What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

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A family nurse practitioner shows a young patient how to use an inhaler.

Nurses interested in pursuing advanced roles that allow them to provide independent, family-focused care to patients from infancy to adulthood are likely to be drawn to careers as family nurse practitioners (FNPs). FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have earned an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) degree, and are board certified through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, the American Nurses Credentialing Center Certification Program, or the National Certification Corporation.

Licensed FNPs enjoy a broad scope of practice, and in some states have the authority to prescribe medication. In addition to performing physical exams, maintaining patients’ records, and diagnosing patients’ conditions, they also educate patients on topics such as disease prevention, the benefits of quitting smoking, and how to improve their overall health. Professionals who choose this career path also provide preventive health care services, such as wellness exams, health-risk assessments, and immunizations, and treatment of acute illnesses, such as bronchitis, and chronic conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes.

Registered nurses interested in becoming family nurse practitioners must pursue the right education to succeed. An advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner can prepare graduates with the foundational knowledge needed to be credentialed as a family nurse practitioner.

The Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner

A family nurse practitioner is a medical professional who provides primary care to various patient populations. Although FNPs’ scope of practice, or the duties and responsibilities they’re permitted to carry out based on their licensure, varies from state to state, common job duties include the following:

  • Performing physical examinations
  • Assessing patients’ health
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Ordering physical therapy
  • Prescribing medication
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of treatments and medical interventions
  • Ordering labs, such as blood and urinalysis testing
  • Interpreting diagnostic test results
  • Providing patients with referrals to specialists, such as oncologists, cardiologists, and pulmonologists
  • Coordinating care with other health care providers and specialists

Work Settings for Family Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are employed in a variety of settings, including the following:

  • Primary care practices
  • Private homes
  • Community clinics
  • Health departments
  • Schools
  • State, local, and private hospitals
  • Long- and short-term care facilities
  • Urgent care clinics
  • Medical clinics

Most nurses who choose this career path work full time, Monday through Friday. However, those who work in facilities that provide 24-hour care, such as hospitals and elder care facilities, may need to work nights, weekends, holidays, and on-call shifts. Additionally, FNPs who provide care in patients’ homes may need to travel long distances, especially if they need to care for patients who live in areas that have a health care workforce shortage.

Skills FNPs Need to Succeed

Individuals interested in becoming family nurse practitioners should develop several key skills and competencies:

  • Communication: FNPs work with patients of all ages and backgrounds. Strong communication skills allow them to explain diagnoses, treatment plans, and care instructions in language their patients understand.
  • Critical Thinking: Family nurse practitioners identify and diagnose patients’ medical conditions. Individuals with good critical thinking skills can evaluate patients’ symptoms and test results and make proper clinical decisions.
  • Compassion: Patients seeking health care assistance are often under extreme stress. FNPs must provide kind, compassionate care to help put their patients at ease.
  • Interpersonal Skills: FNPs work with diverse groups of people, including patients, specialists, and administrative staff, among others. Professionals with strong interpersonal skills understand how to both communicate and collaborate with their colleagues, patients, and patients’ family members.

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Growth and Salary Ranges

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of APRNs, including FNPs, will grow by 45% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average projected for all occupations. Growth within this field will be driven by several factors, such as the aging U.S. population, retiring baby boomer nurses, and the need to replace APRNs who transfer to alternate occupations.

The BLS reports that, as of May 2020, the median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $111,680, but salaries can vary widely based on experience, employer, and geographical region. For example, the BLS states that while the median annual wage for nurse practitioners in California was $145,900 in 2020, in Ohio it was $105,630. Additionally, while the national median salary for nurse practitioners at state, local, and private hospitals was $124,660, it was $114,570 for those who worked at physicians’ offices.

Earn an Online Master’s Degree and Pursue Your Dream of Becoming a FNP

The ongoing nursing shortage has made the role of family nurse practitioners more important than ever. RNs interested in learning more about what a family nurse practitioner is and becoming credentialed as an FNP should begin by gaining the skills to provide high-quality care to families and individuals throughout the life continuum.

Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner program includes classes such as Advanced Pharmacology, Primacy Care Across the Lifespan, Advanced Health Assessment, and Primary Acute Care Conditions Across the Lifespan, all designed to provide graduates with the expertise required to provide effective, patient-centered care. Are you ready to take the next step toward becoming a family nurse practitioner? Discover how Bradley University’s online Master of Science in Nursing — Family Nurse Practitioner program can help you become a leader in primary care.


Recommended Readings

Nurse Practitioner Specialties: Types of Nurse Practitioner Roles and Responsibilities

When Will a DNP Be Required for Nurse Practitioners?

What Is an FNP and How Do You Become One?



American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioner (NP) Certification

MedlinePlus, Living with a Chronic Illness, Reaching Out to Others

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020, Nurse Practitioners