What are the duties of a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family Nurse Practitioners or FNPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) with the professional seniority and credentials to provide a broad range of family-focused healthcare services spanning the entire human life cycle, from cradle to old age.

In December 2022, Forbes cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showing that the annual median salary for these sought-after professionals was $120,680. Some States (Massachusetts, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and New York) offer average incomes well above the national median (from Massachusetts’ $129,540 to California’s $151,830).

In what follows, we’ll walk through the duties of a family nurse practitioner and explain how entry-level nurses can obtain the requisite qualifications without giving up their existing jobs or sacrificing their family commitments to study.

FNPs: what they are and what they do

As noted earlier, FNPs have gone beyond the entry-level Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to gain a more advanced qualification. Specifically, they have earned a Master of Science in Nursing specializing in the Family Nurse Practitioner field (MS-FNP). They are qualified to work in a broad range of specialisms with patients of all ages, from infants, children, and adolescents to families, adults, and seniors. Although the scope of specialisms they may choose to focus on is broad, there are core duties characteristic of all FNP roles.

These are:

  • Maintaining patients’ clinical records
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Ordering or conducting diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing pharmaceutical treatments
  • Devising treatment plans and providing follow-up care
  • Treating acute and chronic illnesses and all other conditions (including injuries) that fall under the umbrella of primary care.
  • Educating patients about disease prevention and maintaining positive choices to enhance their health.
  • Counseling patients who may, for example, be distressed upon receiving a diagnosis or undergoing treatment, or adjusting to an illness and its treatment.

Most typically, FNPs perform their duties in healthcare teams alongside other clinicians. Research by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) has found that patients seen by FNPs as their primary healthcare providers are inclined to have significantly lower medication costs, briefer stays in the hospital, and fewer admissions to the emergency room. That suggests this profession exerts a strongly preventative (and therefore protective) effect.

FNPs may specialize in primary healthcare with adults, families, seniors (gerontology), early infant (neonatal) care, cancer patients (oncology), children and younger teens (pediatrics), mentally ill (psychiatric) patients, or with reproductive and sexual health for women.

Becoming an FNP

Thankfully, this specialized role’s rigorous academic and clinical training no longer requires hardworking nurses wishing to advance their careers to give up their jobs and sacrifice family time to physically “go back to school.” Many well-established brick-and-mortar universities (like Texas Woman’s) are now offering working nurses an online FNP program they can pursue from home around their existing work and family commitments.

Of course, this will entail highly disciplined and rigorous study at an advanced degree level. Online students would be well-advised to ensure they’ve devised a workable pattern to balance their work, family, and online study obligations.

But as many graduates can testify, it can certainly be done, delivering the means to enter a deeply rewarding, endlessly fascinating, fulfilling career.

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