What Is the Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner?

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A smiling family nurse practitioner listens to a young patient.Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) specialize 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, often functioning in a primary care capacity.

A Look at the Family Nurse Practitioner’s Role

The role of a family nurse practitioner is pivotal to the stability of the health care field in providing family-centered patient care. Of those who decide to pursue a career as a general nurse practitioner (NP), 65.4% specialize in family care, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

FNPs have a general understanding of patient health care throughout all stages of life. They work as liaisons between physicians and patients, as well as provide physicians with support in documenting patient data.

As the title implies, family nurse practitioners specialize in a variety of health care needs that are oriented toward the family. Alongside FNPs, general nurse practitioners specialize in a variety of other areas, including pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, gerontology and women’s health.

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 online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). After graduating from an accredited program, they then obtain NP certification in the specialty of their choice. For example, family NPs would take the FNP certification exam offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board.

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

By 2030, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts there will be a “shortfall of as many as 105,000 doctors.” NPs play an important part in closing this gap due to their medical experience, expertise and ability to provide direct patient care.

Job Description of a Family Nurse Practitioner

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.

The daily responsibilities of an FNP closely mirror those 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. According to the AANP, FNPs typically see about 18 patients a day.

These professionals may also monitor a patient’s health care plan and make necessary changes. Additionally, they may evaluate lab results and blood work to consider whether different medications should be prescribed. Furthermore, they consult with doctors and other medical professionals to prevent diseases and promote overall patient well-being.

FNPs may also work as health care advocates, conducting research to determine a community’s specific health concerns and establishing programs to provide health care education. They may also open their own clinics to provide health care to communities and locations in need.

Family Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook and Salary

A professional who becomes a family nurse practitioner can expect a lucrative and fulfilling career. NP positions are expected to grow by 26% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse practitioners primarily work in physicians’ offices, clinics, outpatient care centers, higher education organizations and hospitals. In 2019, the BLS reported the highest-paying states for nurse practitioners were California, Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey and Minnesota.

The national annual median salary of a nurse practitioner was $109,820 in 2019, according to the BLS. NPs can acquire additional health certifications in diabetes care, obesity and pain management, which can enable them to command higher salaries.

As for FNPs, the 2019 AANP National NP Sample Survey reports their median annual compensation was $114,000, based on yearly salary and bonuses.

Discover a Rewarding Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner

To understand the role of a family nurse practitioner, professionals should consider broadening their medical knowledge. The University of North Dakota offers prospective students the opportunity to develop their nursing skills through its online Master of Science with a Major in Nursing program. The program offers the freedom to choose a degree in one of three professional concentrations, including Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

All students follow a core curriculum designed to prepare them to become nurse practitioners. A sampling of courses includes Theories and Concepts in Nursing; Health Promotion; Evidence for Practice; Advanced Pharmacology; Advanced Pathophysiology; Advanced Health Assessment; and Ethical, Legal and Health Policy Issues.

Explore how the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Science in Nursing can prepare students to become future leaders in health care.


Recommended Readings

5 Leadership Skills in Nursing That Nurse Practitioners Should Master

BSN vs. MSN: What Are the Benefits of a Master’s in Nursing?

Exploring the Types of Nursing Specialties and Salaries of Nurse Practitioners


The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, Welcome to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board

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

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Nurse Practitioner Fact Sheet”

Health Care Drive, Nurse Practitioners Increasingly Fill Gap in Primary Care Delivery, Study Finds

Johnson & Johnson, 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