Family Nursing

Family nursing is a subgenre of medical care provided by Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP). These are highly trained advanced practitioners of the nursing arts who have chosen to specialize in general care for children, adults and the elderly. CNPs hold either a graduate or doctoral degree in nursing and are qualified to diagnose and treat both physical and psychiatric infirmities. Family nursing is usually provided by a CNP who has pursued family medicine as a speciality. Other possible specialties include pediatrics, geriatrics, emergency nursing, occupational medicine, gynecological/ reproductive health and acute care.

Certified Nurse Practitioners

Although they are not physicians, nurse practitioners often function as the primary healthcare provider for many patients. Those who have obtained the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree frequently run their own clinics, where patients receive family nursing services and, if necessary, referrals to other medical providers and health authorities. Family nurses have hospital admitting privileges and have the authority to prescribe many medications without a physician’s permission. In 17 states and Washington D.C., nurse practitioners have no limits in this area, which means that they may write prescriptions for narcotics and other controlled substances without a physician’s supervision. Furthermore, in more than twenty states, nurse practitioners are not obligated to practice under the authority of, or in collaboration with, a physician (although many, of course, still do).

Credentialing Organizations

Nurses specializing in family nursing must complete a lengthy and rigorous regimen of academic and clinical training, and must pass a series of formidable exams designed to assess their knowledge of both. Within the United States, the relevant professional certifications are granted by several organizations, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Before a nurse may apply for credentials, s/he must obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, through either a stand-alone program or as a waypoint in an academic curriculum that culminates in a graduate or doctoral degree.

State Licensing

Nurse Practitioners must also be licensed by the state in which they wish to practice. It’s important to understand that each of the fifty states has its own list of criteria prospective family nurse practitioners must fulfill. For example, some states don’t require nurses to have a graduate or doctoral degree in order to offer family nursing services; however, there is a strong trend in this direction, and by 2015 all – or almost all – of the states will only issue family nursing licenses to those holding the aforementioned advanced degrees.

Other Venues for Certified Nurse Practitioners

Family nursing isn’t confined to nurse-managed clinics. Nurse practitioners who specialize in family care are also frequently employed in hospitals, community clinics, convalescent/ nursing homes, hospices (for adults and children), educational institutions, home health care agencies and municipal medical offices. Schools are a tremendous environment for family nursing; school nurses must be able to switch gears quickly and often, assessing multiple patients one after the other, calling parents and interfacing with school administrators. Just as in private practice, a school nurse often has the opportunity to get to know an entire family, and provide care for growing children over four or five years. In this environment, the nurse must also be comfortable administering routine screenings for hearing loss, scoliosis, vision problems and head lice – especially in elementary schools. Furthermore, the nurse must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with individuals who come from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and who may have unusual expectations regarding the role of the nurse in the care of their child(ren).

The Scope of Practice

Family nursing may also encompass:

  • *prenatal care and birth coaching
  • *immunizations and pediatric preventive care
  • *education for patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes
  • *providing school and sports physicals
  • *interpreting data from many types of lab tests, X-rays, CAT scans and other diagnostic tools
  • *assisting patients with basic illness prevention and health maintenance
  • *educating patients about contraception, safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases
  • *prescribing and evaluating physical and occupational therapy services

The Great Debate

Because in most states the precise dividing line between a certified nurse practicioner and a physician is growing increasingly fuzzy, some physicians have expressed concern that nurses may soon be expected to regularly handle cases for which they are not qualified. For example, many doctors acknowledge that a family nursing practitioner can assess, diagnose, treat and manage single-system disorders as well as a physician. However, they remain adamant that these nurses do not have the necessary knowledge and training to treat extremely complex cases involving multiple organ systems unless they do so under a superivising physician. This is a controversial debate that is unlikely to be resolved soon.

Holistic Care

What, then, sets family nurses apart? At this point, the answer to this question is more opinion than fact. The work of a Certified Nurse Practitioner has historically involved a much greater emphasis on preventative medicine and health maintenance than is expected from physicians. The scope of family nursing practice rarely involves simple, straight lines from diagnosis to treatment. To the contrary, nurses frequently approach problems from multiple angles, involving the patient’s family, community and entire environment surrounding the patient. Many certified nurse practitioners have a much more integrated, holistic approach to health care that stresses the importance of patient self-monitoring as an effective tactic for preventing health problems and diagnosing potentially serious illnesses at the earliest, most treatable stages.


Online Masters in Nursing

Most nurses hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which allows them to become RNs, or Registered Nurses. It usually takes four years to become an RN. If you choose to further your education by pursuing a Master’s Degree in nursing, then many specialized career opportunities will open up for you. However, graduate studies are demanding, and it is not always easy to fit them into your schedule. This is why many people are turning to online programs to pursue their postgraduate education in nursing.

How It Works

Students study the core curriculum of courses online. Whenever they have the time they can access case studies over the Internet and use them to learn evidence-based nursing practices and theory. The tests are usually done online as well. When it is time for clinical training then the students can go to a nearby facility that has been approved to provide clinical experiences. Many courses also offer online study groups with tutors and other students. Students sometimes choose one specialization or another, such as executive nursing, clinical nursing, nursing education, nursing informatics, or healthcare policy. The choice of specialization will affect the type and number of courses that are involved in earning the degree. The master’s degree in nursing can often be completed in as little as two years. However, as the purpose of an online degree program is to allow you the flexibility to fit it in to your current schedule, it might take you longer than this to acquire your degree.

While many online MSN programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission, this is not always the case. Some online programs allow in nurses with Associate degrees. Associate degree students have to do the study to get to the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, but the course is shorter than doing the bachelor’s and master’s degrees separately.

What It Does

With your online master’s degree in nursing, you will have a number of different jobs that you will be eligible for. The jobs you can do will depend on what type of nursing Master’s degree you get. There are many different specializations.

With an MSN in Nursing Administration, Leadership, or Management, you could become a nurse administrator and work in the administrative end of the nursing world, become the manager of a nursing facility, or perform other managerial functions such as working in healthcare finance.

You could also become a clinical nurse leader, with an MSN with a Clinical Nurse Leader specialty. You would study cutting edge nursing theory and technology, while coordinating patient care teams, creating care plans, and still working directly with patients.

If you choose to pursue an MSN in Nursing Education then you can become a nurse educator. In this career you might train new nurses directly, or provide additional training in new ideas and methods for existing nurses.

An MSN with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization will allow you to work with families to improve their health care, and make contributions to developing public health services. This job involves diagnosis and treatment, and also preventive medical practices.

An MSN in Nurse midwifery will make you a nurse midwife.

With a Nurse Practitioner MSN you can become a nurse practitioner, which will allow you to provide intensive on-on-one patient care. This job involves prevention and education as much as it does diagnosis and treatment.

Pursuing an MSN with a Clinical Nurse Specialist specialty will give you access to a field where you provide guidance on a larger scale for patients and their families as they move from one stage of the healthcare system to another. You will function as both advocate, consultant, and educator.

Getting an MSN in Nurse Informatics will give you a career in the IT end of the nursing world. You will work with a combination of nursing science, information science and computer science to collate, process, and analyze data to support nursing practices, education, and research.

Other Master’s specialties lead to careers in handling diabetes, mental health care, infection control, case management, and adult health. You will also have the option of pursuing further education and becoming a Doctor of Nursing Practice. A doctor of nursing practice often conducts research in the field of nursing. They might also manage other nurses or perform the job duties of other specialties, and work as a nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse specialist.

What To Look For In An Online Master’s Course

Some brick and mortar universities offer online versions of their degree programs, including Master’s work in nursing. Some reputable universities that exist only online also offer it. Unfortunately, as with all online business, there are a number of unaccredited and worthless diploma mills out there as well. Do some homework on the online institutions that you are considering. Make sure that they are accredited. To be of value to your career, the institution must be accredited with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE. All potential employers will look to see if your degree was from an accredited course, so find out if employers in the field you are hoping to work in accept degrees from those institutions. Sometimes you will be able to find this out by reading reviews online. Other times you will need to call a sampling of the employers in your chosen field and ask them directly.