How to Continue Working Full Time as a Nurse and Earn Your FNP Qualification
Nurse Practitioners are one of the four main types of advanced practice registered nurses you can aim for. Though there are four types, the specialization you work towards can be as niche as they come. One of the most popular options is to become a Family Nurse Practitioner, otherwise known as an FNP.
There are so many types of NPs you can become:
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
- Cardiac Nurse Practitioner
- Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
- Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Oncology Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
- Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PCNP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- And more!
Of all of these, working as a Family Nurse Practitioner gives you the greatest scope. It allows you to take on much of the same work as a physician, and you will work with the greatest demographic, from infants to the older generations. Family Nurse Practitioners are the best choice for those who want to take on the role of a doctor and help the most amount of people live healthy, great lives.
Why Work to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
There are so many reasons to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. You have the greatest amount of responsibility, see a varied work-day, and can even run your own clinic. If that weren’t enough, these three main reasons appeal many to the profession:
1. A Primary Care Professional Shortage
Primary care professionals are facing a massive shortage, and with the sheer effort it takes to become a fully qualified doctor (never mind the cost), that shortage is sure to persist as qualified doctors continue to aim for the highest-paid roles instead.
In light of this, FNP-level nurses have been awarded additional responsibilities that go far beyond simple bedside care. They are now capable of diagnosing and prescribing medication, ordering tests, and being the primary point for patient care and are even instrumental in policy care.
2. Job Growth for Family Nurse Practitioners
Family Nurse Practitioners are growing in demand by an average of 19% per year. If primary care professional roles are not filled, either by doctors or FNP-level nurses, it is estimated that around 32 million people will not have access to the healthcare services that they need.
3. Great Salary for Family Nurse Practitioners
These Nurse Practitioners earn an average of $97,000 to $100,000 per year and work in all sorts of settings, from primary care, ambulatory care, clinics, to hospitals. Not only are they in-demand in urban areas, but they provide essential care in more rural areas and often act as the primary point of care.
How Do You Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
To become a FNP, you will need to first complete an FNP-MSN or an FNP-DNP. DNP requires an MSN as a prerequisite on its own, however, so for most, the direction you will take with your career is to first achieve the FNP-MSN.
Typically to enroll in an FNP program, you will need to have your BSN, an active nursing license in your state, and a few years of experience. That is why it is always advised that you go through the BSN route to become an RN and not the ADN route, which will halt your career and stop you from progressing further. Nurse Practitioners consistently make over $30,000 more every year than standard RNs, so the extra work and effort of earning that BSN and then MSN is worth it.
Education and Training
Completing your FNP-MSN, even fulltime, takes just 2.5 years. During this time, you will have to complete clinic hours and certification, so choose an institution that provides these clinical sites and opportunities on your behalf.
The online Master of Science in Nursing is more flexible and affordable than you might think. Plus, many universities dedicate 1-on-1 support. You can also continue to work full-time and still graduate in only 2.5 years.
The Real Challenge: Balancing Everything Without Burning Out
A good way to think of that juggle is to visualize different kinds of juggling materials. You have glass balls. Drop them, and they break. Then you have plastic balls that will bounce and can be picked back up again without a problem. This is how you really need to “juggle” your life because there are times when you will drop the ball, but if you know which ones to prioritize – and really prioritize – then you know how to keep the glass balls up in the air.
If you are a parent, sometimes it can feel like your kids are all the glass balls, when they aren’t. Sometimes your career will take precedence. Other times it won’t. Know what priorities in your life are glass and cannot be simply picked back up, and you’ll be able to work as a nurse, study towards your higher qualification, and still have a personal life.
Common Responsibilities and Challenges
There are so many responsibilities that we have to deal with on a regular basis. Work, the bills, laundry, cooking, cleaning, kids, friends, community, pets, taxes – the list goes on and on, but some will be more important than others. Make a note of all the things you need to do, and list them in order of importance. This way, you can keep your priorities straight and get the most important things done with the energy that you have.
This isn’t to say that the items at the bottom of the list can be ignored, but they have a bit more wiggle room when it comes to how long it takes.
Financing Tips and Considerations
There are financing options, and of course, you should always ask your employer if they are willing to sponsor your education. The shortage isn’t just a strike to the American people; it hurts hospitals as well. Many are willing to train up their staff to fill in shortages.
How to Juggle Work and Study (and Everything Else)
It’s a matter of knowing what is important, staying healthy, and being aware of what corners can be cut to fit everything in:
Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
Have all the caffeine in the world, and it isn’t going to replace a good night’s sleep. When you are studying for a higher qualification that sleep is paramount. It is how you will have energy to get you through your shift, and then to study after the fact. It’s how you can do it all, but most of us either don’t get enough sleep or sleep poorly during the hours we allow ourselves.
The issue is compounded when you work shifts. Because there is no consistency, it is much harder to get your body in the right rhythm.
To avoid this, you will want to go through the same routine before bed and when you wake up. This could mean having a hot bath, tea, and then reading a book before bed (away from electronic screens and daylight). Waking up should have its own routine.
Though not perfect (going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is one of the best ways to get your body in sync with your sleep schedule), these tricks can help you get a better night’s sleep when you deal with changing shift times.
Eating Healthier with Less Time
Staying healthy is a mixture of sleep, exercise, and eating right. Eating right, however, often takes a major back seat when it’s so much easier to eat whatever is out of the vending machine or popping in another microwavable meal. Nurses know it isn’t good for them, but they also know they’re starving and exhausted.
That is why, to eat healthier, you have to make it the easiest option. Prepping meals either for lunch or dinner (or both) over your day off is a big task. You can make it easier by getting friends and family involved if they are interested. Either way, consider it a necessary evil. You can make this big meal plan day nice by putting on music or a movie and enjoying yourself while you cook.
Do all that on a day off, and you have home-made, nutritional meals ready to eat at a moment’s notice. Give your body the fuel it needs to be great, and it will take you far!
Socializing and Staying Productive
Never underestimate how important friends and family are for your stress levels and mental wellbeing. Support systems are critical, especially for those in roles that suffer from compassion fatigue like nursing.
Finding time to meet up with friends and family – particularly those outside of the hospital – is a big ask, which is why you need to make it part of your routine and even consider combining activities alongside it.
You could go out for brunch once a week with your friends, or join an exercise class together. Simple, easy activities like these that occur on a weekly basis and combing one other activity (eating, exercising, etc.) will help you stay healthy while being connected.
When to Revise for Effective Studying
Revision is essential when studying to become an FNP. You need to know that information for beyond one exam, which means last-night cramming just will not do. You cannot and should not try to force all the information into your mind a week or so before your exam. You need it to feel natural, and for that to happen, regular revision is a must.
Good ways to revise are to create study notes and to then go through them on a regular basis. Use the times you are already waiting. Your commute, a line to the bank, before an appointment – all of these times are usually dead and filled with mindless activities that we use to pass the time.
You don’t have to worry if you need to be hands-free, either. You can get around this by simply selecting the digital text and having your device read what you have selected aloud to you. Alternatively, you can create voice notes for yourself where you read the notes out so you can listen to them whenever you are driving, riding or bike, or generally need to be looking where you are going.
Creating the Ultimate Study Notes
You need to create study notes. We all learn differently, and there isn’t a single institution or course on the planet that can cater to everyone’s individual learning style. In light of this, one of the best things you can do for your success is to take the time to recreate what you have learned into a format best suited to you. Explain complex procedures and medical diagnostics in terms you understand. All the information needs to be there, but describe it in a way that makes the most sense to you.
By making the information understandable and relatable, this is how you remember.
Working with Classmates and Co-Workers
Your classmates are your best friends during your degree. So too are your co-workers (both the ones also going for their MSN and the ones who have already achieved it). You can study together (digitally or in person). You can ask for advice or tips. You can quiz each other. The best situation is if everyone is studying the same FNP-MSN that you are, but if you aren’t there are areas your degrees will overlap, and at the very least, just studying with others is a great motivator.
Take it at Your Own Pace
When you take a degree on a part-time basis, you only need to tackle two courses at a time. Even at this pace, you can still finish your FNP degree in as little as 2.5 years. There is no reason to rush through faster than this. It takes a lot of effort to do it all at once, and you aren’t taking a break from anything. By spreading out your study, you have more time to stay healthy, keep up with friends, and progress your career.
Nurse practitioners are so much more than just knowledgeable nurses. They have years of experience behind them. By working and studying, you earn that experience while working to gain your formal qualification, allowing you to make real, progressive steps towards your ultimate position.