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The Importance of Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) in Rural Areas

An estimated 98 million people live in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), according to — which means there is a significant need for qualified medical professionals in these communities. While there is a shortage of health professionals everywhere in the U.S., rural areas face significant challenges regarding access to care and higher rates of chronic disease and illness.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) states, “This shortage means no prevention, no screening, immunizations or basic care for infections and sicknesses, and patients in rural areas are hit especially hard.”

The healthcare industry must focus on developing the expertise of family nurse practitioners (FNPs) and supporting them in their service to rural residents. An advanced FNP degree can equip professionals to take on these responsibilities in high-need communities.

What Is an FNP?

AANP defines an FNP as “an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who provides a wide range of family-focused health services to patients of all ages, including infants, adolescents, adults and seniors. (They) practice in a variety of health care settings, including community health centers, private practice, health care systems and universities.”

These nurse practitioners must adapt to their surroundings easily and can treat individuals of all ages. Unlike specialized nurse practitioners, FNPs can switch between different categories of patients during a workday. A primary goal is to prevent chronic diseases in vulnerable populations.

Addressing the Shortage

Having a supply of FNPs in rural areas is crucial to ensure citizens receive the care they need and deserve. Without FNPs in these communities, many individuals must live with their ailments, often worsening other conditions. Chronic disease is the deadliest sickness in rural cities because of the low access to preventative screenings.

Currently, most of those living in rural towns are either experiencing no healthcare coverage or limited access to treatments. Increasing the number of prepared NPs will greatly improve these instances of healthcare inequity, as NPs in these communities can understand individuals’ social determinants of health and improve systems to help them access care.

It will take tremendous amounts of time and effort to rebuild the foundation of healthcare in rural communities, but nurses are well equipped to serve the public regardless of the current situation.

Perks of Working as an FNP in a Rural Area

Due to the shortage of FNPs in rural areas, those who enter the workforce will have job security and unique opportunities that allow them to grow throughout their career. In addition, nurses can more easily pursue their career goals because of the low numbers of healthcare facilities in the general population and the high demand for healthcare professionals.

Additionally, living in small communities allows FNPs to foster stronger relationships with their patients than nurse practitioners in suburban or urban areas. There is a sense of community and closeness among residents.

Health Affairs explains that “adding NPs is a useful way for practices to align themselves with contemporary efforts to improve access and performance,” which will “strengthen health care delivery overall.”

Pursue Your FNP Dreams With a Master’s Degree

One way to pursue your nursing dreams as an FNP is to further your career by earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner online program at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) will give active nurses the skills and confidence needed to become FNPs.

Graduates will be prepared to assume FNP responsibilities and provide healthcare in the areas of health promotion, disease prevention or clinical management to patients and families in a variety of settings. This program allows all students to cultivate intensive preparation in evidence-based primary care practice specific to the health management needs of patients and families at each stage of life.

For example, the Exploration of Science and Theories for Nursing course covers the philosophical and theoretical bases of nursing. In the Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reading course, students focus on theoretical foundations and clinical skills in health across the lifespan. The program allows for flexibility, and students can complete the degree in as few as 32-36 months.

Each future family nurse practitioner will obtain the knowledge and skills required to enter influential nursing roles in all communities, including rural and urban settings.

Learn more about UTA’s MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner online program.

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