, heart health and sexual issues.

The role of FNPs in pediatric healthcare

The main advantage that FNPs have over pediatric nurse practitioners is that they can treat both adults and children. This gives them greater flexibility to work in a variety of settings, including pediatrics. Let’s look at some of the roles of FNPs in pediatric healthcare.

Well-child check

A well-child check, also called a well-child visit, is a routine examination that takes place at regular intervals. The purpose of this visit is to assess and monitor a child’s development (emotional, mental and physical) and overall health. FNPs may also use this visit to give guidance to parents and address health concerns or questions.

Here is what usually happens during a well-child check by FNPs:

  • FNPs may ask the parents about the child’s medical history and that of other family members. This will help them to identify possible genetic or hereditary conditions that may need further medical assessment or monitoring.
  • Parents can also expect FNPs to perform a variety of screenings, such as eye exams, hearing exams, and developmental and behavioral screening tests.
  • FNPs may perform a comprehensive physical examination to check for any signs of health and developmental issues.
  • FNPs may also measure the child’s height, head circumference and weight to ensure that their growth is not stunted.
  • FNPs may discuss with the parents or guardian any observations or concerns they have about their child’s behavior, mood, interactions with peers or sleep patterns.
  • Well-child visits give FNPs the opportunity to assess the child’s nutritional status and talk with parents about dietary habits or nutrition.
  • FNPs check if the child meets the milestones for their age. They assess the child’s motor skills, language, learning skills, social interactions and speech.

Health promotion and education

One of the primary roles of FNPs is to educate and promote the health of children. While it can be challenging, health education is important to do as it encourages patients and their families to seek help, follow medical advice and take responsibility for managing their health.

There are several ways that FNPs fulfill their role as health educators for pediatric patients and families. They may focus on preventive measures, treatment plans, mental health, and medication administration and compliance. When carrying out health education, they make sure that they are using simple language and take into account the cultural practices, religious beliefs and values of every patient and their families.

They may also educate parents on developmental milestones, which refer to the things that children are expected to do by a certain age. For instance, children who are one to two years of age are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, feed themselves, imitate the behavior of adults or older children, independently walk up and down stairs, and become more independent and defiant.

FNPs are aware that it is important for their pediatric patients to follow a balanced and healthy diet. This is why they may guide families to establish an age-appropriate healthy diet (including the recommended portion sizes) and lifestyle.


Like other medical professionals, FNPs play a vital role in the success of a patient’s medical treatment. They are equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to address a range of health conditions, from acute illnesses to chronic illnesses to disabilities.

Being an FNP is a challenging yet fulfilling profession. With the demand for this profession continuing to increase in the coming years, you may want to explore this career path in greater detail.

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