Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

After spending some years in the nursing profession, you may feel you’re ready for a new challenge. If you’re a registered nurse, becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP) could be the next step in your career.

As an FNP, you get to treat a wide range of patient populations, from infants to senior citizens. But how do you become a family nurse practitioner?

Earning a Master of Science in Nursing is the most common route. However, you’ll need more than that to become a licensed family nurse practitioner. Our guide provides you with information on what it takes to become a family nurse practitioner.


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Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program Overview

FNPs are advanced nurse practitioners with specialized knowledge from graduate education.  They provide primary health care to people of all ages, from infants to the aged.

Healthcare services by family nurse practitioners focus on health education and health promotion. With their work, FNPs fill a crucial role in healthcare settings.

Family nurse practitioners often become the primary care provider for individuals and families throughout their lifespan. This role helps create a more personal treatment as they get to know patients at a more personal level.

A career as a family nurse practitioner can be enriching, both personally and financially. As they develop personal relationships with patients, it becomes easier for them to administer treatments.

What Are the Roles of Family Nurse Practitioners?

Family nurse practitioners primarily provide family-focused care. This type of care requires a great deal of clinical knowledge and expertise.

FNPs usually handle injuries and illnesses that potentiate multifaceted problems. Their responsibilities include educating patients about healthy lifestyle habits and disease prevention.

Family Nurse Practitioner Duties

As FNPs tend to be the primary care provider for families, they often diagnose and treat disease conditions. Family nursing includes performing physical exams, taking diagnostic tests, treating illness, prescribing medication, and teaching patients how to live healthily.

Daily duties of a family nurse practitioner include:

  • Assessing and diagnosing health conditions
  • Conducting routine physical checks
  • Developing treatment plans for illnesses
  • Prescribing medications and therapies
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Assisting in surgeries
  • Making referrals if needed

While FNPs need independence, they also need to work with other healthcare professionals to provide the best healthcare services.

Advantages of Being a Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners undergo such advanced training that they can be considered equal to physicians. FNPs and other nurse practitioner specialties are immensely valuable in all healthcare settings.

Family nurses tend to focus on one main sub-specialty because of their specialization. They can provide care to patients of all ages because of their extensive medical knowledge. The job offers lifelong learning, as FNPs serve as the trusted primary point of care for many families.

As you’d expect, FNPs are recognized for their expertise, and physicians rely on them to improve healthcare delivery in their communities. Whether it’s women’s health or child care, they never lack knowledge and expertise. It’s noteworthy that their immense work is highly compensated.

FNPs can work independently without supervision from physicians. This freedom, more than anything else, tells a lot about their knowledge level.

Key Advantages

The U.S. News & World Report showed that nurse practitioner roles were ranked 5th in best healthcare jobs and 7th in the best overall jobs in the United States.

Following are the notable advantages of being a family nurse practitioner:

Ability To Provide Care to a Wide Group of Patients, From Infants To Senior Patients

Family nurse practitioners are the most flexible types of NPs. They get to move from one examination room to another, meet patients of different age groups and gender, and attend to various medical conditions. Registered nurses looking for something different in their career should consider family care practice.

Often, family nurse practitioners are the first point of contact for patients when it comes to healthcare. As a result, FNPs have to think on their feet at all times. That means they have to have several handy bits of information. With the level and amount of interactions they face every day, they can’t afford to slip up at any time.

Control Over Patient Relationships, Practice Operations, and Outcomes

The majority of states in the United States have granted FNPs full practice authority, allowing them to run their private clinics. They can choose their healthcare team and provide specialty care directly to families. With a full practice authority to establish your private practice, you get to make critical decisions that affect patients without supervision by a physician.

As advanced practice registered nurses, family nurse practitioners tend to be the central point of communication between patients and their physicians. However, you remain responsible for the health and wellbeing of the patients.

They can diagnose medical conditions, prescribe medications, develop treatment plans, and provide health education for their patients. So if you’re looking for such enriching roles in your career, you’ll be safe towing the paths of advanced practice nurses.

Salary Raise

An FNP’s salary is 25 – 30% higher than that of regular registered nurses without a specialty degree. The median salary is about $105,000 per year, and they sometimes get signing and annual bonuses, which bring their average income up to $115,000.

The salary of Family Nurse Practitioners reflects their immense specialty in providing care to multigenerational patients. However, the exact amount you’ll earn as a family nurse practitioner will depend on several other factors. Also, the cost of living in your location and patient load can determine how much you earn per hour.

Family nurse practitioners in California, Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, and New Jersey earn the highest salaries, according to a 2019 statistic by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, if you’re looking to get a salary raise, you know which states are worth considering.

Additionally, family nurse practitioners can improve their take-home pay by specializing in areas like diabetes and weight management. Generally, such specialties come with better compensation compared to others. You might also want to put that into consideration when deciding on an area of specialization.

Differences Between an FNP and an RN

The role of a registered nurse requires clinical practice and in-depth medical knowledge. However, an advanced practice registered nurse like an FNP receives training that takes their skills far beyond what a BSN degree can offer.

With extra years of learning, which earns them a master’s or a doctorate’s degree, FNPs have a solid reputation among medical professionals. Having either an MSN-FNP degree or a DNP-FNP degree allows nurse practitioners to become specialists in a chosen area, and thus, take on more responsibility.

As a result, they can prescribe medication, order medical tests, and write diagnoses. Also, they can create care plans the same way a primary care physician does.

In many parts of the country, FNPs have become the primary care practitioner for many people. They run their private practices and provide families with the healthcare services they need.

Key Differences

Some key differences between the two nursing roles include:


The role of a registered nurse only requires an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s degree. To become a family nurse practitioner, you must hold an RN license and then pursue a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Work Industry

The majority of registered nurses work in hospitals, unlike family nurse practitioners. FNPs are granted autonomy by their degree and work in private practice or community health clinics, serving as the lead medical authority.


The salary is much higher for nurse practitioners with a Master of Science degree. FNPs earn an average of $104,632 annually compared to RNs’ average of $81,000.

The salary of Family Nurse Practitioners reflects their immense specialty in providing care to multigenerational patients. However, the exact amount you’ll earn as a family nurse practitioner will depend on several other factors.

Practice Scope

The family nurse practitioner’s scope ranges from operating their private practice to writing prescriptions, developing treatment plans, and ordering tests. The freedom to set up private practices, with some states offering full practice licenses, is one of the highlights of a family nurse practitioner’s career.

Patient Care

A family nurse practitioner role provides you a chance to work through the whole lifespan of a patient, developing relationships that may be meaningful on a personal level. As an FNP, you’re involved in women’s health, pediatric care, and geriatric care.


FNPs must pass a certification exam and be rectified every five years.

7 Steps to Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

The route to becoming a family nurse practitioner is a long one. You’ll need to invest a significant amount of time, up to 8 years, before getting your license. Upon starting your new role, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to steer your career where you want it.

Even though the paths to becoming an FNP may differ, practitioners all take similar steps on the way. Some study online, while others attend a traditional collegiate nursing education. In the end, nursing programs for FNPs produce the same result.

Here are the seven common steps to take:

1. Earn Your Nursing Degree

Currently, it’s possible to become a registered nurse by earning an associate’s degree in nursing. But more employers are looking for BSN nurses.

A BSN degree will also prove helpful when you intend to enroll in comprehensive graduate-level courses.

2. Obtain RN Licensure

After graduating from a nursing program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) certification exam. This exam is a standardized, countrywide multiple-choice administered by the National Council State Boards of Nursing, which serves as the family nurse practitioner board.

Getting a board certification is necessary to work as an RN, which is your headstart to becoming a family nurse practitioner.

The NCLEX-RN exam tests prospects’ nursing competencies, medical knowledge, and eligibility. You’re more likely to pass the exam if you take it immediately after completing your diploma or Bachelor of Nursing degree. It’s important to note that although the exam is nationwide, states determine the test content and requirements. After that, you’ll receive your license to start working as an RN.

3. Begin Work as a Registered Nurse

Nurses looking to advance their knowledge need valuable clinical experience. Before advancing their healthcare education, all nurse practitioners must complete a set amount of compulsory professional hours in the RN role as a primary care provider.

So you have to check for primary care positions in registered hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. That way, you can accumulate the required hours for registration.

4. Apply to an Accredited MSN-FNP or DNP-FNP Program

Upon reaching the minimum amount of experience hours in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare facilities, RNs can apply for a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing program, depending on their previous degree.

Individuals looking to enter the family nurse practitioner role must specialize in family primary care. To join a program, you must meet the admission requirements.

5. Earn your Master’s or Doctorate’s Degree

A nursing professional must hold at least an MSN degree before obtaining an FNP license. Both MSN and DNP programs go in-depth into nursing practice to prepare prospects for their future roles.

Courses are evidence-based and involve patient care for all age groups, women’s health, emergency care, and mental health.  You’ll also find courses on administration and leadership.

6. Obtain Certification From AANP

After graduating from your advanced nursing degree program of choice, there are two certifications available. Depending on your situation and state, you can go for either an FNP-BC or an FNP-C certification.

Significant differences between the two are the certification boards and the exams they offer. While the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) issues FNP-C, the American Nurses Credentialing Center issues the FNP-BC certification.

To receive either of the certifications, you must pass an exam administered by the issuing body. ANCC administers exams for Family, Adult-Gerontology Primary, Pediatric NP (PNP), Adult-Gero Acute NP, and Psychiatric-Mental Health NP (PMHNP).

On the other hand, AANP gives exams for the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), the Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP), and the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP). So as an aspiring FNP, you have to apply with AANP.

It’s important to note that the cost of getting certified by these agencies is astronomical. For AANP, you’ll pay $315 for your first certification and $240 subsequently.

After applying for certification, you need to verify with AANP that you’re either a graduate or a student that’s about to graduate. You do this by sending them your official transcript, which shows that you have completed a nurse practitioner program. You can forward your transcript to AANP’s email at

Once AANP has confirmed your eligibility, they send you a mail with information on your exam date and venue, usually a testing center. The exam has a total of 15o questions, and you have 3 hours to finish it.

It takes around two to three weeks for the exam result to show up. If you pass, you get ready to commence an application for a license as a family nurse practitioner. After that, you’ll have to renew the board certification every five years.

7. Get Your Nurse Practitioner State License

All FNPs must obtain licensure in their practice state. Guidelines vary from state to state, so you need to check specifics for your state to know the exact requirements. Every state has a Board of Nursing (BON) that issues the NP license.

General requirements BONs put forward include the following:

  • Filled-out application form
  • Passport-sized photograph
  • Copy of Birth Certificate
  • Application fee
  • Fingerprints
  • Check for fingerprint release

While other steps in the state licensure process move very fast, this phase seems to drag on forever. You’ll have to wait for about 8 – 12 weeks for your state BON to release your license. If you’ve not received any information after this period, you might want to give them a call.

You’re able to start work after getting a full FNP license. Thankfully, plenty of employment opportunities will be out there waiting for you. All you need to do is find the right job and get started!

Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

When considering a more advanced practice nursing role, several programs come to mind. For prospective FNPs, there are numerous options available. Depending on your degree and situation, some programs may be more beneficial to you.

Choosing between a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctorate of Nursing program is perhaps the most crucial choice. Several programs exist to make your journey as easy as possible, whether from an online environment or a traditional on-site environment.

Programs that allow you to continue working while studying provide you the chance to gain more clinical experience and earn a salary.

Types of Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Registered Nurse-to-Master of Science in Nursing Program

This program is designed for associate degree-holding RNs. It gives RNs the chance to advance their degree into a bachelor’s, and then to the master’s, which is needed to become a family nurse practitioner.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing-to-Master of Science in Nursing Program

This program is for registered nurses who are already working with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This program offers MSc-level courses to lead you to a much-desired Master of Science in Nursing degree.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing-to-Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

This program is for ambitious Bachelor of Science in Nursing nurses. For RNs looking to advance their careers or maybe start their private family practice, this program helps them reach doctorate status after obtaining a master’s degree in the same program. Naturally, you’d expect such a program to require more of your time.

Master of Science in Nursing-to-Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

This program is the perfect fit for RNs with a Master of Science degree looking to pursue an even more advanced degree. Even though you might already have an FNP license, gaining a doctorate will increase your salary and expertise. You’ll be able to diagnose and adequately manage acute and chronic illnesses.

This program can be of great help if you’re looking to expand into private family practice. As you learn more about leadership and research, it paves the way to become a leader within family practice.

Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

With modern technology enhancing communication, we continue to see innovative solutions for online-based education. Today, the ability to pursue an advanced collegiate nursing education online exists.

However, these online programs must meet the same rigorous accreditation standards set forth by The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Even though online programs require very few visits to an actual campus, they demand the same efforts as traditional campus programs.

Online programs offer the advantage of NPs choosing between FNP programs without relocating to other parts of the country. This possibility has proven to be a game-changer for people unable to attend a physical college.

Benefits of an Online Family Nurse Practitioner Program

Nurses can acquire advanced nursing skills and provide primary or specialty care where shortages exist, thanks to this game-changer.

Some benefits you may experience choosing an online FNP program are:

  • Convenient course program study
  • You can choose the desired program
  • Quality education, with the same standard as the campus
  • They are often more affordable
  • You can work while schooling
  • The fast pace of the program

Things to Check When Considering Online FNP Programs

When looking at online FNP programs, they should have the same standards as traditional programs. With the application and enrollment process pretty much the same, you should have no issue with that.

Online programs, typically, give you the chance to enroll when you’re ready. That means that you can begin your studies when it’s convenient with your schedule.

Some things that should be considered when looking for the best online FNP programs include:

  • Program reputation
  • Admission requirements
  • Program cost
  • Number and duration of physical visits
  • Clinical hours required
  • Relevant accreditations

FNP Program Coursework

When comparing the various concentrations within advanced practice registered nurse careers, you find that family nurse practitioners work in one of the broadest scopes of nursing practice. They can do so because of their exposure to a large variety of injuries and illnesses from all age groups.

Therefore, extensive knowledge in general health is required. When studying for their master’s degree, advanced practice registered nurses prospects learn more about health promotion and disease management.

Leadership Roles as an FNP

As a family nurse practitioner, your job role involves diagnosing and treating health conditions. An FNP degree also qualifies nurses to serve as administrators and educators within their communities. Holding a DNP-FNP degree will create a path for FNPs into leadership roles in nursing practice, as their training includes administration, organization, and research.

Most prospective FNPs choose to focus on primary care because it prepares them for private clinical practice. But candidates still have the chance to specialize in a different area of interest as they choose.

MSN-FNP vs. DNP-FNP Degree

The Master of Science in Nursing degree helps advance your active RN license into something more. You focus on evidence-based practice, healthcare policy, ethical and legal issues, and primary care principles for all kinds of patients.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice goes even further to prepare you. The program provides advanced courses in planning and decision making, management systems, and performance measurement. When looking to open up a private practice, management courses can be of enormous help.

A Growing Demand for DNP Degrees

At the moment, there are no requirements for family nurse practitioners to pursue a doctorate. But the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) is committed to transitioning all Nurse Practitioner programs to DNP programs by 2025.

FNPs study more than regular nurse practitioners because they typically deal with different health issues among all age groups.

FNP Curriculum – 9 Core Competencies

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has a set standard that prospects must meet to receive board certification for advanced nursing graduate programs. Nine core competencies were established for all nurse practitioners, including FNPs, and they include:

  1. Leadership
  2. Scientific Foundations
  3. Quality
  4. Practice Inquiry
  5. Technology and Information Literacy
  6. Policy
  7. Health Delivery System
  8. Ethics
  9. Independent Practice

FNP-Specific Coursework

In addition to these core competencies, an FNP student will have to undertake additional coursework that’s valuable for their future role. Some of these courses include:

  • Family Theory
  • Family Planning
  • Primary Health Care for the Family
  • Urgent Care for the Family
  • Nursing for the Aging

Admission Requirements for FNP Programs

There are many types of programs available for someone who wants to become a family nurse practitioner, and each program comes with its unique requirements. An RN with only an associate’s degree will have a long way to go compared to one who’s already earned a bachelor’s degree.

Different requirements are in place to adjust for the difference in previously attained knowledge. But most programs have some standard admission requirements, which include:

  • A degree from accredited collegiate nursing education.
  • An active RN license
  • An undergraduate GPA minimum of 3.0 or higher
  • Academic and professional letters of recommendation
  • Application essay
  • Resumé
  • GRE scores

Specific Prerequisites

FNP applicants will need to have read specific prerequisite courses to be admitted. These courses include:

  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Human Anatomy
  • General Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Psychology

Cost of a Family Nurse Practitioner Program

Even though a family nurse practitioner career will provide you with a significant income, you must put down a large sum of money for the degree itself. As most students don’t have these amounts lying around, the cost must be duly considered beforehand.

Most MSN-FNP degrees involve completing about 48 credit hours. One credit hour costs an average of $400, while the total is around $19,000. This estimate doesn’t take into account additional expenses and fees. Also, boarding and accommodation may cost extra if entering a campus.

Cost of Private and Online FNP Programs

Out-of-state and private nursing programs tend to be a lot more expensive. Cost can go up as high as $1,700 per credit hour. This amount adds up to a higher cost of approximately $80,000.

Online family nurse practitioner programs also tend to cost slightly over the average. You can expect to pay between $400 to $800 per credit. An average of $800 per credit would add up to $38,000 that you owe to your collegiate nursing education provider.

Even though these costs can seem hefty, help is available. Financial aid exists in several forms to help you pay for your degree. Working students can still enjoy a salary while studying what will enhance their nursing careers.

Financial Aid Options

So what financial aid is available? Some employers may be the ones encouraging you to advance your degree. In such cases, you can almost be sure of some monetary compensation to help you out.

A tuition reimbursement program will provide a carrot for you to perform your best when reading for your doctorate or master’s in nursing.

Some other options on the table are:


Lots of organizations are providing financial help for students trying to earn a family nurse practitioner degree. They offer different amounts, ranging from $1,000 to £6,000. Some also cover extra fees.


Grants are also free for the student receiving one. There are both private and governmental grants helping nursing students pursue their dreams. Some states also offer grants to students wishing to advance their degrees.

Student Loans

Even though they aren’t free like the other two options, student loans have helped many students earn a college degree. Federal government-backed loans tend to come with lower interest rates and more flexible terms for repayment. If you’re looking at private loans, you should be wary of hidden terms and high-interest rates.

All schools have an Office of Financial Aid that you can contact if you need financial support. They may prove very helpful when looking for a way to make it work financially.

Where Can FNPs Work?

Nurse practitioners are among the top 20 most requested healthcare providers by specialty. The demand for family nurse practitioners is so high in underserved communities that in 2019 they were offered relocation packages over $7,000 and sign-on bonuses in the range of $9,000. Some facilities even offered up to $25,000 in bonuses for job takers.

Being one of the most versatile roles in the healthcare industry, family nurse practitioners can work independently and collaboratively. This versatility paves the way for these advanced practice nurses to find opportunities in many health care settings, including the following:

  • Private practice clinics/private offices
  • Hospitals
  • Health clinics
  • Hospice centers
  • Nurse-managed health centers
  • Home health care
  • School clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Women’s health care facilities
  • Palliative care settings
  • Universities and research centers

Let’s discuss the most likely healthcare environments you’ll find yourself as a family nurse practitioner.

Primary Care

Usually, the primary care setting is a patient’s first contact with healthcare delivery, and it doesn’t stop there. It becomes the primary point of contact for them for any relations with health care.

In a primary care facility, you have the opportunity to diagnose health issues, prescribe medication, and develop treatment strategies to help your patients. The average salary for FNPs in this role is $101,786.

Outpatient Care Center

Working in an outpatient or ambulatory care center allows you to provide care for various patients. Usually, these patients go home the same day.

Outpatient centers where you can work include dental clinics, catheterization labs, imaging centers, and dialysis centers. The average salary for an FNP practicing in this setting is $104,432.

Inpatient Care Center

Sometimes, life happens, and patients come in with conditions that require urgent care. That’s why inpatient or urgent care centers are so vital. While such injuries or illnesses aren’t severe enough to warrant a visit to the emergency ward, prompt care might be the difference between life and death.

As a family nurse practitioner, your role will involve providing immediate care in a walk-in setting. The average salary for this role stands at $108,050.

Children’s Hospital

If you love providing care for children, then this is your call. In this setting, you’ll be offering health care services to patients ranging from birth to 18 years of age.

In addition to medical care in these practice settings, you’ll also be offering psychosocial support to the children and their parents. Its average salary of $93,334 is lower than what you’ll find in other NP practice settings.

Health Centers

The HRSA Health Center Program provides essential health care services to underserved communities through federally qualified health centers.

Working in any of these health centers means providing care for people throughout their lives. Your salary will stand at $117,367.

Nursing Homes

Older adults often depend on healthcare professionals to care for them. Usually, this care takes place in nursing homes. That’s where you come in as a family nurse practitioner.

With your training, you’ll be able to manage their health needs and provide appropriate treatments. The average salary for FNPs in this role is $107,170.


Hospices are homes providing care for people that are sick and terminally ill. Care in these facilities is usually aggressive in controlling symptoms and making the patients comfortable as much as possible.

As a family nurse practitioner, your role in this setting is therefore very crucial. Your care for these patients and their families have to be holistic. The average salary for FNPs in this setting is $100,262.

Women’s Health Care Facilities

Family nurse practitioners can work in women’s health care facilities, providing primary care services to women throughout their lives. Focus areas in women’s health often include gynecology, obstetrics, and reproductive health.

Unlike certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), the clinical focus of FNPs doesn’t revolve around childbearing. Instead, they focus on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases specific to women. On average, you’ll make $101,787 (including bonuses) as an FNP in this practice setting.

Other Possibilities for FNPs

Family nurse practitioners work directly with patients to provide care related to family practice in the nursing field.  But not only that, they are often sought out for administrative positions that involve policy and education. So there’s always an array of family nurse practitioner jobs available at any given time.

Thanks to NPs working autonomously, they have filled significant gaps in the availability of patient care in rural areas. After rural areas were significantly affected by a national shortage of physicians, family nurse practitioners have taken over essential care in the communities.

Career Outlook for Family Nurse Practitioners

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for registered nurses will grow at a rate of 12% through 2028. Advanced practice registered nurses will see more opportunities as jobs need to be filled.

With new nurses entering the field, healthcare providers will have a chance to expand and treat underserved communities. Family nurse practitioners often serve as the primary care provider in rural areas, making them invaluable to their communities.

The underlying reasons for the increase in demand are an aging population and many nurses nearing retirement. An aging population requires more advanced health care. Studying for a family nurse practitioner degree provides you with the knowledge needed to treat these cases.

Clinical practice needs a more effective structure. Primary care providers can help hospitals and clinics when under high levels of pressure.

Salary for a Family Nurse Practitioner

A higher salary and advanced knowledge are often the reasons for specializing in the nursing profession. According to a survey by involving about 3,400 participants, the average annual salary for a family nurse practitioner in the U.S. is $104,632. The highest reported salary reaches far beyond that at over $200,000.

It’s not only a high salary that helps attract RNs to become nurse practitioners. Many healthcare facilities offer FNPs generous sign-on bonuses as well as annual bonuses. Also, they get employee benefits that range from vacation days and sick pay to health insurance and tuition reimbursement.

One notable benefit found in offerings to FNPs was education loan forgiveness. The average incentive offered to NPs in 2019 was $61,250.

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