Chronic Illness, the Family Unit and How FNPs Can Help

Using holistic principles combined with compassion, FNPs support individual patients as well as their families

FNP administering an injection to a patient with his family looking on
Representative Image | Photo by CDC on Unsplash

When someone in the family has a chronic illness or disability, it can impact the career, schooling and health of everyone else who lives in that household. This is alongside the potential it has to create practical daily issues and interfere with everyone’s sleep patterns.

One of the most vital supporters in helping families cope with this situation is a family nurse practitioner (FNP). This healthcare professional can be found in increasing numbers in local communities in the US.

The clinical expertise of FNPs ensures that they are a medical asset to healthcare providers of many types. They have been trained to diagnose, treat and provide support services for both short- and long-term illnesses and injuries. However, sometimes their interpersonal skills, compassion and care prove to be more important to the families of patients facing prolonged recovery or a life-long condition.

Why Family Nurse Practitioners Can Be ‘Unsung’ Heroes

The value of providing advanced training for nurses to create nurse practitioners is clear. Nurse practitioners have the skills to perform many of the tasks that physicians are responsible for, which helps to ease over-burdened providers, unmet needs in rural areas and the healthcare demands of an aging population in the US.

At the community level, FNPs are busy working with patients of all ages to provide diverse healthcare services in an accessible and consistent way. This is holistic healthcare, too, as family nurse practitioners are trained to focus not just on physical needs and symptoms but also on the emotional, mental, and cultural requirements and preferences of each patient.

Person-centered healthcare provision must radiate outwards when an individual experiences an illness or injury that poses a significant challenge to their daily life. To help the patient and to be a true ‘family’ health champion, FNPs look at the whole support network for their primary patient.

This overarching role may be the most unnoticed in official statistics. According to one study: “the impact of disease on families of patients is often unrecognized and underestimated.”

Raising Awareness and Communication Levels

Medical science and technology have made miraculous advances in recent times, but there is still a good chance that you or your loved ones will face a serious illness or injury in your lifetime. Whether that is you, a parent, a child, or a sibling, chronic health conditions and major traumas can become a shared concern.

The natural process of aging brings health issues, too, which can also have a ripple effect on everyone else in the family unit.

One of the things family nurse practitioners train for is to help families acknowledge their feelings and concerns in an open and honest way. This could be through talking therapies like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or by the nursing professional opening up better lines of communication between family members.

There are many types of healing that can begin once everyone is aware of and discussing the individual and collective issues. This can include FNPs validating the fact that everyone in the family has needs and deserves to get professional help or the support of their loved ones.

The Skills and Knowledge to Join the Dots

The ability of FNPs to be holistic in their approach is ingrained in the advanced knowledge and skills they acquire while studying for their qualifications to become an advanced nurse, particularly the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP) program. A DNP FNP degree earned through a reputable institution, such as Baylor University, prepares students to be agile, responsive and innovative leaders in healthcare provision.

Through this program, students gain the skills to bridge the gaps in primary healthcare and meet its constantly changing demands. Featuring 100% online coursework combined with on-site immersions, this program offers the flexibility to allow students to balance studying with their existing commitments.

Becoming an intuitive healthcare professional with drive and strong leadership abilities can be invaluable in providing families with the practical help they need, alongside other vital support services. For example, a family nurse practitioner may be at the center of efforts to provide comprehensive and wide-ranging social and health support. This could include arranging for home help and aid when someone has a chronic illness or injury.

Preventive Health Care

One of the most important FNP roles and responsibilities is to provide preventive healthcare to their patients. This includes promoting health protection, lifestyle changes and screening.

It can also involve supporting individual patients and their families to ensure that fundamental health challenges, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and Alzheimer’s disease, are self-managed with confidence. By offering advice, guidance and practical support to the whole family, FNPs can reduce the risk of further complications or risks that impact the patient or their everyday support team.

As an illustration, cancer can have a substantial effect on the whole family, including anxiety, poor sleep and a strong sense of guilt that they feel this way. FNPs can spot potential issues, validate these natural responses, and step in to prevent issues with information about family support groups, for example.

Empowerment and FNPs

Sometimes, the best support that family nurse practitioners can offer to family groups is to guide them toward valuable self-help ideas and methods.

This can be as simple as encouraging everyone to carve out time for self-care without guilt or advising patients and their families about ways they can avoid bottling up their emotions and the potential mental health risks that they bring.

For example, following a loss or trauma, the FNP may encourage members of the family to make time to talk to each other or professionals to find effective strategies for emotional release.

Putting the ‘Family’ Into the Family Nurse Practitioner Title

Using holistic principles combined with compassion, FNPs support individual patients as well as their families and, in some cases, groups of local people within the community. This ensures a comprehensive approach to both health recovery and living well with a chronic condition. It also reduces the risk of worsening ill health. This is just one of the ways that these advanced nursing professionals are also influencing state and nation-wide healthcare effectiveness.

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