The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has created a transformative phase for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). With the global implementation of emergency regulatory and policy modifications, the scope of practice for nurse practitioners (NPs) has expanded significantly, paving the way for full practice authority in most countries.
The family nurse practitioner (FNP) has remained the most sought-after specialization post-COVID. FNPs are able to meet several pandemic response challenges by providing lifesaving, direct primary and acute care for COVID-19 patients across all age groups. How vital are these professionals in post-pandemic healthcare, and how much awareness has been placed on the values and roles of FNPs in optimal patient health?
In this article, we examine these questions, exploring the significance of family nurse practitioners and how their expertise is shaping the future of healthcare and fostering resilience in our communities post-COVID-19.
Understanding family nurse practitioners
Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who deliver primary care services to patients of all age groups. In the medical domain, FNPs diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses, prescribe medications, and oversee the administration and interpretation of diagnostic tests. These professionals also train to provide preventive care services and patient education on healthy lifestyle choices.
This wide range of responsibilities makes FNPs capable of working in various settings, from hospitals to clinics, private practice, and community health centers. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), over 211,221 family nurse practitioners are currently employed in the United States, and more than 88% of all NPs are certified in primary care areas. These statistics emphasize the importance of FNPs who work in primary care, as healthcare rebounds from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By understanding the importance and prevalence of FNPs in healthcare, we can appreciate their multifaceted roles, impact on patient outcomes, and efforts to shape healthier communities in the post-COVID era.
Current healthcare status post-pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many primary healthcare systems to the breaking point, while also ensuring that more decisive actions are taken to explore robust primary healthcare services. While it is not yet known whether some of these changes will be permanent, the following trends have shaped the status of healthcare in a post-pandemic world.
Telehealth and virtual care
Telehealth and virtual care have become increasingly popular during the pandemic as a way to provide remote healthcare. These services have continued post-pandemic due to the convenience and flexibility provided to patients, ensuring they receive healthcare services from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, this approach helps to reduce the spread of infectious diseases by allowing patients to remain at home when they are ill.
Heightened focus on mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health and well-being. As a result, there is increased emphasis on mental health programs, enhanced awareness, and educational initiatives addressing mental health concerns.
Several studies have pinpointed the pandemic as a significant factor for increased mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, further highlighting the need for increased focus on mental healthcare.
Greater emphasis on public health
During the height of the pandemic, it became clear that we need more effective public health policies and strategies to effectively curb the spread of infectious diseases. Today, there is a stronger emphasis on the need for federal, state, and local funding to reform the public health infrastructure. This reform is vital for enhancing the timeliness and quality of healthcare services.
Additionally, the pandemic has challenged various nations to mount and sustain comprehensive public health responses that better identify and control emerging infectious hazards and other challenges that will likely persist.
More personalized care
Another popular post-pandemic healthcare trend is the need for personalized healthcare services to meet each patient’s unique needs. Personalized care has proven effective in improving patient outcomes by ensuring patients receive the proper care at the right time. Additionally, personalized care can help reduce healthcare costs by reducing unnecessary tests and procedures.
Limited healthcare professionals
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic pinpointed the need for more healthcare professionals to address the growing demand for healthcare services. The pandemic resulted in a high turnover rate in the healthcare sector, highlighting the need for more flexible and innovative healthcare delivery models to help address the shortage of medical professionals.
Family nurse practitioners can help address this problem. Wide ranges of medical responsibilities and work settings make FNPs ideal for managing this and other healthcare trends in the post-pandemic era.
The role of family nurse practitioners in healthcare
COVID-19 can affect anyone, but some individuals are at an increased risk of severe illness or death. High-risk populations include those with underlying or chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, as well as people aged 65 or older.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every seven Americans is elderly, and approximately 80% have at least one chronic disease. For this reason, FNPs have grown in popularity for their multifaceted role in healthcare, particularly following the pandemic. The roles of family nurse practitioners in healthcare are listed below.
Primary care providers
Family nurse practitioners frequently serve as the principal healthcare providers for numerous patients, especially in locations lacking adequate access to physicians. FNPs possess extensive training that enables them to offer various healthcare services across multiple settings.
These services encompass the diagnosis and treatment of prevalent acute and chronic illnesses, administration of physical examinations, requisitioning and interpretation of patient diagnostic tests, prescription of medication, and delivery of preventive care. In post-pandemic healthcare, this role has become crucial in addressing the shortage of medical professionals by providing a wide range of high-quality care at a lower cost.
Family nurse practitioners have adopted a comprehensive and broad perspective regarding primary patient care, particularly following the pandemic. This holistic approach considers the physical elements of healthcare and the specific combination of emotional, social, and cultural factors that significantly impact an individual’s well-being.
The ultimate objective of an FNP revolves around health promotion and disease prevention by employing a multifaceted approach that includes patient education, counseling, and lifestyle modifications. In addition, the emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion propels FNPs to assist patients in effectively managing chronic conditions and empowers them to make informed choices concerning their healthcare journeys.
Continuity of care
Continuity of care is a pivotal aspect of the family nurse practitioner’s practice, as the FNP strives to establish sustainable connections and relationships with patients and offers uninterrupted, high-quality care over extended periods of time. FNPs diligently attend to patients of all ages for regular checkups, oversee and manage persistent health conditions, and promptly address acute illnesses as they arise.
As a result of this commitment to continuity of care, FNPs gain profound insights into their patients’ comprehensive health records, preferences, and distinct requirements, facilitating quality, personalized, meticulous, and effective healthcare delivery.
Collaborating with healthcare teams
FNPs have adopted collaborative approaches to their healthcare practices, engaging in fruitful partnerships with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, specialists, nurses, and allied healthcare providers. In several settings, family nurse practitioners also serve as integral members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams, actively fostering open lines of communication and seamless coordination with other healthcare professionals.
FNPs frequently assume the role of patient advocates, diligently working to secure access to suitable resources and coordinating referrals to other professionals whenever needed. This role serves to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
Patient education and counseling
Patient education and counseling are fundamental pillars of the roles undertaken by family nurse practitioners. These professionals are responsible for delivering knowledge and guiding patients and their families regarding essential aspects of their healthcare, such as health promotion, disease prevention, and the effective management of chronic conditions.
FNPs work to ensure that patients possess a comprehensive understanding of their healthcare options, empowering them to make informed decisions that align with their unique circumstances. They offer support to patients throughout their healthcare journeys and help ensure they attain and sustain optimal health outcomes.
Community health and wellness
FNPs frequently expand their scope of influence beyond traditional clinic settings, actively engaging in endeavors that promote overall community health and wellness. They actively participate in diverse initiatives, including health promotion campaigns, comprehensive education, and public health screenings.
Family nurse practitioners are encouraged to undertake endeavors focused on policy advocacy to enhance healthcare access and foster improved outcomes for the entire community. Through these services, FNPs play instrumental roles in strengthening the well-being and vitality of the communities they serve.
Bridging gaps in healthcare
The training and education that family nurse practitioners receive provide them with adaptable and multifaceted skill sets, essential for closing the gaps within healthcare systems. Armed with these skills, FNPs can offer accessible, cost-effective care to a broad spectrum of diverse populations.
In most cases, these professionals dedicate their services to rural and underserved areas, recognizing the urgent need to tackle healthcare disparities head-on, while simultaneously working to enhance the overall health and well-being of the community. Through their efforts, FNPs catalyze positive change and strive to improve healthcare access and outcomes on a community-wide scale.
Post-COVID opportunities for FNPs
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the healthcare landscape, presenting numerous challenges for healthcare systems. It has also provided opportunities, however, for healthcare professionals—particularly FNPs—to utilize their skills to improve the overall health outcomes of communities.
To take full advantage of these opportunities, an aspiring professional must recognize how to become a family nurse practitioner. Studying for a Family Nurse Practitioner’s degree online at a reputable institution such as Texas Woman’s University will help students wishing to further their careers obtain the necessary competencies attributed to the profession. After successfully completing this program, several exciting opportunities lie ahead for family nurse practitioners in the post-COVID era. Students will have acquired the necessary competencies and experience to begin serving the vulnerable members of their community.
Telehealth and digital innovations
The pandemic accelerated the adoption of telehealth and digital healthcare solutions. Family nurse practitioners can leverage these technologies to provide remote consultations, remotely manage a patient’s health, and offer virtual support. The increased utilization of telehealth services presents a myriad of options, opening new and previously untapped avenues for reaching populations with limited healthcare access.
This technology allows healthcare providers—including FNPs—to grow beyond geographical barriers and deliver care to underserved communities. The expansion of telehealth enhances access to vital healthcare services and vastly improves healthcare delivery.
Emphasis on preventive care
The pandemic has highlighted the critical role of preventive care in safeguarding public health. This form of healthcare reinforces the pivotal role FNPs play in healthcare delivery and, ideally, positions these professionals for better opportunities in the field. By prioritizing preventive care, FNPs substantially contribute to reducing the burden on healthcare systems.
FNPs also empower individuals, families, and the community by delivering the necessary knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their health. Through preventive care, education, and guidance, FNPs can effectively promote healthy outcomes, making them unique assets to any healthcare setting.
Mental health support
Considering the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on mental health, FNPs can employ holistic approaches to provide crucial mental health support for individuals and communities. FNPs typically possess the expertise to identify mental health concerns, offer counseling, and advocate for mental health awareness and destigmatization.
The scope of FNPs also encompasses the freedom and skills to assess and evaluate patients for a wide range of mental health conditions, including the two most prevalent post-COVID ailments: anxiety and depression. As the demand for mental health services continues to rise, FNPs are at the forefront, bridging the gap in mental healthcare access.
Community health education
Due to the pandemic, FNPs have a unique opportunity to implement community health education initiatives. This remains an effective strategy to provide communities with the necessary information to make informed decisions regarding their health and well-being. FNPs can collaborate with communities and structure educational efforts to their specific needs.
The impact of community health education extends beyond knowledge dissemination. FNPs can build resilience and enhance health outcomes by providing insights and resources. In the aftermath of the pandemic, FNPs can play crucial roles in paving the way for communities to thrive and attain better outcomes.
Health equity and advocacy
The world has been exposed to health disparities that persist within every society. In response, FNPs can actively advocate for policies that address the social determinants of health, promote equitable access to quality care, and strive towards reducing healthcare disparities.
With their experience and understanding of the multifaceted factors that contribute to health inequalities, FNPs can be instrumental in advocating for systemic change. FNPs achieve this goal through initiatives, collaborations, and research and policy development, as well as raising awareness of health disparities in marginalized communities.
The COVID pandemic highlighted the need for better collaboration among healthcare professionals. As we enter the post-COVID era, FNPs can foster interprofessional cooperation to ensure optimal healthcare by regularly engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations with a diverse range of professionals.
FNPs can actively contribute to coordinated and thorough care that addresses the multidimensional needs of patients. Through shared expertise, perspectives, and knowledge, healthcare teams can devise solutions to enhance patient outcomes. The competency of FNPs places them in positions to drive innovation, foster a culture of continuous learning, and navigate the complexities of healthcare through interprofessional collaboration.
Family nurse practitioners occupy indispensable roles as primary care providers, offering comprehensive, patient-centered care. Their primary focus revolves around health promotion, disease prevention, and adept management of both acute and chronic conditions.
In doing so, FNPs have become pivotal in advancing healthcare access, providing holistic care across various areas, and improving the overall welfare of individuals, families, and the entire community. Their contributions are substantial to their quest to achieve optimal healthcare outcomes for those they serve.