A Closer Look on How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner & What It Means to Be an FNP
In a profession as versatile as nursing, every RN has an aspect of the job they find most fulfilling. Some nurses find that the most fulfilling career path involves working with different populations and caring for patients across their lifespans. They place the utmost importance on building and nurturing long-lasting relationships with their patients, serving as their clients’ primary care providers.
If you were thinking: “This sounds exactly like the kind of nurse I want to be!” you’ll be happy to learn that this job description is also attached to one of the most rewarding nursing paths. And when we say rewarding, we mean it in all senses: professionally, personally, and of course, financially.
Family Nurse Practitioner is one of the most wonderful career choices for nurses. So, it’s prime time we take a closer look at what this job is all about, how to become an FNP, your salary potential, and much more. If you have a question about Family Nurse Practitioners, you’ll find the answer in this guide.
Let’s get this started.
What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses or APRNs who specialize in providing healthcare services to people of all ages, from pediatric to geriatric populations. They will work with people from all backgrounds, but FNPs are often the primary healthcare provider for individuals from underserved communities.
Generally, a Family Nurse Practitioner will care for patients and families throughout their lifespan. The relationships FNPs build with their patients often span decades and generations. Because they continuously interact and care for the same patients, Family Nurse practitioners develop close and long-term relationships with people under their care. So, if creating strong connections is central to you as a nursing professional, this role will fit you like a glove.
The role is extensively about delivering family-focused care, with particular attention dedicated to health promotion and education. Because FNPs are often the primary care provider for the family, they usually have to diagnose and treat different conditions and ailments.
Why Should You Consider a Career as an FNP?
Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner is one of the most rewarding nursing careers. It also implies a more significant investment of time and money than other nursing paths. So, let’s break down the advantages and the deliberations you should reflect on before committing to a career in family nursing.
On the pro side, you have the following:
- You build genuine, long-lasting relationships with patients and their families.
- You will be a deeply valued central figure in the community
- There is an excellent job outlook for FNPs
- The salaries will not disappoint
- You will be practicing with a great deal of autonomy.
At the same time, consider these aspects of APRN family practice:
- Your chosen profession has a comprehensive scope of practice. Instead of focusing your efforts on excelling in a specific nursing specialty, you’ll need to be always on top of – and an expert at – multiple nursing specialties.
- With greater autonomy comes greater responsibility. You can provide diagnosis, treat and prescribe medication, but you must be all the more vigilant and responsible. You don’t want to be liable for errors or nursing mistakes.
What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
A Family Nurse Practitioner’s job description is multifaceted and quite extensive, which shouldn’t surprise you given the profession’s broad scope of practice. The job is mainly patient-centric, encompassing everything from performing physical exams to prescribing medication or diagnosing illnesses to providing health education to prevent future health concerns.
In this section, we’ll touch upon what is the role of a Family Nurse Practitioner. Some of their duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Conducting routine physical examinations. Complete head-to-toe assessments are crucial to assessing a patient’s state before moving on to other parts of the nursing process.
- Providing diagnosis of a patient after completing the assessment stage.
- Maintaining thorough records of every patient’s medical history.
- Developing and following through with care plans
- Ordering lab and other diagnostic tests
- Interpreting the result of labs and tests
- Prescribing medication and other therapies on a need basis
- Monitoring a patient’s response to medication and adjust treatment plans accordingly.
- Meeting the primary healthcare needs of all the patients who walk through the door of their practice.
- Monitoring patients with chronic conditions like diabetes.
- Working collaboratively with other healthcare professionals. Even though you will work independently for the most part, you can consult with another medical professional to develop the best care plans for your patient
- Providing referrals when the medical situation calls for it
- Counseling patients and their family members about health concerns
- Promoting public health through social and environmental interventions and actions
What is the difference between an FNP and an NP?
Family Nurse Practitioners belong to a subspecialty of the Nurse Practitioner role. Still, they account for the majority of all Nurse Practitioners. Data from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) indicated that out of the current 355,000 NPs licensed in the US, almost 70% are certified as Family Nurse Practitioners.
What is the difference between an FNP and a Doctor?
Family Nurse Practitioners often act as the primary care provider for their patients, a thing they share in common with physicians. FNPs also hold prescriptive privileges, including controlled substances, in all 50 states and DC. So, the increasing autonomy and responsibility resemble that of a doctor or physician.
However, there are some significant differences between FNPs and doctors. Doctors spend a longer time training for the role. Subsequently, they have a higher level of authority compared to FNPs. Critically, physicians earn their licensure from a medical board, while FNPs become licensed through a nursing board.
How Do I Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Family Nurse Practitioners are trusted and expert healthcare professionals who provide quality care to every kind of patient population. It’s an important role that requires passion, compassion, and commitment. On average, it takes almost ten years to become an FNP. Next, we’ll break down the entire process of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner.
Step 1: Enroll in a Nursing Program
Maybe you’ve always known you want to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. Or perhaps your initial goal was to become a Registered Nurse and then let your career soar from there. Regardless of the case, the first step is always the same. You enroll in a nursing program.
You have several options at this early stage. You can pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), or you could enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). The first takes about two years to complete, while the latter is around four years. If you pursue an ADN, you can always get your BSN later on through a bridge RN-to-BSN program.
Having a BSN education is an integral part of becoming an FNP. A little later down the road, you’ll have to advance your education to an MSN level, and most programs require prospective students to have completed a BSN degree before enrolling in the more advanced degree program.
Nightingale College’s BSN program is comprehensive and follows a blended distance format, with online didactic instruction and on-ground field learning. It takes approximately 32 months to complete. Also, if you’ve started your nursing career as a Licensed Practical Nurse, you’ll be happy to hear that our program offers advanced placement for LPNs.
If you took the other option and proceeded to get your Associate’s Degree first and are now contemplating getting your BSN, our RN-to-BSN program is your best choice. It is 100% online and career-friendly, so you can keep working as an RN while advancing your education.
Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN
Once you’ve ticked Step 1 and enrolled in an ADN or BSN nursing program, you’re only getting to the good part: studying diligently and completing the program. Once that’s done, one more hurdle before you can boast your RN status: You must pass the NCLEX-RN. RN licensure is only obtainable through completing this extensive five-hour exam that tests your knowledge and preparedness to be a Registered Nurse.
Step 3: Gain experience
Now that nursing school is over (for now) and you proudly hold your RN licensure, you can move on to the next step: working as a Registered Nurse. It’s tremendously important for aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners to have first-hand nursing experience.
Practicing as an RN will help you sharpen your skills and become a better professional. An FNP career comes with a great deal of responsibility, so gaining clinical experience as a Registered Nurse is crucial. Nursing school is influential, but so is applying all the theoretical knowledge to real-life scenarios
You need at least two to four years of bedside experience before advancing to the next step.
Step 4: Get a Master’s Degree
The minimum educational level that makes you eligible for a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner is a Master’s Degree. For the most part, Master’s programs take around two years to complete and require prospective learners to have completed a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing.
Nightingale College offers a wonderful CCNE-accredited MSN FNP Program designed explicitly for BSN holders who want to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses with a specific emphasis on the role of Family Nurse Practitioner. We strongly believe that quality education is the foundation of a successful career, and our Nightingale College’s programs deliver on that belief. The FNP Master’s program combines online instruction, one in-person seminar, and preceptorship experience.
Step 5: Get certified
Certification is not mandatory for Registered Nurses. However, it is strongly recommended that FNPs pursue this credential. Being certified comes with numerous benefits for nurses:
- It gives you a competitive advantage in the field.
- It increases your confidence in your practice, making you a better nurse.
- It solidifies your professional reputation and earns the respect of your peers.
Discover more about why you should consider getting certified in our blog post on the subject.
A great certification option for Family Nurse Practitioners is the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC) offered by the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC). This credential is valid for five years, after which you can renew if you meet the renewal requirements.
To obtain this certification, you need to meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Hold a current, active RN license.
- Hold a Master’s, post-graduate certificate, or DNP from a family nurse practitioner (FNP) accredited program.
- Complete three separate, comprehensive graduate-level courses in 1) advanced physiology/pathophysiology, 2) advanced health assessment, 3) advanced pharmacology.
Family Nurse Practitioners can also pursue certifications in Diabetes Management, Pain Management, Obesity Management, Acute Care, or Emergency care.
Step 6: Keep up with your continuing education requirements
Being a nurse is being a life-long learner. So, continuing education will be part of your experience as a Family Nurse Practitioner. You may have to fulfill continuing education requirements to renew your nursing license, nursing certification, or APRN certification. Always check with your state board and credentialing center what the continuing education requirements are to keep your RN license and certifications active.
Continuing education is not a chore or another step you have to cross off the list. It is a great way you ensure you always stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field. In the end, it makes you a better nurse. And everyone stands to benefit from that.
Step 7: Reap the benefits of your hard work
The road was tough and long – almost ten years worth! But now you are ready to settle into your well-deserved role fully. Being a Family Nurse Practitioner is a great honor and responsibility, and you should appreciate both!
How Much Does a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Make?
Family Nurse Practitioners are some of the best-compensated nurses in the industry. Because of their advanced training, APRNs generally have much higher salaries than Registered Nurses. The Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that the average salary for APRNs as of 2021 was $123,780. More specifically, Nurse Practitioners brought in annual wages of around $120,680.
Because the BLS does not indicate how much NPS certified in family nursing earn, we turned to ZipRecruiter. According to the job platform, the national average salary for FNPs is $111,541, with the highest paychecks being in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
What Is the Job Outlook for Family Nurse Practitioners?
Overall employment of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses is projected to grow 40 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Over the decade, 112,700 new job openings will be available for NPs – the most remarkable projected growth among all the APRN roles. And since Family Nurse Practitioners make up the most significant part of NPs (almost 70%), we expect FNP job prospects to be excellent.
The reason behind this monumental job outlook is that FNPs perform many of the same services as physicians due to their advanced training and are becoming more widely recognized as a source of primary healthcare. So, they will be increasingly used in team-based models of care, particularly in hospitals, offices of physicians, clinics, and other ambulatory care settings, where patients require preventive and primary care.
Additionally, the aging of the population increases the need for healthcare professionals. As baby boomers age, they will experience ailments and complex conditions that require medical care, and FNPs will be some of the healthcare professionals keeping these patients healthy.
Thus, the career prospects for this job are excellent. Nowadays, Nurse Practitioner ranks #1 in Best Healthcare Jobs for 2022 and #2 in Best Jobs in the US, according to a report conducted by US News. With its excellent outlook and fast growth, this profession is certainly worthy of consideration for aspiring nurses.
Where Can a Family Nurse Practitioner Work?
Family Nurse Practitioners work in a wide variety of environments. Some of the most popular include:
- Private practice
- Community centers
- Physician’s offices
- Outpatient clinics
- Telehealth centers
Ready to take your skills to the next level and become an FNP?
With a profession as versatile as nursing, it’s easy for prospective RNs to choose the aspects of nursing practice that they value the most and pursue nursing jobs that bring those aspects to the forefront.
Some nurses enjoy helping as many patients as possible on a rolling basis and find the ER to suit them best. Other RNs prefer working with babies or expectant mothers and find careers in L&D or the Neonatal unit most beneficial. Perhaps, the nurse prefers controlled environments and significant autonomy. In that case, they can pursue Nurse Anesthetist careers.
But if you are looking for a nursing role that grants you autonomy, ensures genuine connections with your patients, and is financially rewarding, becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner is your best option.
And we can help you get there!
Nightingale College’s FNP Master program will prepare you to be the best Family certified Nurse Practitioner you and your future patients could hope for! Enroll today!