Family Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner Role

Because of their high level of education, expertise and skill, family nurse practitioners will often take on some of the roles of a physician. However, they will still generally work under the supervision of, or in close conjunction and direction of, a physician.

Therefore family nurse practitioner roles fall into the category of both nurse and physician. The nurse in them must be able to offer the care and support consistent with high quality nursing to the patient and family, while the physician in them must be able to diagnose and treat patients across a wide variety of illnesses.


Family practice nurses are expected to educate their patients and the families of their patients. This can and will involve informing and educating patients across a wide variety of topics including child birth and care for newborns with expectant mothers, methods for managing cholesterol or stress in aging patients, and geriatric issues with the elderly among many others. Education is the front line in the battle against preventable diseases and makes it a very important part of any family nurse practitioners job.


A family nurse practitioner must be able to effectively diagnose patients across a wide variety of age ranges which places them into the role of the diagnostician. A family nurse practitioner will have access to the patient’s medical history, has the ability to order tests, and will combine this information with physical complaints and symptoms to formulate an informed diagnosis for the patient.


After diagnosing a patient, a family nurse practitioner will then transition into the role of a provider of treatment. This may involve exercising prescriptive authority (which is given to family nurse practitioners on a state by state basis), referring the patient to a specialist, or performing minor procedures such as placing stitches or administering injections.


Finally, a family nurse practitioner, while having a wide range of skills and training, does not work completely alone. It is paramount to the successful career of a family nurse practitioner to dialogue and collaborate with fellow health care professionals such as physicians and other disciplines to discuss best practices, tough decisions, and results and outcomes of treatments.

With so many distinct and equally important roles to fill, the responsibilities of a family nurse practitioner are many. Highly educated and highly experienced family nurse practitioners are incredibly valuable health care professionals, especially now that our health care system is forced to evolve to serve a higher number of people in need at the same, or lower, cost.

Family Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice

As the name indicates, family nurse practitioners work with families to test, diagnose, and treat patients across all age ranges. Another main focus of a family nurse practitioner is to promote general healthcare, prevent disease, and facilitate the management of common acute and chronic illnesses. Family Nurse Practitioners document and review patient and family health histories, perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat common and acute health issues, order and interpret labs, tests, and x-ray results, have prescription knowledge and management, encourage preventative healthcare measures, and referral to various specialists.

However, each state has its own set of specific rules as to what and how a family nurse practitioner can practice. The American College of Nurse Practitioners offers a great resource that outlines the state by state permissions for a family nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.

Family nurse practitioners can fill this role in many different settings from hospitals and clinics to nursing homes or hospice care. Family nurse practitioners may also have, depending upon the state in which they practice, prescriptive authority.

Learn more about nurse practitioner prescriptive authority.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

Family nurse practitioners are well compensated on average, even in entry level positions. ON average, average salary for an FNP is $94,000. In addition to a salary, many FNPs also receive annual bonuses. FNPs may also receive additional compensation, such as profit sharing. A wide variety of factors influence family nurse practitioner salary, including education and training, areas of specialization, geographic location, and type of employer.

Family Nurse Practitioner Education

Family nurse practitioner education programs are designed for RNs who are looking to advance their nursing careers in a family-oriented, primary care setting. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers the certification exam to graduates of an accredited family nurse practitioner education program who have completed at least 500 hours of faculty-supervised clinical work experience as a family nurse practitioner. In addition, graduate-level courses in physiology, health assessment and pharmacology must be completed to sit for the ANCC certification exam and ultimately become a family nurse practitioner.

Curriculum and Core Classes

Most nurse practitioner education programs have similar admission requirements, and a family nurse practitioner education program is no exception. The basic criteria for admission are a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), a valid RN license, and two years of work experience. University requirements for grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores will vary by institution, but generally a 3.0 GPA is desired in order to be a competitive applicant. Graduates of an accredited family nurse practitioner education program will earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and be eligible to sit for the national certification exam.

RNs interested in becoming a family nurse practitioner should plan on committing two years of full-time study, which will include up to 60 credit hours of classes and 600 hours of clinical practicum, depending on the program of choice. Part-time study options are generally available, but not all universities will offer the same type of flexibility. Students who plan to work while completing a family nurse practitioner education program should research all options available, as some universities offer online classes and others may offer only on-campus classes with a full-time schedule. As for the clinical requirement, some universities may arrange the clinicals for students, while other universities will not.
The curriculum for a family nurse practitioner education program should include family nursing theory and intervention, primary care concepts, primary health care practice, management of illness (acute and chronic), fundamentals of research, socio-cultural issues and leadership skills. The ANCC requires that students satisfy three specific core course requirements: 1) advanced pharmacology; 2) advanced health assessment; and 3) advanced physiology. These three courses are generally standard in any nurse practitioner education program.

Program Length

The family nurse practitioner education program can be completed in two years. For those who hold a master’s degree, the degree may be completed with fewer classroom hours plus the required practicum. Applicants should check with the individual institution(s) about their requirements.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Types of CertificationFNP-BC (Family Nurse Practitioner—Board Certified)
Eligibility RequirementsActive RN license, master’s degree of higher from a family nurse practitioner program with at least 500 clinical hours accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC)
Certification ProcessInitial application (2 week processing time for online applications, 8 week processing time for mailed applications), followed by a computer-based exam (offered year-round, but must be taken within 90 days of whenever the application is processed)
Fees$270 for American Nurses Association members/$340 for American College of Nurse Practitioners/$390 for non-members
RenewalCertifications must be renewed every 5 years. Renewal applications are due at least 3 months before your certification expiration date. Fees for renewal are $200 for American Nurses Association members/$280 for American College of Nurse Practitioners/$350 for non-members
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American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

Types of CertificationNP-C (Nurse Practitioner – Certified) with Family National Certification
Eligibility RequirementsMaster’s degree or higher from an approved nurse practitioner program
Certification ProcessInitial online application, followed by a computer-based exam (offered year-round, but must be taken within 120 days of whenever the application is processed)
Fees$240 for AANP members/$315 for non-members
RenewalNurse practitioners certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program may become recertified every five years by sitting for the appropriate examination or by meeting the clinical practice and continuing education requirements established for recertification. These requirements include a minimum of 1000 hours of clinical practice as a nurse practitioner in the area of specialization, and 75 contact hours of continuing education relevant to the nurse practitioner area of specialization. Fees for recertification are: $120 for AANP members/$195 for non-members
EndoresmentFamily practitioners with prior certification by an approved national certification body who meet the criteria for endorsement established by the AANP Certification Program, may apply for endorsement by submitting a separate endorsement application. Fees for certification by endorsement are: $120 for AANP members/$195 for non-members
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