Careers in Advanced Nursing: What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

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Americans depend on physicians to provide them with routine medical care. That’s what makes it so alarming to hear that our system may see a scarcity of these providers. As America’s baby boomer population ages and needs more consistent and robust care, both the medical profession and many medical schools are struggling to expand accordingly. The situation is sobering: A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a deficit of 122,000 physicians by the year 2032.

This statistic suggests a lack of medical care, but it also conveys abundant opportunity for trained, certified, and adaptable providers. In particular, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) stand to play a unique role in helping bridge the country’s shortage of medical doctors. Those with FNP certification are trained to provide diagnostics, disease prevention, wellness promotion, and other competencies in common practice settings, including community health centers, private family practices, health care systems and universities.

Pursuit of an online degree is one way to obtain FNP credentialing and take the first step toward an advanced career as a nurse practitioner. Through an online Master of Science in Nursing degree program, nursing professionals can develop the skills to diagnose and treat patients in a family nurse practitioner role, and ultimately help fill the gap left by the growing physician shortage.

What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

To understand the opportunities available to family nurse practitioners, it’s first helpful to learn what the role entails. FNPs serve the needs of patients in a number of ways, and they also provide key resources for other care providers.

A family nurse practitioner is trained to deliver both chronic and acute care to patients of all ages. FNPs can work in a variety of care contexts, from private practice to community health organizations. The scope of a family nurse practitioner’s duties may vary according to the patient and context for care, but some standard responsibilities include:

  • Advanced assessments of patients throughout the lifespan
  • Ordering, supervising, and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Providing a medical diagnosis
  • Developing, implementing, and amending a patient care plan
  • Collaboration with other healthcare providers
  • Promoting wellness and coaching patients in healthy lifestyle choices
  • Educating and communicating with patients and their family members

A family nurse practitioner is generally able to practice with a high level of autonomy. For example, they can both devise and execute a patient care strategy, either independently or in collaboration with other physicians and healthcare providers. Because these professionals are able to work autonomously and can adapt their practice to many different contexts of care, FNPs can play a significant role in helping bridge gaps left by the anticipated physician shortage.
FNP talking to a patient

The Expertise of a Family Nurse Practitioner

As we consider what a family nurse practitioner is, and how professionals in this role can assist in a time of physician scarcity, it’s also helpful to identify the particular advanced skill sets a family nurse practitioner must develop and implement.

There are a number of skills that are considered essential for the delivery of high-quality healthcare, such as advanced leadership, analytical ability, critical thinking, and interpersonal communication.

A family nurse practitioner must be able to:

  • Develop an accurate diagnosis and care plan based on assessment and interpretation of diagnostic tests
  • Communicate the diagnosis and care plan with health care providers, the patient, and family members
  • Lead a team of clinicians or collaborate with other departments to ensure high standards of care
  • Propose meaningful ways in which the patient can pursue a healthy lifestyle

These skills are best obtained through enrollment in an MSN degree program. A good example is Hawai‘i Pacific University’s  online Master of Science in Nursing degree specifically the Family Nurse Practitioner specialization. The program offers a forward-thinking online curriculum that’s built to enable students to further cultivate key skills to an expert level, specifically through independent assignments, group projects, discussions, and clinical field work.

How Much Do Family Nurse Practitioners Make?

Family nurse practitioners enjoy satisfying careers in providing compassionate and informed patient care. Additionally, those who become family nurse practitioners can anticipate robust salaries. According to April 2021 PayScale data, the average annual salary for a family nurse practitioner is $96,429. This number may be impacted by several variables, including years of experience, geographic location, certification, and education level.

Discover More About Family Nurse Practitioners

Now that you know more about what a family nurse practitioner is, you may want to know how to get started down this career path. For answers, explore the resources available through Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing degree program, which can lead to many potential advantages, often better positioning graduates to command higher salaries and pursue more prestigious career appointments.


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

Forbes, Doctoring the Doctor Shortage

Nursing Theory, Family Nursing

Payscale, “Average Family Nurse Practitioner Salary”