How family nurse practitioners empower patients through education

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) play a valuable role that offers close contact with patients. This role encompasses many different aspects. Not only do FNPs care for their patients’ medical needs, but they also enable patients to take care of their own health through education. This is part of FNPs’ holistic approach to healthcare. They view the patient as a whole person with many interconnected needs, which can include the requirement to understand and self-manage their health, which may help patients with autonomy. After being in medical care, patients could feel like they are uncertain how to look after those things, so education and autonomy are incredibly important for the time after being in hospital.

Educating patients is also part of FNPs’ commitment to promoting health and preventing disease. This is part of a proactive intention to improve the health and wellbeing of individual patients and communities.

In the sections below, we will explore the various ways that FNPs empower their patients through education. Those who find this – and the many other aspects of this type of nursing role – inspiring will also discover how to study to become an FNP. 

Introducing family nurse practitioners

Let’s first look at what the role of the FNP involves. FNPs are nurses who have undergone additional education and training that may enable them to work with a degree of autonomy (note that levels of autonomy vary state by state).

FNPs specialize in caring for patients at all stages of their life journey, from babies through to seniors. They generally (though not always) work in primary care and will often be the first port of call for a patient’s non-emergency health needs. These nurses can carry out many tasks that would previously have been performed by doctors, giving them unprecedented levels of independence. These tasks include the important aspects of diagnosing patients, ordering, and interpreting tests, and prescribing medication. 

As well as treating diseases, FNPs have a strong focus on preventing those diseases, and managing the promotion of healthy living. Tasks that fall under this remit include dispensing vaccinations, offering advice on diet and exercise, and educating patients about wellbeing and health conditions. Their ultimate goal here is to help patients live a healthy lifestyle and prevent illness. This, in turn, helps them to manage acute or chronic conditions.

How family nurse practitioners empower patients through education

Research shows that patient education helps to achieve better health outcomes. One recent review of literature on patient education found that it not only helps to improve a patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing, but also enhances patient satisfaction. And when patients have an improved mental wellbeing, they may then be able to improve more quickly in the medical aspects of their care as well. 

There are many ways that FNPs contribute to this empowerment of patients through education. As they treat patients in a holistic way, they may tailor their methods according to their patients’ individual needs. Let’s look at some of the ways that they educate their patients, helping them to live healthier lives and achieve their wellbeing goals.

Making complex information manageable

Diagnosis of long-term conditions requires the patient to take in complex information about the disease and how to manage it. Or, if the diagnosis relates to a serious illness, the patient may find it challenging to manage both their emotions and physical wellbeing.

In these cases, the FNP has a role to play in helping their patients understand and come to terms with their diagnosis. They achieve this by working collaboratively with patients and their families to help make complex information manageable. By doing this, the patient feels more in control of their health status and proactive in reaching their unique goals.

To do this, FNPs may share printed information or online resources to help explain more about the patient’s condition. They may supplement this with one-to-one advice, where patients are encouraged to ask questions about their health status. An FNP may also refer patients to specialist services or support groups where they can access relevant information and share their experiences.

Offering tailored education

As previously mentioned, FNPs adopt a holistic approach to care where they adapt treatment to the unique needs of individual patients. The same goes for educational practices. An FNP will recognize that different people have a variety of different learning styles – for example, visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic (through movement) methods.

FNPs therefore understand the need to offer education to patients that is tailored to their individual learning style and takes into consideration other factors, such as their cultural or religious background. This means that FNPs may suggest watching videos to one patient, while offering someone else written information to help them understand their condition.

As part of their training, FNPs will receive instruction in recognizing the health perspectives of culturally diverse communities. This will enable them to offer the most appropriate resources – for example, providing information in the patient’s first language. The key to successful patient empowerment through education is to understand that no two patients are the same. This is the cornerstone of FNP training, which celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of individuals and communities.

Promoting interactive learning

FNPs also understand the value of interactive learning, where the patient takes an active role in the educational process. This type of learning may be delivered through apps for smartphones and other digital devices, patient portals, checklists, surveys, and journal-keeping.

Through this type of education, FNPs are initially able to spend some time with their patient to introduce the interactive method and will then allow them to use it independently without the need for constant input. This ensures that learning is truly interactive and empowering, as the onus is on the patient to discover information for themselves.

In fact, interactive learning has been found to improve understanding of content and help in motivating patients to care for themselves at home. These were the findings of a study that asked patients about their experiences using interactive digital education. It also found that patients who had used this method were more confident about making healthcare decisions with their doctors and were more likely to follow their instructions.

Nurse educators involved in the study also reported positive effects. They said that this type of education enhanced their efforts and could be seamlessly integrated into their systems.

Utilizing a variety of resources

FNPs use a diverse range of resources to educate and empower their patients. This ties in with the holistic approach adopted by FNPs, which considers the different learning styles and personal needs of patients.

This means that FNPs are familiar with a wide range of educational resources and may use one or a selection of these according to their patients’ requirements. These resources can include one-to-one tuition, printed patient information, instruction in a workshop or class setting, or signposting to online content.

For example, when a patient is newly diagnosed with a chronic condition such as diabetes, their FNP will talk through the implications of the diagnosis and the next steps with the patient. They will also offer the patient written information to take away and read, and direct them to online resources where they can find out more.

They may also offer teaching sessions in the community, where the patient can discover information and network with other patients. An important part of the FNP role is understanding that instruction is more likely to be successful if a variety of resources are offered.

Promoting healthy behaviors

FNPs are focused on promoting healthy behaviors in their patients, with the ultimate aim of empowering individuals and communities to attain better long-term health outcomes. They achieve this in a variety of ways, according to the issue in question.

For example, an FNP may advise a patient on an exercise regime to help them improve their fitness, or they may refer them to a fitness program in their community. They can offer guidance on diet and nutrition to help with specific issues such as weight loss or lowering cholesterol, or simply to complement a healthy lifestyle.

FNPs may also offer guidance on ceasing unhealthy behaviors such as smoking. As part of this remit, they may also be able to prescribe nicotine replacements or other therapies to help them achieve their goals.

As well as offering guidance and advice themselves, FNPs will be able to refer their patients to specialist services if required. These include mental health services, dietitians and smoking cessation services. They will use both their own expertise and the pool of knowledge available in the wider health community to support their patients to achieve their goals.

Studying to become a family nurse practitioner

Education and patient empowerment are at the heart of the FNP role. This can make it appealing to anyone currently working as a registered nurse who wishes to take their career in a new direction. It is worth exploring what it takes to qualify as an FNP. 

Wilkes University offers flexible nurse practitioner online programs, designed to fit around existing commitments. One program that combines this flexibility with excellent tuition is the Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner course. The coursework is delivered fully online, so it is possible for students to fit study around their personal life. It also means that students don’t have to worry about the time and expense of traveling to campus.

The program offers the chance for students to develop theoretical, clinical and leadership skills so that they gain the confidence to practice as an FNP. In addition to online coursework, students get to experience a clinical placement so that they can put their skills into practice. They will be encouraged to find both a suitable placement close to them and a preceptor to guide them.

Empowering patients and communities for better health

Patient education means patient empowerment. Giving patients the tools to self-manage their health conditions and lead more fulfilling lives is the key to improving outcomes across the community.

FNPs play a pivotal role in enabling patients to achieve better health. With a major focus on education, FNPs are becoming ever-more valuable in empowering their patients and communities to live healthier lives.

For those who are already practicing as a nurse and are looking for an exciting and fulfilling direction in which to take their career, it’s worth considering studying to qualify as an FNP. By following a convenient online course, such as the Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Family Nurse Practitioner course offered by Wilkes University, it is possible to step up to this position in under three years.

Aspiring FNPs can take their first step toward this rewarding career by inquiring about the program today. This is a small step toward a meaningful change in one’s life, and in the lives of the countless patients who will be empowered as a result.

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About the Author: mike