If you’re looking for a nursing speciality where you can provide care to patients of all ages, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner may be the right choice for you!
Also referred to as FNPs, they are a type of Nurse Practitioner focusing on primary care. This means it’s thier responsibility to educate patients, help them manage their long-term health, and diagnose and treat illnesses.
You also get much more autonomy to practice than Registered Nurses, though some states offer more freedom than others. We discuss this is more detail later on.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Family Nurse Practitioners. You’ll discover what they do, how to become one, how much they make, and more!
Table of Contents
- What Is A Family Nurse Practitioner?
- What Does A Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
- FNP Restrictions
- Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?
- Advantages of Becoming A Family Nurse Practitioner
- How To Become A Family Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner Certification
- Family Nurse Practitioner Salary
- Is Becoming An FNP Worth It?
What Is A Family Nurse Practitioner?
A Family Nurse Practitioner, also called an FNP, is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. They provide family-oriented care, meaning they work with patients of all ages and backgrounds.
Family Nurse Practitioners are qualified to perform many of the same duties as a primary care physician. For example, one of their main responsibilities is ensuring the long-term health of their patients by helping them manage their health conditions and educating them on preventative care measures.
In order to help patients maintain long-term health, they often build long-lasting relationships them, and the FNP may be patients’ main point of contact when they believe they may have a health problem.
Finally, it’s worth noting the responsibilities Family Nurse Practitioners can take on vary from state to state. In some locations, FNPs may have the ability to practice autonomously, while other states require that they practice under the supervision of a physician.
What Is The Difference Between FNP and NP?
The difference between FNP and NP is that Family Nurse Practitioners are just one type of Nurse Practitioner. FNPs focus on family medicine and have specialized training in providing care to people of all ages.
Meanwhile, there are several different type of Nurse Practitioners, of which FNP is just one. Other types of NPs include:
- Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary Care)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary Care)
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
To summarize, all FNPs are NPs, but not all NPs are FNPs.
Is An FNP The Same As A Doctor?
A Family Nurse Practitioner is not the same as a Doctor (MD). While FNPs only require a Master’s degree, MDs must complete a four-year medical school program.
Additionally, Family Nurse Practitioners must complete clinical training in primary care, whereas Doctors must complete a residency program in a particular specialty, which typically takes about three to seven years.
Finally, Doctors have much more autonomy to make medical decisions, perform procedures, and offer more specialized care. Meanwhile, FNPs focus more on health promotion, disease prevention, and managing long-term conditions.
What Does A Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
Family Nurse Practitioners typically act as a primary care provider for families and people of all ages.
They typically have three main areas of focus:
- Patient Education
We go into more detail about the specific responsibilities of FNPs below.
Conduct Health Assessments
Family Nurse Practitioners perform comprehensive health assessments to evaluate a patient’s overall health status. Health assessments usually involve:
- Reviewing medical histories
- Conducting physical exams
- Ordering diagnostic tests
These nurses then use this information to develop personalized treatment plans and provide recommendations for health promotion and disease prevention.
Diagnose and Treat Illnesses
FNPs are trained to diagnose and treat a variety of common illnesses and injuries, such as:
- Minor injuries
They can order diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or blood tests, and in some states they’re allowed to prescribe medication.
In some cases, FNPs may also perform minor procedures, such as suturing a wound or removing a foreign object from the eye.
Manage Chronic Conditions
Family Nurse Practitioners play a critical role in helping patients manage chronic conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
To help patients manage their conditions, they develop personalized treatment plans that may include medication management, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring of symptoms.
FNPs also provide education and counseling to help patients better understand their conditions and how to manage them effectively.
Provide Preventive Care
These nurses also focus on health promotion and disease prevention. They provide health education, counseling, and screenings to help patients stay healthy and prevent illness.
Some examples of preventative care they may carry out includes:
- Providing education on healthy eating and exercise habits
- Recommending immunizations to prevent illness
- Performing cancer screenings
Collaborate with Healthcare Teams
Finally, FNPs work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, like doctors, nurses, and social workers, to provide patient-centered care.
To accomplish this, they must communicate with other healthcare providers to ensure that patients receive the best possible care.
For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner may collaborate with a specialist to develop a treatment plan for a patient with a complex medical condition. Alternatively, they may work with a social worker to provide resources and support for a patient with social or emotional challenges.
While FNPs can do a lot of the same tasks a Doctor can do, there are some tasks they cannot carry out. For example, Family Nurse Practitioners are not authorized to perform major surgeries or provide specialized care (for example, cardiology or neurology).
Additionally, depending on the state you work in, you may or may not be able to prescribe medications, including controlled substances (ie, narcotics for pain management).
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners lists three level of state practice for NPs:
- Full Practice
- Reduced Practice
- Restricted Practice
We discuss what each of these means and provide a list of the states in each category below.
Full Practice FNP States
In Full Practice States, Family Nurse Practitioners can:
- Evaluate patients
- Diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests
- Initiate and manage treatments, including prescribing medications and controlled substances
Full practice states allow FNPS the most autonomy in their practice. The following is a list of Full Practice NP states:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Reduced Practice FNP States
Reduced NP Practice States restrict the ability of FNPs to engage in at least one element of Full Practice.
Family Nurse Practitioners must collaborate with another health professional in order to provide care to patients, or they have limited potential practice settings.
The following is a list of Reduced Practice NP states:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
Restricted Practice FNP States
Finally, the least autonomous locations for Family Nurse Practitioners to work in is Restricted Practice States.
In these states, one or more elements of Nurse Practitioner Practice are restricted, and FNPs require career-long supervision in order to provide care.
The following is a list of Restricted Practice NP states:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?
According to the AANP, the most popular practice settings for FNPs in 2020 were hospital outpatient clinics, private group practices, and private physician practices.
However, Family Nurse Practitioners can choose from a wide range of health settings. For example, while FNPs don’t usually provide direct care to patients when they work in Community Health Clinics, they do act as a valuable advisor.
In this role, they’re mainly responsible for educating and informing the public on proper health practices. This could be a great career pathway for anyone interested in Public Health Nursing.
Additionally, FNPs can work in hospitals and Doctor’s offices. Many even choose to work in telemedicine, allowing them to consult with patients remotely.
Fortunately, Family Nurse Practitioners are qualified to practice in just about every healthcare setting. However, remember that the autonomy you have as an FNP can vary greatly based on your state’s practice laws.
Advantages of Becoming A Family Nurse Practitioner
Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner has several unique benefits that make it a great career pathway compared to other nursing roles.
Below, we detail some of the best advantages of becoming an FNP.
1. In Demand
One of the best advantages of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner is that the role is in high demand.
Given the lack of family practice doctors, FNPs are becoming increasingly important to the healthcare system. Their advanced knowledge, training, and skillset can be applied in a variety of settings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth outlook for all APRNs is expected to increase 40% over the next ten years, which is much faster than average.
2. Help All Kinds of Patients
Another great thing about working as an FNP is that you get to provide care for patients of all ages and backgrounds.
In this role, you can educate kids, adults, and families how to manage their long-term health. This gives you the opportunity to make a real and long-lasting impact on your community.
As FNPs continue to play a more important role in primary care settings, their ability to make an impact will only continue growing.
3. Practice With Autonomy
While some states do limit the scope of practice for Family Nurse Practitioners, other states allow quite a bit of autonomy when it comes to Nurse Practitioners. In fact, some states allow NPs to set up their own practice.
Additionally, Full Practice states even allow FNPs to prescribe medications, including controlled substances, to patients.
However, keep in mind that Restricted Practice states require FNPs to practice under the supervision of a physician.
4. Improve Outcomes
While some FNPs may work in non-clinical settings, most provide direct care to patients and have the opportunity to make an immediate difference in their lives.
Not only will you have the chance to improve patient outcomes, but you can also improve outcomes for the facility you work at. According to a report by Health Services Research:
“Patients reassigned to NPs experienced similar outcomes and incurred less utilization at comparable cost relative to MD patients. NPs may offer a cost‐effective approach to addressing anticipated shortages of primary care physicians.”
How To Become A Family Nurse Practitioner
Since Family Nurse Practitioners are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, they require a more advanced level of education and skills than a Registered Nurse.
Below, we detail all the steps you need to take in order to become an FNP.
1. Earn BSN
The first step you need to take for your career as a Family Nurse Practitioner is to earn your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree.
While an Associate Degree in Nursing is the minimum requirement to become a Registered Nurse, going straight for your BSN will set the academic groundwork you need in order to be successful when you reach graduate-level courses.
However, if you do decide to get your ADN, or you already have it, you can always enroll in an RN to BSN program. There are plenty of high-quality online BSN programs you can choose from that allow you to continue working while you advance your nursing education.
Additionally, even Licensed Practical Nurses can further their career and earn their undergraduate degree by enrolling in an LPN to RN program.
2. Pass NCLEX
Once you earn your Bachelor’s degree, you’ll be eligible to sit for the NCLEX. As long as you pass the exam, you’ll officially become a licensed RN.
From there, you’ll likely want to gain some experience as an RN, ideally in a primary care setting. Many graduate programs require that applicants have some experience, but you may be able to go straight into a program after earning your BSN.
Additionally, if you live in a Compact Nursing State, you can upgrade your RN license to a compact license. This allows you to practice in other compact states without obtaining additional licensure.
This can be especially convenient if you’d like to gain some travel nursing experience.
3. Earn MSN
The next step towards becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner is to earn your Master’s of Science in Nursing degree.
You’ll want to find a program with an FNP focus. Fortunately, there are lots of online MSN programs to choose from. They allow you to earn your graduate degree while you continue working.
Once you obtain your MSN, you’re almost ready to start practicing as an FNP!
4. Get Certified
Finally, you’re ready to get certified so you can begin practicing. Two different boards offer exams for FNP certification:
The AANP certification is referred to as FNP-C, and the ANCC certification is called FNP-BC.
There are some slight differences between the two certifications. However, the most important thing to do is check if your state recognizes the validity of the certification you choose.
Once you earn your certification, you may need to look up your state’s requirements for licensing and complete any final steps. Upon earning your state licensure, you’re officially ready to begin working as a Family Nurse Practitioner.
Family Nurse Practitioner Certification
As we just mentioned above, there are two different certifications for FNPs. You only need to earn one, but there are some differences between them.
For example, the FNP-BC (ANCC) exam is a bit longer than the FNP-C (AANP) exam. Additionally, the ANCC exam has a greater focus on policy, professional topics, and nursing theory.
Given its increased emphasis on policy and theory, those looking to get into academia tend to opt for the ANCC exam. Meanwhile, clinically-focused FNPs tend to prefer the AANP exam.
However, it’s important to note that you’ll be qualified to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner in an academic or clinical setting with either certification, so long as it is recognized as a valid certification in your state.
Is The FNP Exam Difficult?
While the difficulty of the FNP exam will depend on your own knowledge and preparation, it does have a pretty high pass rate.
According to 2021 ANCC Certification data, those taking the Family Nurse Practitioner exam had an 87% pass rate. Of the 7,339 students that took the test, 6,387 passed.
Family Nurse Practitioner Salary
The average Family Nurse Practitioner salary is about $120,249 per year according to Salary.com. The bottom ten percent of earners make about $103,693 per year, while the top ten percent make about $140,091 per year.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide specific data for this nursing speciality. However, they do report that the average salary for all APRNs is $123,780, which is right on par with the data from Salary.com.
Keep in mind that your earning potential is influenced by a number of factors, such as experience, education level, and location.
Family Nurse Practitioner Salary by State
FNP salaries can vary a lot from location to location. For example, Family Nurse Practitioners earn an average salary of $134,800 in Alaska, while in South Dakota the average salary is only $102,933.
To help you discover where FNPs tend to make the most money, we compiled salary data from Salary.com, which you can see in the table below.
To see an interactive version of the map above, click here.
Is Becoming An FNP Worth It?
Whether or not becoming an FNP is worth it depends on your own goals, personality, and interests. While you do require at least a Master’s degree and some RN experience to become one, there are lots of benefits to consider.
From the fast-growing job demand to the six-figure average salary, there’s a lot to like about this career pathway. You also get the opportunity to work autonomously in many states. Some will even let you set up your own practice.
If you enjoy helping patients of all ages and backgrounds, this could be the perfect nursing speciality for you. Since FNPs usually focus on primary care, you’ll get to build relationships with patients while educating them how to manage their long-term health.
To find a degree program and start your journey towards becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, click here!
Nurse Luke is a CRNA who specializes in Nursing content and still enjoys a very busy career with Locum, Per Diem and Travel nursing in the greater midwest. He has over 25 years of experience in the healthcare field and received his CRNA masters degree from the Mayo Clinic School of Healthcare. He is passionate about helping nurses explore the options of becoming a travel nurse as well as spending time with his Family.