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Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at a Glance

As a career rooted in long-term, and sometimes multigenerational patient relationships, Family Nurse Practitioners are among the most compassionate and intimately connected providers in all of healthcare. FNPs are the people you’ll likely see most throughout your medical life, and are leaned on by both patients and doctors to provide individualized healthcare insights, and support. If you enjoy working with patients every day, and building meaningful relationships, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner may prove to be an extremely rewarding career.
What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
A Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) specializes in the primary and specialty care of patients of all ages. In general, FNPs focus on preventive care, monitoring their long-term health, and assisting physicians with any issues that might arise. This is an extremely rewarding position, both professionally and personally, and requires a clear and compassionate communicator for all aspects of the job.

What’s the Demand for Family Nurse Practitioners?

While FNPs have always been in demand, there’s been a recent lack of family practice doctors, which has led to an uptick in FNPs taking on more primary care positions, especially in underserved communities. With their broad understanding of care across all ages, FNPs tend to have a meaningful sense of the overall health of the communities they serve, which can be invaluable to healthcare providers and community leaders in times of crisis.

How Do You Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Like any position in the medical field, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner does take commitment. It’s highly recommended that you earn your BSN from an accredited university program. You’re also required to earn your license and work as a registered nurse, where you’ll become familiar with a broad range of care practices before you apply to your chosen master’s program.

Required education
MSN
Master’s in Science of Nursing programs for family nursing work to provide students with a deeper understanding on the theoretical application of family nursing. Within these programs MSN students develop a dynamic knowledge in illness management, research best practices, and leadership skills, ensuring that future NPs are thoroughly educated in a broad range of primary health concerns.
Depending on the intensity of your program, you can complete your MSN in two to three years. Most programs offer both full- and part-time options, along with on-campus and online class capabilities. No matter which route you choose, we suggest starting your search by looking through our school finder app and by visiting the Counsel of Accreditation website, so you can find properly accredited programs, and learn about them in more detail.
Average annual salary
$77k–$120k
On average, Family Nurse Practitioners earn about $77k-$120k. Because they’re classified as “advanced practice nurses,” FNP salaries rightfully reflect their highly specialized skill set. However, where in the range your compensation is will depend on external factors, as well—costs of living and demand in your area can substantially affect your annual or hourly salary. As of May 2019, the BLS reported that the highest paying states for Family Nurse Practitioners were California, Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Minnesota.
Another thing to consider is that FNPs can also pursue additional specialty certifications in areas like diabetes and weight management, which can significantly influence your projected compensation.
As with various other nursing specialties, some states allow FNPs to open their own private practices, independent from the supervision of a licensed physician. In this case, a Family Nurse Practitioner’s salary can be higher, so long as they run a smart and safe business.

Source: PayScale, Aug 2018

Attributes
Highly Compensated
As you progress in your career, you’ll likely be met with opportunities to increase your income as you gain more experience. However, the base salary of a Family Nurse Practitioner typically relies on their specialized skill set, any additional credentials, the level of demand in their area, and the level or environment in which they’re operating. So, it’s largely up to you to pursue a path that will meet your financial needs or goals.
Independent
As an FNP, you’ll have the privilege of being the liaison between your patient and their primary physician, making you their central point of communication surrounding their health needs. You’ll also have the opportunity, in some states, to start your own practice. If this is something you’re looking to pursue, it’s important to note that you’re responsible for taking the proper legal and safety precautions in opening and operating a medical business.
Patient-facing
As an FNP, you’re almost always face-to-face with a patient. During this time, it’s important to be engaged and attentive in order to not only strengthen your relationship, but also to become familiar with all of their health risks or needs.
Structured
Because FNPs are often the first point of contact between patients and their necessary level of care, you’ll need a routine that lets you anticipate and prepare for every situation, and create a potential plan of action. This structure not only allows you to manage your time and priorities, but it also helps you give patients the quality of care they expect and deserve.
Varied
Due to the broad range in age and backgrounds of your potential patients, your job as a Family Nurse Practitioner will require you to think on your feet. This is where having structure to rely on really comes in handy—otherwise, it can be tricky to stay on top of the varied information and interactions you’re faced with every day.
It's important to know what patients think, and how they think, so that you know how to best help them, and make them feel comfortable."
- Tasheima Y., MSN, RN, RNC-NIC, FNP-BC
What does a Family Nurse Practitioner do?
Brief Overview
Brief Overview

Apart from your advanced knowledge of patient and preventive care, being a Family Nurse Practitioner relies so much upon your ability to adapt to a wide range of patient needs, to effectively communicate with and educate your patients and their families, and to have a strong, collaborative work ethic.

Education
Education

As one of the healthcare providers your patients will probably see most throughout their lives, it’s important that you can keep them informed about the significance of their medical history, help them establish healthy preventive habits, and be someone they trust will answer whatever health questions they might have.

Management
Management

Attentive management skills are crucial when overseeing patient care. As an FNP, you’ll maintain health records, and provide information or referrals, so the better you manage yourself, the better you’ll serve your patients. Stay organized, hold yourself accountable, and do whatever you need to set yourself up for success.

Treatment
Treatment

The regulations on how a FNP may function vary from state to state, but more often than not, FNPs can work similarly to a primary care physician. This means that as an FNP, it’ll often be your job to assist or lead the examination, diagnosis, and prescription for a patient, and form a well-rounded, safe treatment plan.

Where can a Family Nurse Practitioner work?
  • Clinics
    In clinics, Family Nurse Practitioners often hold a similar role to those of primary physicians, independently treating and assessing patients within the bounds of their skill set.
  • Community centers
    In community centers, Family Nurse Practitioners often act more as a resource than as an acting physician. In this role, they’re mainly responsible for educating and informing the public on proper health practices.
  • Doctors’ offices
    Within doctor’s offices, Family Nurse Practitioners act as support to the primary care physician, keeping patient information up to date, and communicating with the patient before and after their visit.
  • Hospitals
    Because their main focus is in long-term care, FNPs don’t usually work in hospitals, but that doesn’t mean it never happens. If FNPs are employed in a hospital setting, it’s usually thanks to their knowledge in acute care.
  • Outpatient clinics
    Similar to how they work in standard or private physician offices, general nurse practitioners and FNPs often support primary care physicians in outpatient clinics where patients undergo minor procedures or treatments.
  • Telemedicine
    Telemedicine allows nurse practitioners, including FNPs, to support a much broader range of patients, both geographically and socioeconomically. Because of their far-reaching knowledge, FNPs are often valuable on these digital platforms, because they can quickly connect with and assess such a wide variety of health issues.
Hear what Family Nurse Practitioners have to say
  • Nursing_video_stills_Tashima_Young.jpg
  • A day in the life of a Family Nurse Practitioner

    For Tasheima Y., MSN, RN, RNC-NIC, FNP-BC, quality nursing runs in the family. After a childhood of watching her mother provide quality care to her patients, Tasheima decided to pursue a career in nursing, and currently works as a pediatric Family Nurse Practitioner. With patients ranging from age zero to 21, Tasheima is a pro communicator and healthcare provider. Be it a worried new mom, a panicked toddler or a secretive teen, Tasheima loves being the person that can solve their problems and put their minds and bodies at ease.

The Family Nurse Practitioner Path

Get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Having a strong base of knowledge in all areas of nursing will help you as you move forward into your clinical practice, and further education.

Pass the NCLEX-RN and work as a Registered Nurse.

To become a Family Nurse Practitioner, and before you apply for your MSN, you must have at least one year of experience as a Registered Nurse.

Get your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Depending on the intensity of your program, you can earn your MSN in two to three years, on campus or online.

Get your Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Your board certification relies on you passing this examination which assesses your knowledge of entry-level skills and clinical competencies.

You’re ready to work as a FNP.

As an FNP, you're someone that people and their loved ones rely on for the care, and attention they need to live healthy lives.

Join an Organization
Become a member of a FNP organization to find career opportunities, learn from your colleagues, and support the profession.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

The Journal for Nurse Practitioners
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