Type to search

Career Tips

The power of specialized care: Family nurse practitioners and psychiatric nurses


A group of people in a room Description automatically generated

Nursing specializations are like picking a favorite subject in school. Just as you might choose to focus on math or science, nurses can specialize in certain areas of healthcare. This helps them become experts and provide the best care possible. Specialized roles are very important for patient care. These nurses have unique skills that help people with different needs. A family nurse practitioner (FNP) cares for families’ overall health, while a psychiatric nurse focuses on mental health issues. Let’s now take a closer look at these two important roles.

The evolution of family nurse practitioners

FNPs have come a long way. In the past, they were mainly helpers to doctors. Now, they are important healthcare providers themselves. The training for FNPs has changed a lot, too. Before, it was mostly about basic nursing skills. Today, it covers many areas like disease prevention and health promotion. This is due to our healthcare needs growing more complex.

FNPs now do much more than before. They can diagnose illnesses and prescribe medicines just like doctors can. Their role has expanded so much that, in some places, they are the main healthcare provider. Changes in health policy also affected FNPs’ roles greatly. The best example of this is changing laws that now allow them to prescribe medicine.

As the FNP role changes, so does its training. Many graduate nursing programs are online today, like Marymount University’s. Various courses are available to equip the next crop of nurses with everything they need. Marymount has high placement rates and an impressive 90% NCLEX pass rate for five consecutive years.

The FNP role will likely continue growing in importance due to several trends. The first trend is an aging population. As people live longer thanks to medical advances, there will be an increasing need for chronic disease management — an area where FNPs excel. The shortage of primary care physicians is another trend. Fewer students are choosing primary care as their specialty during medical school. This leaves room for FNPs to continue taking on bigger roles.

The rising focus on preventive care is also a trend. Preventive care helps keep people healthy by catching or preventing diseases early. This saves both money and lives. Given the extensive training FNPs have in patient education and counseling, they play a key role.

The transformation of psychiatric nursing

Psychiatric nursing began in the 1800s. Back then, care for mental health patients was not a priority. People with mental illnesses were often locked away and forgotten. Over time, this changed. In the mid-1900s, psychiatric nurses started to get formal training. They learned how to differentiate between mental health conditions. They also learned strategies to help those who were suffering.

As years passed, education for psychiatric nurses improved even more. Now, they can earn advanced degrees like master’s or doctorate. A lot of education is even heading online. This helps them provide better care to their patients. Society’s view on mental health has also shifted over time. Mental illness used to be seen as something shameful or scary. But now we know it is just another part of human health that needs attention and care.

This change in attitude has helped psychiatric nurses do their jobs better, too. Patients are more willing to seek help when needed because there is less stigma around mental illness today. Technology has also had an impact on psychiatric nursing recently. New tools like telemedicine allow nurses to connect with patients remotely.

This is a big thing for people who might struggle with transportation or live far from healthcare facilities. In the past, this demographic likely would have tried to deal with their mental issues independently.

Family nurse practitioner vs. psychiatric nurse

FNPs and psychiatric nurses are both great specialties to consider, but the roles of each are quite different. Let’s compare the two and see how they stack against each other.

In scope of practice, FNPs care for all family members. This could be a patient’s young children or even their elderly parents. They do checkups, treat illnesses, and teach about health. Psychiatric nurses work with people with mental health issues like depression or anxiety. They use therapy and medication to help these patients.

Both specialties will see a wide range of demographics. FNPs see a wide range of patients because they serve whole families. Psychiatric nurses focus on people with mental health problems, regardless of age.

Both of these specializations will work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals. Great teamwork ability and being able to communicate well are non-negotiable. They also both require educational backgrounds at different levels. FNPs must acquire a master’s degree in nursing and extra training in family practice medicine. Psych nurses need a nursing degree followed by special training in mental health.

Essential skills and competencies

These specialties do have some overlap in terms of what skills are required to be successful. Communication is a key skill in all healthcare roles. They need to understand what their patients are saying and feeling. They also must be able to explain things to their patients in a way they can understand. This helps develop a trusting relationship.

Empathy is another very important skill. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When nurses are empathetic, it makes patients feel heard. It makes them think they are cared for, which can help them feel better. Both FNPs and psych nurses also need to be able to solve problems. In healthcare, things don’t always go as planned. Nurses need to think on their feet and find solutions to unexpected situations.

Lifelong learning is also a skill that must be mastered. Medicine is always changing, with new treatments and techniques always coming out. Nurse specialists of all types must keep learning throughout their careers. It’s not enough to go through training only once.

Impact of specializations on patient care

Specific problems often require particular types of care. It’s not reasonable to expect a general practitioner to understand. This is how specialists thoroughly understand patient care thorouthoroughly. They play a big part in how well patients do on their journey to health. FNPs have a unique role where they often care for all family members, from young kids to grandparents.

Because they know their patients so well, they can spot health problems early on. This early detection can lead to better treatment plans and healthier lives. Psych nurses, on the other hand, focus on mental health issues. They have experience with many ways to treat people suffering from mental health problems. This can greatly improve a person’s quality of life.

Another benefit of specialized nursing roles is high patient satisfaction. Patients feel more comfortable and understood when they see the same nurse over time. This is common with both FNPs and psych nurses. Building this trust over time makes patients feel more satisfied with their care.

Specialized nurses also make healthcare more accessible and efficient. FNPs and psych nurses can perform many of the same tasks doctors can do. However, they can often do it at a lower cost. This means more people can get the help they need cheaply and nearby. Gone are the days of long waits and travel times.

One of the key philosophies of both FNPs and psych nurses is the idea of holistic care. This means that they’re not just looking at one problem; they’re looking at the whole picture. They don’t just focus on physical symptoms; they also consider a patient’s feelings and lifestyle. They may look at the patient’s family history and a whole host of other factors. This holistic care aims to make it specific to the individual. It must work for them and be comprehensive. An example could be how an FNP might consider your work stress or financial issues when treating you for high blood pressure.

Both of these specializations are also excellent at early detection and prevention. Because they spend more time with patients than most doctors, they can spot diseases before they become serious problems. Looking broader at someone’s life has many benefits for specialists. It allows them to catch things like high blood sugar levels in someone who doesn’t know they have diabetes. It could also help them see signs of depression in a patient who came for a different health issue.

Challenges and opportunities in the field

Both of these specialized nursing fields face both unique challenges and exciting opportunities. One major challenge is the current shortage of specialized nurses. Without enough nurses, patients may not get the timely care they need. This shortage also places a heavy workload on existing nurses, making their jobs much tougher.

On top of this, the only constant in healthcare is change. There’s always a new technology to learn about or a new treatment being developed. For nurses, this constant change can be both thrilling and demanding. It’s compelling because they can learn new skills and ways to help their patients better. The challenging side comes in when they need to constantly adapt and remember to keep up with the pace of change.

The stress of nursing can also be immense. Nurses care for many sick people every day. They witness suffering, death, and serious illness. All of this can take a toll on their mental health. In the worst cases, it could lead to burnout. Burnout can make them feel tired, cynical, and unable to do their job effectively, which isn’t good for them or their patients.

Even in the face of these challenges, there’s a silver lining. There are many opportunities for growth in specialized nursing fields. Research is one area where they could thrive. Specialized nurses can engage in research to improve patient care in meaningful ways. They can help discover better ways to manage pain in chronic illnesses.

Specialized nurses also often play a significant role outside of direct patient care. They can be powerful advocates for their patients. They see how policies affect their patients’ health outcomes and quality of life. This wide-ranging knowledge and experience can be useful in influencing how different approaches work.

The interplay of specialization and community health

FNPs and psych nurses can play a big role in our community health. They do more than help individuals solve health problems. They also work to make the whole community healthier. One way they do this is through outreach initiatives. These programs aim to help the most vulnerable in society – those who might not otherwise get healthcare. FNPs might run a clinic for low-income families or teach classes on how to stay healthy. Psychiatric nurses can lead workshops about mental health topics or provide counseling services at local schools.

These specialized nurses often work with vulnerable populations, too. This means groups of people who have a harder time getting good healthcare because of various disadvantages. This typically means things like poverty, homelessness, or addiction issues. FNPs and psychiatric nurses offer them care tailored to their unique needs.

Another important part of these nursing roles is working with other professionals. Specific to the community setting, this might be social workers or therapists. By teaming together, they can provide comprehensive care that treats all aspects of a patient’s health. Issues are often addressed outside of the main reason they’re seeking care.

The last area where FNPs and psychiatric nurses can impact community health is advocacy. We already mentioned how they are well-positioned to do this at the institutional level. But what about at the broader community level? They could advocate for laws that improve access to healthcare services or fight against cuts in public health funding.

Specialist nurses are the future.

Both FNPs and psych nurses play a vital role in healthcare. They provide specialized care that has a huge positive benefit. Despite facing challenges, these professions have bright futures with many growth opportunities. Their unique skills make them vital to the health system. These roles are truly powerful in shaping healthier societies.


Thinker. Alcohol evangelist. Analyst. Webaholic. Unapologetic writer. Explorer. Music scholar. Hiking addict, feminist, record lover, Swiss design-head and screen printer. Working at the sweet spot between modernism and computer science to give life to your brand. Let's chat.