Challenges Facing Family Nurse Practitioners in 2017

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Every career comes with a unique set of challenges. However, working within the medical field can be particularly confounding. It is subject to an ever-changing regulatory environment that impacts not only the people who work within it but also the people who utilize its services. Nurses, doctors, and administrators are all facing a unique set of issues in meeting the needs of their patients.

A nurse and a patient.
Image via Flickr.

As you learn about online Family Nurse Practitioner programs and try to determine whether pursuing this career is the right choice for you, it’s important to understand the challenges and rewards associated with the role. In 2017, family nurse practitioners will likely confront some of the following issues as they strive to provide the best care possible for their patients:

The Primary Care Gap

Writing for DailyNurse, Christina Morgan pointed out, “In the face of a primary care gap, much focus has been placed on nurses, especially nurse practitioners, as the solution. The primary care gap has surfaced over the past decade from events including the Affordable Care Act, new education requirements for health care providers, and increasing clinical complexity in patient populations. This has caused a rearrangement of the US health care system, and increased roles and responsibilities for advanced practice providers, namely nurse practitioners (NPs).”

This primary care gap may lead to an increased burden on the shoulders of nurse practitioners. Morgan’s article touched on the high value of NPs in health care settings, which stems from their ability to carry out most preventative and diagnostic procedures. Commenting on the role and scope of family nurse practitioners, an article from Nurse Journal pointed out that FNPs are qualified to care for a range of medically stable patients. Therefore, they are valuable in many settings, including hospitals and private clinics. Furthermore, FNPs cost less to train than physicians.

The skills and education of FNPs are part of the reason why the demand for this career is growing significantly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in this occupation is expected to grow by more than 30 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Legislative Changes

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) helped 27 million Americans gain health insurance, according to an article by health care journalist Sophia Bernazzani, writing for the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC). The ACA put a spotlight on the shortage of primary care physicians, but it also spurred the growth of the nurse practitioner career. Graduation rates for nurse practitioners have been growing, with well over 14,000 new NPs stepping onto the scene in 2014.

Legislative changes, to the ACA or otherwise, could impact the role of the FNP at any time. Any alterations could not only impact the workload of family nurse practitioners, but also the scope of their work.

Scope of Practice Restrictions

Bernazzani’s article, mentioned earlier, brought out that one of the biggest issues nurse practitioners face is scope-of-practice restrictions. These rules, which determine what NPs are allowed to do, come from Medicaid agencies, state licensing agencies, and individual health care facilities. Many places continue to put restrictions on NPs that limit their ability to provide care.

Such restrictions may not be entirely necessary. Bernazzani went on to write, “Nearly 90% of all nurse practitioners are prepared to provide primary care, which includes preventive and chronic illness care. NPs have the advanced education and training to carry out many traditional physician tasks, including writing prescriptions. Moreover, studies show that NPs deliver safe and effective patient care that is on par with care provided by physicians.”

HMOs may be contributing to the perception that NPs are not as capable as they truly are; according to Bernazzai’s article, roughly one-quarter of HMOs do not recognize nurse practitioners as primary care providers.

Personal Challenges

The above-listed challenges are factors that nurse practitioners may have little to no control over. They are overarching issues that impact both the public and the health care industry as a whole. However, there are more personal challenges that have afflicted NPs in the past and are likely to continue to impact them in 2017.

MidLevelU, which provides information to both prospective and practicing nurse practitioners, posted an article about some of the biggest challenges that come with a career as an NP.

One such challenge is monotony. While NPs may get the opportunity to work with many patients, they usually settle into a particular niche, which necessitates that they perform the same tasks again and again. One way to address this challenge is via continuing education, which can train family nurse practitioners to take on new and interesting jobs within their work environment.

Another issue is that of achieving balance. NPs often have to work a schedule that falls outside of the traditional 9-to-5 mold. Such schedules include working nights and weekends, which may make it difficult for nurse practitioners to strike the right balance between personal time and professional dedication. However, this may be remedied by frank conversations with supervisors and with the mindset that it is alright to take advantage of paid time off.

2017 and Beyond

Family nurse practitioners are emerging as one of the most important aspects of a health care industry that is lacking in primary care providers. However, the profession faces challenges from many sources, including politics and policy. NPs must also be passionate about their careers so they continue to love what they do.

If you are a nurse who is thinking about taking your career from RN to NP or FNP, you may be interested in learning more about advanced education options. Learn about Maryville University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing, where you can learn about patient care on the NP level.


In A Rapidly Changing US Healthcare System, Nurse Practitioners Face New Roles, Opportunities, and Challenges