Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Specialization Guide - 2024

by Staff

Updated: April 13th, 2023

As a nurse practitioner, there are six different foci to choose from when studying and planning your career. One of these career tracks is the Family Nurse Practitioner, or FNP. In this article, we will discuss the training requirements and career trajectory of a Family Nurse Practitioner.

What does a Family Nurse Practitioner do?

FNPs provide a wide variety of family-focused healthcare services. Nurse practitioners are required to have both a Registered Nurse certification and an Advanced Practice Nursing certification. FNPs have a broad spectrum of responsibilities and can work in many different healthcare settings. These include private practices, public or university healthcare systems,  community health clinics, and more.

When compared to other Nurse Practitioner fields, the FNP role is much more broad. FNPs will learn to work with patients of all ages and a wide variety of health conditions. APN certifications in other foci are much more specific and will focus on one patient group or type of care.

FNP Roles and Responsibilities

FNPs work with patients of all ages in family-focused settings. They must be comfortable working with adults, children, and adolescents. Many FNPs will work with the same patients as they grow from children to adulthood. Daily responsibilities for an FNP are always patient-focused.

The major responsibilities for an FNP include:

  • Conducting routine physical exams. FNPs will need to be able to identify potential health risks, develop a care plan, and communicate it to the patient.
  • Treating illnesses and injuries. FNPs will treat both acute and chronic health problems in people of all ages. They must provide an accurate diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, and schedule follow-up appointments.
  • Communicating with patients and providing preventative care. FNPs spend a lot of time educating their patients about appropriate preventative measures that are relevant to their current health status. Additionally, FNPs will answer patient questions and guide them through appropriate treatments.
  • Ordering diagnostic tests. During the diagnostic process, FNPs must identify which tests are necessary and then interpret the results for their patients.
  • Prescribing medications as necessary. FNPs may also recommend over-the-counter medications and treatments to supplement prescription medications.
  • Making referrals as necessary. There are many instances where patients will need to see a specialist for care. The FNP will refer the patient to a trusted specialist in the appropriate area of expertise.
  • Assisting and communicating with doctors, nurses, and other staff. The FNP will need to communicate patient details to the doctors on staff and may even assist with minor surgeries. They will also need to communicate with other nurses and may even manage lower-level RNs. Additionally, they will need to appropriately communicate with administration staff about scheduling, insurance requirements, and other logistical details.

Because the job responsibilities for this position are so broad, FNPs need to be very versatile and able to transition between tasks quickly. They also must be able to learn new skills often. Some FNPs opt to get additional certifications on top of their APN to provide more specialized care for their patients, but it is not required.

Additionally, because FNPs spend most of their day working with other people, they must have excellent communication skills. This is particularly important for FNPs because they work with patients of all ages. During an appointment, they may need to communicate with a child in a way that keeps them calm while also keeping their parents informed.

Family Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Registered Nurse

The biggest difference between an FNP and a family RN is the scope of their responsibilities. FNPs can order diagnostic tests, make official diagnoses, and prescribe treatments for their patients, whereas RNs cannot.

Family RNs work under direct supervision of doctors and nurse practitioners to provide care for patients, whereas FNPs work more independently. In fact, FNPs are allowed to practice independently in some states without physician oversight.

Day In The Life of An FNP

A typical shift for an FNP can vary depending on where they work. Some FNPs work a normal 9-5 schedule with a 5-day work week. Others work 12-hour shifts with a shorter work week. No two days are the same, as you will be seeing different patients with their own unique needs each day.

Here is a sample timeline of a shift as an FNP.

  • Arrive at work and check in with other staff members.
  • Review schedule for the day and complete any other necessary administrative work. Make any necessary schedule changes to accommodate emergencies.
  • Review charts for your first patient appointments.
  • Start seeing patients. During each appointment, you will need to assess the patient and develop a treatment plan. FNPs often see between 10 and 25 patients each day. Routine appointments are typically 15 to 30 minutes long, but some treatments may take longer.
  • Check in on tests and prescriptions you’ve ordered for patients. This can happen multiple times throughout the day.
  • Take a break to manage charts, check in with supervisors, and eat lunch.
  • Resume seeing patients.
  • Finish up charts and review with other staff members before heading out for the day.

Days working as an FNP can be very fast-paced. Many FNPs love the variety of the job, as each day brings on unique new challenges. While most appointment slots are filled ahead of time, many practices leave a few slots open each day for emergencies. This means that each day will bring some unexpected challenges.

FNPs who work in hospitals or urgent care clinics typically have long shifts that are very fast-paced. These settings may also require FNPs to work on weekends occasionally. FNPs who work in private practices and focus on preventative care typically have a more consistent routine.

Career Stability and Projections for FNPs

The nursing field in general is expected to see significant job growth over the next decade. Within this field, nurse practitioner positions have the most potential for growth and stability. This is something very important to consider when choosing a career path in the healthcare field.

The number of nurse practitioner positions in the United States is projected to grow 30.0% from 2018 to 2028. This is much higher than the projected growth for jobs as a whole and the projection for registered nurse positions.

Family nurse practitioners in particular have a very positive job outlook. This is because FNPs can work in a wide variety of medical settings. Between hospitals, community clinics, primary care practices, and university healthcare, there is very high demand for FNPs.

FNPs have a unique combination of advanced medical training and nursing skills. While they can fulfill all of the same work tasks as a registered nurse, they can also set treatment plans, run tests, prescribe drugs, and handle other tasks that would typically be done by a physician. This makes them a very valuable asset in any healthcare setting, especially in areas where a limited number of doctors are available.

The current median salary for nurse practitioners in the United States is $124,680 (Bureau of Labor Statistics - 2022). This is much higher than the median wage across all jobs, which is less than $50,000.

There are a variety of factors that can affect an FNP’s overall salary. Many FNPs can earn much more than the listed median salary with experience. FNPs can typically find a position directly after completing their APN certification without work experience in a lower-level position. However, you can earn more by working in the field for a longer period of time.

Advanced education is another way that FNPs can earn a higher salary. While it is not required, many FNPs will get special certifications in fields that they are interested in, which can help them earn more. FNPs who receive a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree can also earn a much higher salary.

Location also plays a huge role when determining an FNP’s salary. Practices in large urban areas will often offer high salaries to account for a high cost of living. Conversely, FNPs can command a very high salary in rural areas that do not have enough doctors to serve their population. Because FNPs are in very high demand in these areas, many hospital systems and clinics are willing to offer extra compensation.

Career Satisfaction for FNPs

Nurse practitioners report a high level of job satisfaction in general, regardless of their focus or their location. In a 2017 survey conducted by the California Board of Registered Nursing, 82.4 percent of nurse practitioners reported that they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their jobs. These figures were roughly the same for NPs working in rural and urban areas, as well as for NPs who spent most of their time providing primary care.

There are many advantages to working as a family nurse practitioner. Many FNPs love the stability that this career provides. FNPs are in very high demand, which means that they don’t typically have much difficulty finding jobs. Additionally, the financial compensation for FNPs is very good and generally allows them to live a very comfortable life. Because there’s consistent demand for FNPs, they have more options when it comes to the location of their job and the type of environment they want to work in.

Many FNPs also really enjoy the variety that the job provides. Each day brings interesting new challenges and no two shifts are the same, so it’s very rare to feel bored at work. Although these challenges can be stressful at times, the job can be very rewarding. FNPs also have the opportunity to get further certifications throughout their career, which is very intellectually stimulating and engaging.

Additionally, many FNPs enjoy the social aspect of the job. FNPs help people heal from injuries and illnesses, which can be deeply fulfilling and provide a sense of purpose. As an FNP, you’ll see many different types of patients ranging from small children to elderly adults. Some FNPs even work with the same patients for many years and develop very rewarding relationships.

FNPs also interact with many different coworkers throughout the day, so the job doesn’t get lonely. They are typically highly respected among their coworkers and have the autonomy to make the decisions that will best help their patients. Many medical settings give nurse practitioners some flexibility with their schedules as well. Although they may have to work 12-hour shifts, they also get longer rest periods in between. This provides more time to travel, pursue hobbies, and spend time with loved ones.

Overall, family nurse practitioners are likely to experience high levels of job satisfaction. In general, nurse practitioners are typically more satisfied with their work than other types of medical professionals.

Most Common Complaints From FNPs

While FNPs tend to be very satisfied in their careers, there are still some downsides to the profession. Here are some of the most common career complaints from FNPs to be aware of.

Demanding Education Requirements

Working as an FNP requires you to have complex medical knowledge and therefore requires many years of schooling. FNPs will need to complete both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree before they can start working, which takes many years to complete. FNPs also need to pass an exam in order to start working. Additionally, some FNPs opt to complete a doctorate or other advanced certifications.

This means that it can take a long time to start working as a nurse practitioner. Additionally, many aspiring FNPs will work in a lower-level nursing position while completing their master’s degrees. This can be very stressful and time consuming.

Stressful Workplace Conditions

While working as an FNP can be rewarding and engaging, it can also be very stressful. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how stressful these jobs can be. Nurse practitioners who work in hospital settings have been overwhelmed with patients who need care and have developed burnout. Many hospitals have been short-staffed, requiring nurses to take on more work than they usually would.

Luckily, these problems should dissipate as more people get vaccinated around the world and herd immunity takes hold. However, it is very important for potential FNPs to be aware of just how stressful the job can be during global health events such as this one. While it can be rewarding to help others heal, it can also be very upsetting to see them in pain.

Inconsistent Schedules

While some FNPs work on a traditional 9-to-5 weekday schedule, others have more variable working hours. While this provides more flexibility for employees, it also makes it harder to develop a consistent routine outside of work. For FNPs working in hospital settings, there is also the risk of being called in at the last minute due to an emergency.

The best way to avoid this is by working in primary care settings, rather than in a hospital setting. FNPs can serve as primary care providers without a supervising physician in many states. While this path won’t offer as much flexibility when it comes to scheduling, it will offer more consistency and stability.

Requirements To Become A Family Nurse Practitioner

In order to become an FNP, you will have to complete rigorous education requirements. First, you’ll need to start by getting your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and your Registered Nurse certification. This typically takes three to four years to complete.

Next, you will need to apply for a master’s program designed for nurse practitioners. These programs take two to three years to complete. Some FSNs may opt for a doctorate level NP program, which can take much longer. In this program, you will be able to choose the area of nursing that you would like to specialize in – there are programs available with a specific focus on family nursing. These master’s programs include extensive clinical study as well as lecture classes.

Once you complete your master’s program, you will need to pass an exam to get your certification. This exam is very comprehensive and there are limits on how many times you can take it in a designated period of time. Certification programs vary by state and typically need to be renewed every five years to continue working. After you pass your certification, you will be able to apply for a state license and begin working.

With this education, you can apply for family nurse practitioner jobs in many different parts of the healthcare system. This includes hospitals, clinics, academic healthcare settings, private practices, and many others.