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If you are enjoying your work in nursing but are looking to take your career to a new level, then it may be time to explore the possibility of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). For many registered nurses who are already working in the healthcare field, obtaining an FNP designation is a logical next career step towards a more advanced practice, increased autonomy, and the opportunity for additional earnings.

Still, many aspiring nursing students (and even some current nurses) do not fully understand what the work of an FNP entails or the benefits of being a family nurse practitioner. With the right information, you can make a better-informed decision regarding whether this type of work may be right for you.

What Do Family Nurse Practitioners Do?

Specifically, an FNP is a registered nurse (RN) who has obtained a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or similar degree. Typically, nurse practitioners (including FNPs) provide services that are meant to promote a patient’s long-term health and wellness. This may include routine preventative care as well as early diagnosis and treatment of diseases or medical conditions.

Responsibilities and Duties of a Family Nurse Practitioner

While the precise job responsibilities of an FNP may vary from one practice to another, there are some duties that most aspiring FNPs can expect to carry out on a regular basis. These may include:

  • Maintaining meticulous patient records
  • Performing routine physical exams
  • Performing or ordering diagnostic tests
  • Developing treatment plans
  • Treating illnesses, injuries, and medical conditions
  • Prescribing medications

Where Can a Family Nurse Practitioner Work?

FNPs can work in a wide variety of settings aside from a hospital or doctor’s office. Some common places where FNPs can work include:

  • Schools
  • Churches and parishes
  • Holistic health centers
  • Pediatrician’s offices
  • OB/GYN offices (maternal care)
  • Long-term care facilities

What Makes the FNP Designation Different From an NP?

One of the most common misunderstandings people tend to have about an FNP is how this role is similar to (and different from) a nurse practitioner (NP).

For starters, it is important to understand that an FNP is a type of NP, so both a FNP as well as an NP have obtained an advanced degree in nursing that goes beyond a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In many cases, this is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

While FNPs and NPs are both Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), FNPs have earned a very specific designation in family nursing. In other words, family nursing is just one of many areas of expertise that somebody with an MSN may pursue. Other common nurse practitioner specialties include gerontology and psychiatric care.

Can a Family Nurse Practitioner Write Prescriptions?

FNPs provide patient care in a number of ways, and one of those ways is in writing prescriptions when necessary. As with any other type of NP, an FNP may legally prescribe medication in all 50 states. However, each state does have its own unique laws and regulations that practicing FNPs must follow.

For example, in some states, FNPs have the ability to independently prescribe any and all medications (including controlled substances) to a patient. In other states, however, an FNP may be required to register with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration in order to prescribe controlled substances—or even receive approval from a licensed physician to prescribe medications.

The Appeal of Being a Family Nurse Practitioner

Still debating whether or not a career as an FNP may be right for you? There are some key benefits to consider that may help you make your decision.

Opportunity to Specialize

Another potential advantage to consider when it comes to working as an FNP is the opportunity to specialize and pursue niche fields. If there is a specific area of nursing that you are especially drawn to, working as an FNP may allow you to pursue that niche.

For example, if you enjoy working with children, then you may pursue an opportunity to become a school nurse practitioner with your FNP designation; or you may work in maternal and childcare.

Likewise, if you are more interested in the holistic side of health and wellness, many FNPs provide holistic care to their patients. Working as a specialized holistic care provider allows you to come up with care plans that help your patients achieve their health and wellness goals through a whole-person approach.

Intellectual Stimulation

You probably would not even be considering a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nursing if you did not appreciate a good intellectual challenge. Working as an FNP provides you with ongoing intellectual stimulation as nurses in this field work to stay up to date on the latest healthcare advancements, innovations, and other industry news.

Meanwhile, working as an FNP may also require you to fulfill ongoing education requirements and obtain continuing education credits by attending industry conferences, presentations and seminars, and the like. All of this can be a great way to fuel your appetite for research and academia long after you have completed your formal degree program.

Stable and Consistent Work Schedule

Compared to the long hours and unpredictable scheduling of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse, the work schedule of an FNP tends to be a little more stable and consistent. If you prefer working a “traditional” 9-5 shift in nursing, an FNP designation and role could help you achieve that. Meanwhile, because many FNPs work for doctors’ offices and other smaller healthcare facilities, it is less common for them to be asked to work weekends and other odd hours. This can be a huge advantage for nurses who crave a little more normalcy and predictability in their schedules—especially for those with families of their own.

Increased Autonomy

Because FNPs are advanced practice nurses with master’s or doctoral degrees, they also often enjoy a higher level of autonomy in their everyday work with less oversight. If you are looking to work in the healthcare field with a high degree of autonomy but without the need to complete a decade in medical school and residencies, this could be the right choice for you. In many cases, FNPs can enjoy the same level of freedom and self-government that is otherwise reserved for primary care physicians.

Chance to Improve Patient Outcomes

The more education and experience you have under your belt in the nursing field, the more of a direct difference you may be able to make in the lives and outcomes of your patients. If you are a registered nurse with a BSN, you may have already noticed how much your education has improved your ability to care for your patients.

When you obtain your MSN with an FNP designation, you can take that a step further by acquiring additional skills and knowledge that will help you in your work with patients. With courses such as advanced practice nursing, diagnostic reasoning, and advanced physical assessment, you will have the opportunity to gain the clinical skills needed to better serve your patients and improve their outcomes.

The Educational Pathway to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

No matter where you may be in your nursing journey, it is important to understand the steps needed to become an FNP.

Importance of a Registered Nurse (RN) License

First, understand that an FNP designation comes along with an MSN degree. In order to pursue this graduate-level degree, you will need to have a registered nurse license already under your belt. You will also need to have your BSN, and many programs will require that you have worked in the field as an RN for a minimum of one year before applying to your MSN program.

Advancing With a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Nursing

Once you have your RN license and have met all other requirements, you can pursue your master’s degree or doctoral degree in nursing. The option that is best for you will depend on how long you are prepared to spend in school and your long-term career goals. Both MSN and DNP programs offer FNP designations, though the quickest path tends to be an MSN.

Achieving the FNP Designation with Family Practice Certification

Completing your MSN does not automatically license you as an FNP. You will need to become licensed in your state and you will need to take your board certification exams through the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. This competency-based exam will assess you for the clinical knowledge and skills needed to work as a nurse practitioner. Once you have passed this exam and obtained your certification, it will be valid for five years. From there, you will need to maintain your license by meeting the renewal requirements set forth by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Continuing Education Requirements for Family Nurse Practitioners

The world of nursing is constantly changing and evolving, and FNPs must work diligently to stay on top of changes in the field. This way, they can provide their patients with the highest level of care possible.

The Importance of Ongoing Learning in the Field of Family Nursing

All FNPs working in the United States are required to meet certain ongoing education and learning benchmarks in order to renew their licenses every five years. FNPs can earn continuing education credits by attending industry conferences and seminars as well as by publishing their own research in academic journals.

FNPs must track and gather proof of all professional development and continuing education participation. From there, they can enter this information in their online accounts for a certifying body such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or another certifying agency and will need to begin the renewal process up to one year prior to the expiration of a certification.

Exploring Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

If you are interested in working as an FNP and already have your RN and BSN, the next step is to find the program that suits your needs.

Work Full-Time While Earning Your Degree

Many students in an MSN or DNP program choose to work full-time as they pursue their degrees. This allows them to continue gaining valuable clinical experience (and building their resumes) while putting concepts from their nursing programs into practice. Likewise, working full-time while earning your degree can be a practical way to offset some of the costs associated with paying for school.

Why Should You Consider Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Ultimately, if you are the type of person who enjoys constantly learning new things and tackling new challenges—and if you are ready to make a difference in the lives of your patients while enjoying added job security and earnings potential—then a career as an FNP may be right for you. All of this, combined with the ability to specialize and enjoy a more consistent work schedule, makes a career as an FNP a great choice for many dedicated and compassionate nurses in the healthcare field.

Explore Post University’s FNP Specialization

If you already have your BSN and at least one year of work experience, Post University’s Master of Science in Nursing with FNP specialization may be right for you. This fully online program is designed with your busy schedule in mind, offering the flexible education you need to pursue your goals while preparing for an FNP certification exam.

With monthly start dates, individualized precepted clinicals, and the opportunity to complete the program in as little as 28 months, Post University is ready to set you up for success. Get in touch today to learn more or start your application!

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Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.