Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner: The Ultimate Guide

Are you thinking about becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner?

If you have, then you have come to the right place.

As one of the fastest-growing areas of nursing and with a highly competitive salary and optimistic job outlook, there has never been a better time to pursue a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).

That being said, before you commit to an FNP degree program, you should first make sure that you are fully informed about everything involved in this advanced nursing degree and about a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Within this guide, you will find out:

  • What is the role of an FNP?
  • What are the differences between a Nurse Practitioner and a Family Nurse Practitioner?
  • Is an FNP the same as being a doctor?
  • What qualifications are needed to become an FNP?
  • Where do FNPs work?
  • Can FNPs work independently?
  • How much do FNPs earn?
  • What is the job outlook for FNPS?
  • How long does it take to become qualified as an FNP?
  • What soft skills are needed to become an FNP?
  • Where to study to become an FNP – online vs. on-campus
  • Conclusion – Is becoming an FNP right for you?

Ready to get started?

In as little as 7 minutes, you will be fully knowledgeable about what it takes to become an FNP in the United States. Plus, hopefully, you will know if this is the right career path for you and your professional goals.

What is the role of an FNP?

As a Family Nurse Practitioner, FNP, your role is similar to that of a family doctor or physician. You will be required to see patients of all ages and from all backgrounds for both scheduled appointments and drop-ins.

Depending on the state that you intend to practice in, you may be able to work independently, or you may be required to work under a physician.

Some of your daily duties may include:

  • Managing chronic conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and asthma
  • Treating minor injuries such as sprains and illnesses such as the flu
  • Carrying out health assessments and physical examinations
  • Overseeing women’s healthcare and requirements, including prenatal and menopausal care
  • Educating patients and their families on preventative healthcare
  • Ordering and performing diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing medication

If you choose to work in a rural area, you may find yourself being the sole primary care provider, which carries a lot of responsibility but enables you to really make a difference in a community.

What is are differences between a nurse practitioner and a family nurse practitioner?

A Family Nurse Practitioner falls under a sub-category of the role of a Nurse Practitioner. While all family nurse practitioners are nurse practitioners, not all nurse practitioners are family nurse practitioners.

Each nurse practitioner is trained and qualified in a specific area of nursing such as gerontology, pediatrics, or women’s health, whereas as a family nurse practitioner is trained to treat people of all ages and genders.

To become a nurse practitioner, you have to hold a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing and must have completed clinical training that goes beyond that of a registered nurse.

However, if you want to become a family nurse practitioner, you need to first pursue a degree, either on-campus or 100% online FNP programs.

Is an FNP the same as being a doctor?

No, a family nurse practitioner is not the same as a doctor or physician. That being said, family nurse practitioners are increasingly acting as primary care providers in communities, especially in rural locations and states where FNPs are allowed to practice independently.

If you want to become an FNP, the qualifications and experience you need are very different from that of a doctor or physician. Furthermore, your daily duties once qualified will also differ.

What qualifications are needed to become an FNP?

If you think that this is the career path for you, you will be pleased to hear that the journey to becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner is a fairly straightforward one.

To become an FNP in the United States, you need to:

  1. Become a licensed registered nurse (RN)

To become an RN, you need to gain either an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing. You need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

  1. Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree specializing in FNP nursing

Once you are a registered nurse, the next step is to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

  1. Pursue an MSN-FNP degree

There are several MSN-FNP degree options available for registered nurses depending on your current level of qualification. If you have a BSN, you can complete an MSN-FNP degree program, or if you already have an MSN degree, you can choose to pursue a Post-Master’s FNP certificate.

  1. Become certified by passing a national FNP certification exam

Before you can lawfully practice as an FNP, you need to have passed the national FNP certification exam. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) offer national FNP certifications.

  1. Apply for state licensure as a family nurse practitioner

Once you have completed your degree and passed the national exam, the final step is to apply for state licensure as an FNP through your state’s licensing board. To obtain your license, you must have completed the required education and number of clinical hours.

Where do FNPs work?

Family Nurse Practitioners can work in a variety of different healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Private clinics
  • Retail clinics
  • Urgent care centers
  • Schools
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Hospice centers and patients’ homes
  • Correctional facilities
  • Veteran’s administration

Where you choose to work will depend on your needs and desires as a working professional. For example, some environments are better suited to those who want a challenging and constantly evolving daily work life, and others are ideal for people who want a steadier flow of work.

It can be a good idea to think about what hours you are willing to work and how much flexibility you need in your job. For example, if you work in a school, you can expect to work shorter hours than if you worked in a hospital.

Furthermore, some environments tend to offer higher salaries than others, such as private clinics.

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It all comes down to what you want to get from your working life. Is your primary focus money? Or is a work/life balance more important to you?

Can FNPs work independently?

Depending on what state to plan to practice within, you will be permitted one of the below options:

  1. Full practice autonomy. This is where FNPs can diagnose, treat and prescribe patients without the supervision of a physician. In full-practice states, FNPs are permitted to run their own independent practices.
  2. Reduced practice autonomy. This is where FNPs are allowed to diagnose and treat patients but need a physician to prescribe any medication.
  3. Restricted practice autonomy. These states do not allow FNPs to diagnose, treat or prescribe without the oversight of a physician.

As of August 2021, there are 24 states and the District of Columbia that have approved full practice autonomy.

How much do FNPs earn?

According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a Nurse Practitioner, which includes Family Nurse Practitioners, is $114,510.

Although the average salary varies from one state to another, you can expect to earn a good salary as an FNP, complete with attractive benefits such as health insurance, dental and flexible working hours.

The states with the highest wages for FNPs include California, Washington, New Jersey, and New York.

What is the job outlook for FNPs?

If you are anxious about job security, you will be pleased to hear that the job outlook for nurse practitioners and family nurse practitioners in the United States is good.

As the country is currently facing a shortage of qualified physicians, healthcare organizations are crying out for experienced and skilled Family Nurse Practitioners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an estimated 29,400 new openings for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives each year over the next decade.

How long does it take to become an FNP?

The exact time it takes to become a fully qualified Family Nurse Practitioner is dependent on a number of factors, including the type of course you choose and your current level of qualifications and experience.

Typically, it takes between 2-5 years to become an FNP. However, it can take longer than this, up to 8 years, for students who have a diploma but no other qualifications or experience in the field of nursing.

The time it takes to qualify will also depend on whether you choose to study full or part-time.

What soft skills are needed to become an FNP?

As well as gaining the required qualifications to become an FNP, it can also be a good idea to see if you have the right personality traits and soft skills needed to thrive in this demanding role.

The most common traits and skills held by successful FNPs include:

  • Compassion
  • Positivity
  • Listening
  • Professionalism
  • Communication
  • Team player
  • Willingness to learn
  • Approachable
  • Detail orientated
  • Ability to think on your feet

If you are able to demonstrate the above skills in an interview or on your resume, you will have an advantage over other candidates who are not forthcoming in showcasing their soft skillset.

Where to study for an FNP degree – Online vs. on-campus

If you have decided that a career as a Family Nurse Practitioner is the right professional path for you, then the next step is to make sure you have the necessary qualifications.

When it comes to how to carry out an FNP degree program, you have 3 choices:

  1. On-campus courses
  2. Online courses
  3. Hybrid courses

Now, let’s take a look at the pros of each learning option:

On-campus courses

These are degree programs that take place 100% on-campus, and you are required to attend set lectures and tutorials at your chosen university.

Pros:

  • Face-to-face interaction with tutors
  • You can ask questions as soon as they arise
  • Face-to-face interaction with other students
  • Less self-motivation is needed
  • Distraction-free environment
  • Good social element

Online courses

Online courses are becoming increasingly popular across all industries as students seek a more flexible and convenient way to learn.

Pros:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Lower tuition costs
  • No commuting, housing, or childcare costs
  • Increased networking opportunities, including global networking
  • Increased organizational skills
  • A boost in self-motivation

Hybrid courses

Hybrid classes involve completing part of a degree program on-campus and part online. Typically, a hybrid class offers about 25-50% of their classes on-campus, and the rest can be carried out at your convenience online.

Pros:

  • Optimum flexibility
  • Diverse learning style
  • Offers a good introduction to online courses
  • There is some flexibility to how you can learn
  • Good networking opportunities both in-person and online

Conclusion

Hopefully, the above guide has given you a better understanding of what it takes to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Plus, what you can expect your professional life to look like once you have qualified.

If you are still unsure about whether or not this is the right career path for you, you may want to ask yourself the below questions:

Do you consider yourself to be a caring and compassionate person?

Are you willing to be attentive and listen to the needs of others?

Can you bring a positive attitude to work every day, no matter what?

Are you ok with working long weeks and dealing with stressful situations?

If you have answered yes to the above, then you are the perfect fit for a career as a family nurse practitioner, and you can get ready to enjoy the many benefits that come with this role, including a high salary, great job security, and the opportunity to make a real difference in your local community.

So, what are you waiting for?

Get started on your journey to becoming a family nurse practitioner today and enjoy a rewarding and prosperous tomorrow.