What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)?

A family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in primary care services for patients of all ages, genders, and health conditions. In their roles, FNPs seek to understand and care for their patients within the context of the family and community.

Family nurse practitioners act as the first contact and continuing caregiver for patients in all stages of their life. As a provider of comprehensive and holistic care, they promote preventative care and general wellness to help sustain healthy families and communities.

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The Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner

To promote the healthy lifestyle and well-being of patients across the life span, FNPs work to prevent and manage diseases and health conditions and provide health education and counseling.

Given their advanced education, FNPs are uniquely qualified to carry out the following responsibilities:

  • managing patients’ chronic conditions
  • treating minor acute injuries
  • providing ongoing, or episodic, care for acute illnesses
  • managing women’s health, including preconception and prenatal care
  • providing health and wellness care to infants and children

To administer these services, family nurse practitioners will perform tasks such as:

  • diagnosing patients and prescribing medication
  • developing patient treatment plans
  • conducting patient examinations
  • ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • providing general wellness counseling
  • counseling patients and family members dealing with illness

FNP Career Paths and Working Environments

Though specialized, family nurse practitioners have a number of options when choosing their career path. FNPs may pursue a range of roles and even take on new titles in their organization. Their role may also depend heavily on their work environment or geographic location.

The role and scope of practice of an FNP may differ across the country, as licensing and accompanying regulations vary from state to state. In some states, FNPs may take on greater responsibilities as they deliver much-needed health services to local communities where access to preventative care is limited.

FNPs’ workplaces are also varied. They work in a wide range of clinical environments, including:

  • private practices
  • hospitals
  • K–12 schools or colleges and universities
  • community clinics
  • patient homes
  • government health departments

Beyond practicing as primary care nurses, FNPs can specialize within their roles or workplaces. With their unique responsibilities in the community and health care sector, along with their qualifications from advanced education and training, FNPs can assume administrative roles at hospitals and clinics and influence policy in their communities.

Gain the Essential Skills and Experience to Promote Healthy Families and Communities

Request information to learn more about how the Simmons online master’s in nursing can prepare you to become an FNP.

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FNP vs. NP: What’s the Difference?

While a family nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), or nurse practitioner (NP), the FNP is a specialist in family-focused primary care. Both FNPs and NPs are APRNs who have completed graduate education, but the difference lies in their training.

In the same way an FNP chooses to focus on family-oriented and holistic primary care, NPs will focus their study, training, and practice in another specialized area, usually one that allows them to work with a particular population or in a certain field. NPs might pursue specialties in adult gerontology, neonatal and women’s health, pediatric health, psychiatry, acute care, or emergency health care.

FNP Requirements

Becoming a family nurse practitioner requires several steps and can involve different requirements depending on how or where you might want to practice. In order to become an FNP, you must:

  1. Hold a bachelor’s degree and be a licensed registered nurse (RN).
  2. Enroll in a graduate degree focused on FNP preparation.
  3. Gain clinical training, which is usually a component of the graduate program.
  4. Obtain national certification and state licensure upon graduation.

Aspiring FNPs must already hold an RN license. They then need to pursue a graduate degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). To prepare graduates for certification after graduation, many programs structure their curriculum to help candidates meet certification requirements, including the completion of clinical practice hours.

The Nursing@Simmons FNP program also includes clinical placement support. During your time in the program, the Simmons placement team will partner with you to secure a clinical placement at a location near your community.

FNP Certification and Licensure

Once aspiring FNPs have earned an FNP-focused master’s, they will need to gain national certification and then licensure in the state in which they wish to practice. There are two certifying bodies for FNPs: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). Different states may recognize one certification or the other, so it is important to know which is required for licensure in your state.

96.05% of Simmons University graduates passed their boards in 2022, well above the national board pass rate average of 85.9%1

Both certifying bodies require that applicants hold an RN license, have earned an FNP-focused graduate degree, and have completed at least 500 hours of faculty-supervised clinical practice. Both the ANCC and AANP also require recertification every five years. To become recertified, practicing FNPs need to meet particular clinical practice and continuing education requirements.

Pursue a rewarding career as a family nurse practitioner without having to relocate for your graduate degree. Complete the form below to learn more about the online FNP program from Simmons University.

1 This statistic includes both on-campus and online students who graduated in 2022. The 96.05% Simmons board pass rate and the 85.9% national board pass rate are an average of the pass rates gathered from the ANCC.