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How do family nurse practitioners care for people of all ages?

Family nurse practitioners (FNP) work hard to care for people throughout their lives. As the name indicates, family nurse practitioners focus their nursing practice on caring for all family members of all ages. Alternatively, they can be referred to as across-the-lifespan nurse practitioners. Their roles have various responsibilities, including diagnosing, prescribing, or directly treating patients.

FNPs are incredibly sought-after nurse practitioners, and due to the nature of their work, this concentration is a popular choice for nurses who wish to specialize in a particular field. It’s an advantageous route for nurses who want to help people at every stage of their unique journeys through life. However, what are some examples of the work FNPs do? How do they ensure young people get the help they need and support older patients who might struggle with mobility and care demands?

In this article, we explore the work of FNPs in detail and run through a few ways these specialists can support people younger and older in their local communities.

What FNPs do

FNPs are some of the most dynamic specialists working in healthcare today. With education and experience, FNPs can develop in areas of care and support such as gerontology, preventive care, pregnancy, pediatrics, oncology, and muscle injuries. There are plenty of ways nurses can grow their careers through the FNP route.

There are various ways in which FNPs bridge the gap between doctors and patients, including diagnosis, setting up referrals, and, in some instances, writing prescriptions.

It’s also fair to say that FNPs work in various locations and setups. Sometimes, they might work independently and even run their clinics. In others, they might support specialist physicians or work in hospital settings that are coming under significant demand. Family nursing practice is a specialized field in the nursing world. This requires nurses to study further, and one of the ways they can do this is to enroll in one of the online Family Nurse Practitioner Post-Grad programs, such as that available through Wilkes University. Wilkes offers different entrance points for the FNP concentration, including RN to MSN, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Post-Graduate/APRN Certificate. These are all offered in an online format, providing registered nurses with the necessary skills and knowledge to practice as an FNP and, therefore, providing the specialized care their patients will need. 

These programs also include clinical placements, providing students with an experience that meets the university’s and national guidance. To graduate and meet licensure, FNPs must complete the required clinical hours, which their clinical placements will aid them.

Let’s now consider a few ways FNPs can support people of all ages, no matter their background.

Age-appropriate health promotion

While all people rely on FNPs to provide direct care and refer cases to specialists where needed, they can also help to promote healthcare standards across their communities – tailored to different age-appropriate audiences. For example, when aiming to reach out to adolescents and young adults, an FNP might raise awareness of safe sex practices, with contraception advice and guidance available on demand. Young people who might feel awkward or scared can, therefore, reach out to an FNP for help during a sensitive time, avoid unwanted pregnancies, and prevent the spread of sexual disease.

FNPs can also start health programs and raise awareness of conditions affecting older people. For example, they might promote the benefits of prostate exams to older men or provide help for people who are worried they might have spotted signs of certain conditions. FNPs can also offer advice and run community groups to support mental health advice. People of all ages must know that mental health is essential throughout one’s life and that there are opportunities to reach out and ask for help without judgment.

Ultimately, FNPs need to think carefully about how they can provide care and set up awareness programs to appeal to people of all ages and how to offer advice specifically aimed at people of a specific demographic. It’s all about sensitivity and being straight to the point while showing people that health problems are nothing to be ashamed of. That’s something people of all ages can struggle with – embarrassment regarding their bodies. FNPs are on their side to help them feel more comfortable, more confident, and more protected.

Disease prevention programs

Getting the word out regarding disease prevention can be difficult when people of all ages are at risk. Therefore, FNPs must use critical thinking and look carefully at the facts about a disease before creating prevention programs that fit the bill. The most obvious example we can draw upon is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, it was down to FNPs to help raise awareness of social distancing measures and once released, to encourage vaccine uptake where safe and appropriate.

FNPs needed to provide individual care and spread prevention information to wider communities during this time. Many FNPs presented the need for COVID-19 prevention as a matter of saving lives, with others advising of the strains experienced by healthcare teams. Indeed, due to increased volumes of COVID-19 patients, services offered by FNPs were stretched to their limits, meaning they needed to raise awareness and prevent further delays – alongside saving lives.

FNPs worked closely with individuals to offer advice on staying safe and whether or not they were eligible for vaccinations. They also worked closely with various other specialists – such as physicians and gerontologists – to provide care and advice that was factual, reliable, and easy to understand. The disease affects us throughout our lives. Some may affect older or younger people more than others, and some – such as COVID – provide more significant risks to life and general health. FNPs, therefore, need to think carefully about the dangers posed to the people in their care and how they can spread the word about disease prevention as much as possible.

This is possible through online campaigns, flyers, attending public meetings and schools, and ensuring everyone who attends clinics understands the personal risks they face.

Careful consideration of cultural diversity

In an increasingly multicultural society, FNPS needs to account for differences in beliefs and cultures from person to person. Some people, for instance, might not agree to blood transfusions due to spiritual beliefs, while others might not be willing to remove face or hair coverings in line with their religious practices.

In these cases, regardless of a patient’s age, FNPs need to ask open questions of their patients and avoid making assumptions regarding culture and what might be appropriate. For example, they might ask an older Muslim if they feel comfortable being examined in a particular way. They could also ask a young Jewish adult if they have any spiritual needs that might prevent them from accepting specific advice or following certain guidelines.

In these circumstances, FNPs need to be highly adaptable and objective. Although they might know the “right” steps to take when treating specific conditions and providing care, the “wrong” answer is always to provide this care without considering different cultural requirements. While it might not be possible for FNPs to dive deep into all the human culture and understand every single need, they can adapt with people by checking what they are comfortable with and ensuring they know what will happen during specific treatments.

Above all, it’s essential that people feel safe and comfortable under an FNP’s care, which applies throughout life.

Providing specialized female care

Our bodies change dramatically throughout our lives, and women, in particular, experience broad changes in their reproductive systems and sexual health. Therefore, FNPs provide careful guidance and advice at every step of their lives. From young women learning about pregnancy and ovulation to older female patients experiencing menopause, FNPs benefit from a broad knowledge of the changes female bodies go through at all ages. Naturally, every woman’s body and experiences differ, but expert knowledge helps women feel more comfortable and trusting of their practitioner.

In some cases, FNPs might choose to specialize in treating women shortly after graduating from an FNP course – in much the same way, they might decide to treat people with cancer or people of a certain age. FNPs work carefully with women to ensure they feel comfortable and understand any treatments or courses they suggest to them. Again, everybody is different, which means they need to be ready to offer specialized and unique treatment plans to women regardless of their life stages.

Offering long-term care plans

In some cases, FNPs might need to work with patients and other healthcare professionals to draw up long-term care plans. These might be prudent, for instance, for older people who suffer from specific illnesses or conditions or for patients with terminal or chronic conditions.

Regardless, FNPs need to be ready to think about the long-term health of their patients, not just supporting them with short-term needs. Therefore, all nurse practitioners need to consider, for example, children’s needs as they grow into adolescence and the issues they might face as they become adults. Long-term care planning means considering different resources available in the local community, ongoing health concerns that might affect patients, and any medication or treatments they can or can’t accept.

Once again, cultural intelligence and sensitivity are essential when planning long-term care. This is because there might be some steps that people with spiritual beliefs might be unable to adhere to. Drawing up long-term care plans requires excellent communication skills, which FNPs develop in their education and work experience, whether on placement or when joining the workforce for the first time. They must listen actively to patients to ensure they cater to their needs and speak with various other professionals in different departments.

It’s also up to the FNP to ensure people adhere to their care plans – at least as closely as possible. That means they must offer gentle assurance while insisting that the care supplied is for the best. Long-term care might be scary for some people, meaning the best FNPs must provide a friendly and caring face while understanding how to adapt different medical languages to people of all ages and backgrounds. 

People trust FNPs with long-term care plans because of their experience and training in supporting people of all ages with different conditions and demands. On top of this, good bedside manners go a long way.

Working with specific families and communities

When working in community clinics and with local cases, FNPs will gradually get to know the patients they work with well. For example, they might get to know the families of patients over time, and therefore get a front seat in monitoring their health as they progress through life.

If an FNP stays at a community clinic long-term, this is highly beneficial for individual patients. They get assigned a single professional who has previously helped them and who understands their specific needs. That means they not only feel more at ease when receiving treatment, but they can also expect more efficient care.

Naturally, getting to know people throughout their lives is also beneficial for FNPs and caregivers. They can easily plan and make recommendations without having to restart cases or undertake extensive research.

This is one of the best ways that FNPs can treat people throughout their lives – by supporting them through childhood to adulthood on an individual basis. 

However, it’s reasonable to expect that some FNPs will prefer to move into different areas or to attend different clinics in the years ahead. Working in small or community clinics simply gives them a nice snapshot of what to expect from the human health cycle over time.

The rewarding path of FNPs

Regardless, FNPs are some of the hardest-working people in healthcare, often taking on roles and responsibilities usually expected of physicians and general practitioners. No wonder there’s still so much demand for their expertise!

Becoming an FNP takes time, dedication, and a genuine passion for the healthcare industry. It’s a highly rewarding chance for people to treat a variety of conditions and patients – provided they’re willing to apply themselves fully!

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