What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

A family nurse practitioner, or FNP, is a highly educated registered nurse who provides primary or specialty care for patients of all ages. These RNs typically work under a physician but with a high degree of autonomy, and in some cases, have their own private practices. They provide most of the same services a doctor provides, and are the primary source of care for many patients. FNPs conduct health exams, provide health education, diagnose illnesses and prescribe medication, among many other tasks.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners go through extensive educational training, including completing a Master's degree in nursing. They typically complete a variety of courses in things like epidemiology, pharmacology, health policy, and more due to the broad nature of the position. FNPs need to be excellent at critical thinking and have superb communication skills to succeed in the role.

Most FNP job descriptions include the following requirements and skills:

  • Experience with electronic health records
  • Ability to work effectively in a team setting providing relationship based care
  • Well-organized and detail oriented with the ability to establish relationships with coworkers, patients, and the public
  • Emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills
  • Effective oral and written communication skills and excellent interpersonal skills
  • ACLS, BLS or CPR certified

To search and apply for open family nurse practitioner positions, visit our job boards.

What are the Education Requirements for Family Nurse Practitioners?

Most FNPs first earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing, then take and pass the NCLEX-RN to become a licensed RN. Once this is completed, a Master's degree is necessary to land a job as an FNP. Many schools have MSN programs specifically designed for Family Nurse Practitioners that take 1-3 years of study. Experience as an RN is mandatory, and knowledge of specialized equipment such as nebulizers or cardiac monitoring devices is a plus.

See a complete list of available FNP programs and learn more about RN to NP programs.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

Certification as a family nurse practitioner is offered through both the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). These exams usually require an RN to be a graduate of an accredited graduate, post-graduate, or doctoral level FNP program. The test covers a wide range of medical topics including informatics, research methodology, illness and disease management, and more. Upon passing the exam, a nurse is awarded the credential: Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified, or FNP-BC. This credential is valid for 5 years and then must be renewed.

Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?

A family nurse practitioner can be employed in a variety of healthcare settings and clinics, as they provide many advanced medical services across the lifespan. They are extremely valuable since they are able to perform many of the tasks that physicians usually handle. In fact, in many rural areas where there aren't enough doctors to serve the community, FNPs fill the role of primary care provider. FNPs sometimes go on to careers as hospital administrators due to their advanced medical knowledge and clinical experience.

FNPs are commonly employed in the following settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Private practice physicians' offices
  • Outpatient facilities
  • Public/community health centers
  • Health insurance companies
  • Telemedicine

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Family nurse practitioners see patients of all ages for a variety of medical ailments, from mild illnesses to serious conditions. They stress prevention and wellness, but have the medical expertise to perform diagnoses and even prescribe medication. FNPs are expected to communicate clearly and effectively with patients and other healthcare providers, be analytical and decisive, and above all else provide accurate, compassionate care. Many FNPs develop lasting relationships with their patients and see them throughout the course of their lives, from childhood to adulthood and beyond, and may even care for multiple family members. Each state has their own guidelines and regulations for what duties an FNP is allowed to complete, so these nurses can work independently or under the supervision of a physician depending on which state he or she is located in.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a Family Nurse Practitioner?

  • Perform medical exams
  • Examine medical histories
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Diagnose illnesses or diseases
  • Run diagnostic tests and evaluations
  • Educate patients on prevention methods and general health and wellness
  • Perform or assist with minor procedures
  • Manage and oversee patient care
  • Maintain patient records
  • Prescribe/administer medication
  • Act as a primary care point of contact for patients (especially in underserved or rural settings)
  • Collaborate with and work alongside other care providers, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, healthcare administrators, and more
  • Make referrals to specialists as needed

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary & Employment

Family nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $89,043 annually, but salaries can range from $74,964 to $117,551. Location, experience, skills/expertise, and type of employer are all factors that can affect the annual salary of an FNP.

The employment outlook for FNPs is favorable, and growth is slated at 31% by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increasing emphasis on preventive care and the high demand of healthcare services by the aging population make FNPs a sought-after specialty. The salary and potential to develop lifelong relationships with patients make it a rewarding career choice.

Get more insight into nurse practitioner salaries.

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