Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Career Overview
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Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) hold advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licenses and provide primary care services. FNPs see patients of all ages and focus on preventative care. They also treat illnesses and injuries.
Nearly half of all APRNs work in physician's offices. Compared to registered nurses (RNs), APRNs work more autonomously as dictated by state laws. They also earn annual salaries in the six figures, ranging from $91,250-$208,080, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
How Long to Become
38% growth from 2021-2031
Average Annual Salary
What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?
FNPs assess, diagnose, and treat patients in all life stages, from toddlers to older adults. FNPs typically work on care teams with physicians and RNs. They handle common illnesses and injuries and refer patients to specialists when necessary.
A typical day may include performing wellness exams, advising patients about lifestyle changes to improve health, managing treatment plans, prescribing and administering medications and vaccines, ordering tests and analyzing results, and consulting with doctors and other health professionals.
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- Administering medication
- Diagnosing illnesses
- Managing care plans
- Ordering and interpreting test results
- Providing patient education
- Ability to spend long periods standing and walking
- Compassionate listening and communication
- Effective stress management
- Dedication to patient advocacy
- Skills in working under pressure
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Where Do Family Nurse Practitioners Work?
The top employers of nurse practitioners, including FNPs, include physician's offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, and home health care services.
FNPs in physician offices typically see patients during regular daytime business hours and are less likely to be on call for emergencies. FNPs often support physicians, but in some states, they have full autonomy to practice primary care independently.
Hospital FNPs usually work in shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Hospital patients often need 24-hour care, and FNPs may be on call to accommodate these needs. FNPs in hospitals may find their jobs physically demanding, including long hours on their feet and helping patients with mobility.
Outpatient Care Centers
FNPs in outpatient care centers perform many of the same duties as physicians, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment, formulating care plans, and referring patients to specialists. Outpatient centers may require FNPs to work night and weekend shifts.
Why Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
As with all careers, becoming an FNP has pros and cons.
Advantages to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner
Autonomous primary care practice
Career advancement into administrative roles
Projected employment growth well above the national average
Disadvantages to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner
High stress in some work settings
Physically strenuous work
Risks of becoming ill from patient exposure
Several years required to obtain the necessary education and experience
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
The first step to becoming a family nurse practitioner is obtaining a RN license and experience. Common routes to RN licensure include earning a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Graduates then take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).
Many master of science in nursing (MSN) programs — the minimum degree required for nurse practitioner licensing — only admit BSN holders. ADN students can finish RN-to-BSN bridge programs in about two years. MSN admission usually requires 1-2 years of clinical experience as an RN.
Graduating from an MSN program gives you eligibility for licensure. Students may also pursue a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP).
MSN or DNP graduates take a national exam for their FNP certification administered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The final step is to apply for an APRN license from your state board of nursing.
How Much Do Family Nurse Practitioners Make?
According to Payscale data, FNPs earn average base salaries of $102,107 a year or $53 an hour as of September 2023. Compensation increases with experience. FNPs with less than a year of experience make an average of $96,000, while those with 20 or more years average $112,000.
FNP salaries can increase by moving geographic locations, changing workplace settings, or advancing into managerial roles.
Frequently Asked Questions About Family Nurse Practitioners
Is FNP higher than NP?
A family nurse practitioner is a type of nurse practitioner. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, family nurse practice is the most popular specialization for NPs at 65.3%.
Is a FNP the same as a doctor?
FNPs perform many of the same functions as physicians, but they do not earn an M.D. FNPs and doctors provide primary care services and often collaborate on care teams. However, NPs may be the only primary care providers in some areas, particularly rural communities.
What is the difference between DNP and FNP?
A DNP is a doctorate in nursing practice, while an FNP is a family nurse practitioner. Nurses with a master's or doctorate can become nurse practitioners after earning their advanced practice registered nurse licenses.
Some organizations may recognize nurse practitioners with a DNP as having a greater understanding of evidence-based clinical guidelines and application into practice, positioning them to help fill clinical vacancies caused by physician shortages. FNPs provide primary care services, often supporting physicians, but in some states, they have full autonomy to practice primary care independently.
Where do FNPs make the most money?
The five top-paying states for nurse practitioners are California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Page last reviewed on August 31, 2023
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