According to a 2015 report published by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nearly 87 percent of all nurse practitioners work in a primary care setting, and the large majority (about 55 percent) specialize in family practice, serving a patient population group that includes men and women throughout the lifespan, from early infancy to late adulthood.
Family nurse practitioners offer preventive health services, health education, and disease management in the context of the family and the community. This means that FNPs (family nurse practitioners) often work with the same patients for many years of their lives, monitoring health and wellness, treating minor acute illnesses, and managing chronic diseases.
Just a few of an FNP’s job duties and responsibilities include:
- Conducting physical examinations and interpreting medical histories
- Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
- Performing diagnostic procedures
- Prescribing age-specific physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Providing prenatal care and family planning services
- Providing screening services
- Performing minor surgeries and procedures
- Counseling and educating patients on health and wellness and disease prevention
How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner: Earning a Masters in Nursing – FNP
Family nurse practitioners are registered nurses with national certification and state licensure in advanced practice registered nursing (APRN). The first step to becoming a family nurse practitioner is to complete a Family Nurse Practitioner Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or post-graduate APRN certificate.
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), an autonomous accrediting agency, accredits bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate nursing programs in the U.S., as well as post-graduate APRN certificate programs.
MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner Admission Process
Many institutions offer students multiple entry options for achieving an MSN. Depending on a candidate’s educational and professional background, students may achieve their MSN through one of the following educational paths:
- Traditional, full-time program formats with on-campus lecture and laboratory classes; designed for students with a current RN license and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- RN-to-MSN programs, which allow RNs with only an associate’s degree to complete their advanced degree at an accelerated pace
- Entry-level (also referred to as generic or accelerated programs) MSN programs, designed for students with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a discipline other than nursing
- Dual master’s degree programs, designed for nurses seeking a graduate degree with an in-depth concentration in a related field, such as business MSN/MBA, public health MSN/MPH, health administration MSN/MHA, public administration MSN/MPA, etc.
In all cases, accredited MSN programs are generally offered in either full-time or part-time formats, and usually include flexible distance learning options designed with working professionals in mind.
In addition to a undergraduate degree as described above for the respective program type, admission into an MSN program also typically involves:
- A comprehensive resume
- A personal statement detailing clinical experiences and reasons for pursuing a Family Nurse Practitioner MSN degree
- Letters of recommendation (may need to be from a clinical supervisors, a professor, and/or a practicing APRN)
- General Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Many of these programs are competitive, requiring applicants to possess minimum undergraduate GPAs and at least a few years of experience as an RN.
MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner Content and Curriculum
A Family Nurse Practitioner MSN program prepares students to adapt and analyze healthcare interventions based on individualized assessments of individual and family needs. They also provide students with a broad knowledge of the specific needs of patients from diverse populations and cultural backgrounds.
The first portion of an MSN degree in an APRN role is distinctly similar, as they all include study in three areas:
- Advanced physiology/pathophysiology, including general principles across the lifespan
- Advanced health assessment, including the assessment of all human systems, advanced assessment techniques, and concepts and approaches
- Advanced pharmacology
In addition to these three, core areas of study, students must complete courses and seminars in topics related to their chosen APRN specialty. Students within a Family Nurse Practitioner MSN degree complete courses such as:
- Advanced practice nursing in primary care of the adult
- Advanced practice nursing in primary care of the adolescent
- Advanced practice nursing in primary care of the child
- Advanced practice nursing in primary care of the elderly
- Advanced practice nursing in primary care of the woman
- The context of primary care: FNP domains and core competencies for practice
- Clinical decision-making for the FNP
Clinical preceptorships allow students to begin working with individual clients and their families in a number of different settings, integrating the theory, knowledge, and skills gained from previous coursework. Likewise, clinical practicums allow students to work in settings focused on health promotion, the management of common health problems, and client education. Clinical rotations in a primary care setting provide the opportunity for students to assess clients of all ages and formulate a comprehensive plan of care.
Many Family Nurse Practitioner MSN degrees culminate in a comprehensive examination.
Family Nurse Practitioner National Certification for State Licensing
MSN – Family Nurse Practitioner program graduates go on to sit for the examination for national board certification as a family nurse practitioner, a requirement for state licensure as an APRN. Depending on the requirements of the state nursing board, graduates must achieve board certification through one of the following organizations, both of which certify advanced practice registers nurses specializing in family practice:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
Graduates of MSN programs are also eligible for prescriptive authority in all 50 states, although the exact protocols, medical treatments, and level of pharmacological authority differ from state to state.
National certification and state licensure as an FNP requires evidence of training and continuing education in order to demonstrate continued competency.
Family Nurse Practitioner Jobs: Practice Settings and Salary Expectations
Thanks to their broad educational background, family nurse practitioners enjoy a wide array of job opportunities in settings like:
- Acute care
- Cardiovascular care
- Primary care
- Critical care
- Emergency services
- Geriatric care
- Occupational health
- Infectious disease
- Women’s health
- Family counseling
- Ambulatory care
- Rural health clinics
- Health departments
- Worksite-based clinics
- Correctional facilities
The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that family nurse practitioners earned a base salary of $87,630 and a total salary of $96,910, as of 2011. During the same period, family nurse practitioners in certain settings had the potential to earn even more. According to the survey’s finding, FNPs earned the following average salaries when working in these practice settings:
- Private practice: $111,750
- Community health centers: $92,110
- Rural health clinics: $92,560
- Hospital outpatient clinics: $98,720
- Occupational/employee health: $99,030
- Emergency room/urgent care: $115,070
- In-patient hospital unit: $103,650
- Veterans’ administration facility: $111,110