What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

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Nurse with stethoscope interviews patient in medical office.

Every day across the country, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide life-changing care to patients of all ages, backgrounds and socioeconomic communities. Specialized in adult and child health care, their advanced education and certification places them at the forefront of nursing, enabling them to provide patients with care beyond the capabilities of a registered nurse.

A family nurse practitioner’s role and responsibilities in our health care system involve a broad scope of services. By gaining advanced skills and knowledge through a program such as a Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) program, FNPs in many states are able to utilize full practice authority as they fulfill the primary care needs of their patients. For potential graduates looking to take a hands-on approach to their patients’ long-term health and well-being, becoming an FNP can be the key step in reaching their goals.

A Look at the Family Nurse Practitioner’s Role

The family nurse practitioner role is at the core of the health care field because these professionals provide family-centered care. Of those who decide to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner (NP), 69.7% specialize in family care, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

So, what is a family nurse practitioner? FNPs are advanced practice nurses who treat patients throughout all stages of their life. Family-centered care implies a holistic approach that takes into account relationships, needs and ongoing changes within patients’ families.

FNPs can work as liaisons between physicians and patients, as well as provide physicians with support in documenting patient data. FNPs are tasked with a variety of health care responsibilities that are oriented toward the family. Alongside FNPs, nurse practitioners specialize in a variety of other areas, including pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, gerontology and women’s health.

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

Professionals who are interested in pursuing careers as nurse practitioners begin by becoming licensed registered nurses (RNs). After licensing, RNs should gain work experience, then undertake an advanced degree such as an M.S.N. After graduating from an accredited program, they then obtain NP certification in the specialty of their choice.

Major differences exist between the role of a family nurse practitioner and that of a registered nurse. Besides having a more advanced education, NPs have more professional autonomy than RNs, often treating their own patients. Many NPs work in clinics or open their own private practices, which allows them to work standard business hours compared to the hectic schedules of RNs.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Professionals who wish to become family nurse practitioners can expect a fast-paced role that allows them to utilize their medical knowledge. FNPs focus on three essential areas of clinical care — internal medicine, urgent care and primary care, according to the AANP. This wide range of knowledge allows them to provide care for a variety of patient concerns.

What a family nurse practitioner does on a daily basis closely mirrors the roles and responsibilities of a primary care physician. Like physicians, FNPs are able to diagnose health problems, and in some states they have authority to prescribe medication to patients without a physician’s supervision. They also chart patient data and evaluate patients’ medical histories. Based on a patient’s history, they can work with the patient to develop a health care plan.

Depending on the type of medical facility, a family nurse practitioner’s tasks can involve a broad scope of responsibilities. From monitoring a patient’s health care plan and making necessary changes, to evaluating lab results and blood tests, to considering whether different medications should be prescribed, FNPs play an essential role in a patient’s care.

With the opportunity to consult with doctors and other medical professionals to prevent diseases and promote overall patient well-being, FNPs are able to create effective and long-term treatment plans for their patients. Working as health care advocates, conducting research to determine a group’s specific health concerns and establishing programs to provide health care education, FNPs may also play a role in community health, providing much needed resources and support.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

Family nurse practitioners enjoy a lucrative and fulfilling career. The national median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $120,680 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). FNPs earn a median annual salary of around $115,00, according to the 2020 AANP National NP Sample Survey.

Family nurse practitioners work in settings such as physicians’ offices, clinics, outpatient care centers, higher education organizations and hospitals. Additionally, NPs can acquire supplementary health certifications in diabetes care, obesity and pain management, which can enable them to command higher salaries.

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Across the U.S., there is a current and growing shortage of both nurses and primary care physicians. Within states granting full practice authority, nurses play an important part in closing this gap due to their medical experience, expertise and ability to provide direct patient care, making the family nurse practitioner job outlook incredibly positive across many parts of the country.

The number of jobs for nurse practitioners is expected to grow by a massive 52% between 2020 and 2030, significantly faster than the average growth projected for all occupations nationwide, according to the BLS. By pursuing an advanced degree or additional certifications, nurses are able to take control of their future, competing for coveted senior level positions and shaping the future of nursing.

Discover a Rewarding Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner

To truly understand the scope of what a family nurse practitioner is and how they make a positive impact in their communities, nursing professionals should explore advanced degree options. The University of North Dakota offers students the opportunity to develop their nursing skills through its online Master of Science in Nursing program.

A fully online program that offers the freedom to choose a degree in one of two professional concentrations — Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner — the University of North Dakota’s program was designed to provide you with the practical skills you need to pursue your passion.

Discover how you can make a positive difference, and take the first step today to become a future leader in health care.

Recommended Reading:

Diversity in Nursing: Benefits and Resources

Is a D.N.P. Required for Nurse Practitioners?

5 Skills Needed to Be a Nurse


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

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet

American Medical Association, “Doctor Shortages Are Here — and They’ll Get Worse if We Don’t Act Fast”

CNN, “Opinion: There’s a Dire Shortage of Nurses Across the U.S. There’s Also an Overlooked Solution”

Healthline, “Understanding the American Nursing Shortage”

Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) at a Glance

Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “The Integral Role of Nurse Practitioners in Community Paramedicine”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners