Many nurses eventually desire to move into advanced practice positions, where more autonomy allows for a greater impact on patient care. However, busy work schedules and family commitments often leave little time to participate in higher education to advance their careers.
An online degree program, like the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program offered by The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), offers the flexibility you need to pursue your goals while working full time.
What Opportunities Are Available for FNPs?
The demand for family nurse practitioners is greater than ever before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that overall nurse practitioner job openings will increase 45% from 2019-2029, largely in response to an anticipated physician shortage. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there may be a shortage of up to 122K physicians by 2032, including as many as 55K primary care physicians.
The need for FNPs is attributed to a growing, aging population that is living longer and requiring more complex management of chronic conditions. Also, one-third of currently practicing physicians will be older than 65 and nearing retirement within the next decade.
Because FNPs care for patients and families at any life stage and perform similar functions to primary care physicians, they are ideally positioned to supplement the provider gap. FNPs can find employment in many settings, including:
- Primary and family care private practices
- Public and community health centers
- Urgent care clinics
- Outpatient facilities
- Health insurance companies
Alexis Turner, who graduated from the MSN – FNP program at UTA in August 2019, quickly landed an FNP position with Mid Coast WellCare. Over the next six weeks, Turner helped WellCare open a new satellite clinic, bringing critical healthcare access to the residents in the small town of Blessing, Texas, about 95 miles southwest of Houston.
"I didn't take any time after graduation," she said. "I studied for a couple of weeks, took the certification test, passed, got my credentials within a month and started the job on September 30."
What Are the Benefits of an Online MSN – FNP Program?
An online MSN – FNP program has several short- and long-term benefits, such as:
Flexible schedule. For many nurses, the most immediate benefit is the flexible format. Students do not have to travel to campus, can complete all didactic classes virtually and coordinate clinical experience with local facilities, ultimately giving nurses more freedom to create a schedule that works for them. They can maintain regular work hours, income, and key employment benefits like health insurance and tuition reimbursement.
Supportive faculty. The UTA program's built-in flexibility is bolstered by supportive faculty who help students navigate the unexpected and keep making progress. When Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast in 2017, Turner's work schedule unexpectedly changed in response, leaving her struggling to complete assignments on time.
"I was taking Advanced Pharmacology and working 16-hour shifts for two weeks straight, and I was not able to take a test or turn in some homework assignments," she said. "When I emailed [my instructor], she was very understanding and very proud of me for doing what I was doing. She said, 'When you are ready, let me know and we can get these things done.'"
Accelerated pacing. Students can complete the MSN – FNP online program at UTA in as few as 31 months. Like Turner, nurses who opt to pursue certification shortly after graduation are then ready to launch into new employment opportunities fully.
Increased salary. FNP salaries vary based on location, but nurses in this field tend to enjoy substantially higher pay. According to ZipRecruiter (February 2021), Texas nurse practitioners' average annual salary is $109,082 — a sizable increase from the average annual salary of $86,836 for BSN-prepared nurses in the state.
A Format for Success
Nurses who wish to further their education and pursue FNP certification will likely find an online MSN – FNP program that provides them with a format for success. The flexible scheduling, accelerated pace and supportive faculty allow nurses to quickly complete the degree program and move into gratifying positions with greater earning potential.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.