Why Become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)?

A smiling family nurse practitioner checks the vital signs of a child sitting on a parent’s lap.Women’s health, pediatric care, emergency care, mental health—nurse practitioners become certified in many different advanced practice roles, delivering care to many different patient communities. The most popular nurse practitioner path? Becoming a family nurse practitioner, or FNP. In this role, an advanced practice nurse can serve patients of all ages, from children to older adults.

Why become a family nurse practitioner? Simply put, nurses who earn the advanced education and certification for this role often work with a high level of independence and autonomy, making a substantial impact on patients’ lives.

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners work autonomously or in conjunction with a physician, observing and diagnosing patients, developing and implementing treatments, and educating patients. FNPs offer family-focused care to patients of any age.

An FNP certification is by far the most common of the nurse practitioner specialties. In fact, roughly 70% of nurse practitioners are certified to administer family care. Because they can provide a full spectrum of care, from diagnosing conditions to prescribing medications, FNPs play an increasingly vital role in the health system, filling key roles in areas that are facing physician shortages. FNPs are especially important to rural and other underserved communities.

Becoming an FNP

Beyond considering what a family nurse practitioner is, nursing students often investigate the role’s basic requirements and career trajectory. For those interested in this vital role, the steps to becoming an FNP are straightforward.

  • Obtain an undergraduate nursing degree, then become licensed as an RN.
  • Pursue an advanced nursing degree, including a Master of Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), taking courses focused on family care.
  • Complete the national examination to earn the FNP certification.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Broadly speaking, FNPs deliver a full range of care to patients of all ages. What a family nurse practitioner does, specifically, can vary depending on the practice; however, a basic job description might include the following.

  • Observing patients, conducting exams, and ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Collecting patient medical histories and ensuring accurate patient records
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans, which may involve pharmaceuticals
  • Referring patients to specialists when needed (for instance, to oncologists for a cancer diagnosis)
  • Following up with patients to facilitate their recovery
  • Educating patients and family members about disease prevention and healthy living

Scope of Practice

The extent of care an FNP can provide depends on the laws of the state in which they are practicing. Some states permit nurse practitioners to practice autonomously and others require FNPs to work under a physician’s supervision. Additionally, all states currently allow FNPs to prescribe medications, but some limit whether nurse practitioners can prescribe controlled substances (medications earmarked as being addictive or risky).

The best way to determine an FNP’s potential scope of practice is to contact the nursing board of the state in question.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

When considering any nursing position, it is important to research potential salaries. According to November 2022 data from the compensation website Payscale, the median annual family nurse practitioner salary was $98,700.

It is important to note the range of the family nurse practitioner salary can vary quite a bit, based on a few different factors. The main variables that can affect FNP salaries include geographic location, years of experience, and level of education.

Find Your Place as a Family Nurse Practitioner

Why become a family nurse practitioner? Those who become an FNP can deliver primary care to a diverse community of patients, fill important health care gaps in rural and underserved communities, and work with a high level of independence.

An important step to becoming an FNP is gaining a comprehensive nursing education that cultivates the knowledge and skills to perform direct care. Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program focuses on the skills nurses need to treat patients in a family-care setting and succeed in diagnostics, treatment, and beyond.

Discover how studying to become an FNP with HPU can expand your horizons as an advanced practice nurse.

Recommended Readings

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American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, "The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP)"

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, State Practice Environment

Daily Nurse, "A Day in the Life of an FNP"

The Fayetteville Observer, "Family Nurse Practitioners Can Improve Healthcare in Rural North Carolina"

Incredible Health, "How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner"

Indeed, "What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner? Definition, Salary, Sub-Specialties and Career Guide"

Payscale, Average Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary

The Tennessean, "Family Nurse Practitioners Are Key to Improving Health Care Deserts in Tennessee"