What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
Below you’ll find all the information you need to know when deciding on a Registered Nurse (RN) to Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. In this article, you’ll find more information about FNP programs, the career outlook for FNPs, and other helpful resources to start an RN to FNP program.
A Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) that cares for patients through all stages of life. As an FNP, you’ll diagnose and form treatment plans for your patients. You’ll also play an essential role in disease management. You’ll help your patients understand necessary health prevention measures. A bonus of becoming an FNP is working in different specialties. An FNP will work in different environments and focus on care for one age range instead of adults of all ages.
An FNP is one of the most common specialties of Nurse Practitioners (NPS). According to AANP’s fact sheet, more than 60% of NPs are certified FNPs. FNP is a popular certification, and it’s also in high demand. The FNP accreditation translates in multiple settings and is a desirable certification to have.
FNPs can work in places like:
- Urgent care establishments
- Emergency rooms
- Private practice
- Internal medicine clinics
The most common practice settings for FNPs are hospital outpatient clinics, private group practices, and private physician practices. Luckily, you’ll be able to choose the environment you like best.
FNP Roles and Responsibilities
Your responsibility as an FNP is to educate, diagnose, treat, and collaborate. You’ll have a wide range of skills at the end of this program, and collaboration is crucial to diagnosing and finding the proper treatment for your patient. You’ll have the opportunity to experience a variety of specialties. Pick a specialty that you’re interested in doing. You’ll enjoy your multiple 12-hour shifts mor
Difference Between RN and FNP
Getting a concentration as an FNP is the next nursing certification you get once you’re an RN. It would help if you thought about what you want to do and where you want to be.
RNs care for and educate patients in some of the following places:
- Physician offices
- Nursing homes
Typical duties of an RN include:
- Preparing patients for exams or treatments.
- Assessing and helping perform diagnostic tests and analyzing results.
- Recording patients’ medical histories and symptoms.
- Administering medicine and treatments to patients.
- Help establish care plans for patients.
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment.
- Educating patients and families on managing medical conditions.
- Educating patients and families on post-treatment care.
- Collaborating with supervising physicians and other healthcare professionals.
FNP duties are different from RNs. As an FNP, you’ll be taking charge more when working with your patient. Responsibilities include:
- Physical exams and routine checkups.
- Diagnose and treat various health conditions.
- Create and implement care plans for patients.
- Provide general health counseling to patients and families.
- Prescribe medications and monitor patient’s responses to the drugs.
- Consult with other healthcare professionals.
- Order and perform diagnostic tests to evaluate your patient’s condition.
RN to Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
To start the RN to FNP program, you’ll need at least an associate’s degree. This two-year degree will get you started on the right track. Next, you’ll need a BSN. You’ll need to pursue an MSN to get certified as an FNP. Once you become an NP through your MSN, you’ll have the choice to specialize in family care or adult care.
During your two years pursuing the FNP program, you’ll have help along the way to prepare you for the certification tests. After you’ve obtained your MSN, you’ll have to pass the national FNP certification board exam.
Then you can get the state license you need to practice where you want. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the state requirements early. You can also get licensed to practice in additional states where you don’t currently reside. However, if you don’t plan to live or work there soon, you may want to save that license for later. There may be additional requirements depending on the state you get licensed.
The transition from RN to FNP
Moving from an RN to an FNP is a big career transition. Beyond schoolwork, the responsibilities can be more stressful than before. You’ll be shifting from an expert RN to a novice FNP. There are emotional factors to be considered. If you’re struggling to transition, you may have a difficult time developing in your role. You should feel comfortable leaning on your classmates and teachers to help you successfully shift into your new role and responsibilities.
According to US News and World, the top NP programs in the US are:
- John Hopkins University, Baltimore
- Duke University, Durham
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
- Emory University, Atlanta
- Columbia University, New Yor
The admission process will differ based on where you’re applying. For most schools, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree before pursuing your MSN. You’ll also need an RN license in the state you’re applying to. Other admission requirements may vary. You’ll most likely need two to three professional references, preferably from other nursing professionals. A personal statement and official transcripts from your undergraduate degree will help as well.
Some programs may require a minimum GPA, but they’ll specify that in the admissions requirements. A good baseline GPA is between 2.75 and 3.0.
On your journey from RN to MSN FNP, you’ll need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before applying to a graduate NP program. However, if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you may be able to do an accelerated BSN to MSN program. You’ll need to talk to the school and learn more about their programs.
After you get your BSN, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to get your RN license. Once you’ve finished these, you’ll be able to focus on your RN to FNP program.
On your path to becoming FNP certified, you’ll need to make sure you get the required amount of clinical hours. In the US, you need to get 500 clinical hours in before graduating from your MSN program. That means you’ll be logging more than 500 hours, typically, as you work to gain real experience with patients.
Your rotations will likely consist of pediatrics, family practice, internal medicine, and other areas that will help you find the right concentration for you. During these rotations, you’ll be able to get direct patient care experience. Take note of what you enjoy during your rotational. It will be easier for you to reflect after a long rotational session.
Residencies and Fellowships
After your program, you can enter two options to boost your FNP skills. A residency or fellowship allows you to get paid working within your FNP specialty or sub-specialty. These programs give you on-the-job training.
A residency is a one-year position that’s offered right out of school. You’ll work under an experienced FNP preceptor that will mentor you. You’ll also be able to practice what you’ve been learning in school.
A fellowship is typically a year-long as well. But this position offers a more focused and intensive practice. You’ll be able to focus on pursuing specific sub-specialties. Fellowships provide a highly specialized kind of training.
Online RN to FNP Programs
What Programs are Available?
There are now plenty of education options to choose from when pursuing your RN to FNP. The most important part of this process is finding the right program for your needs. Whether you need to do a program online to fit your busy schedule or you prefer a hands-on learning environment, there’s a program for you.
Either way, accreditation is the most crucial part of your search. You’ll need a program with accreditation from institutions like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Online programs to look into include:
- Walden University
- Purdue University Global
- Aspen University
- Capella University
- University of Cincinnati
No program is entirely online, as you’ll have in-person clinicals to do. Most programs will require rotational hours in person for a more hands-on experience. You can talk to an advisor or other FNPs and see what program worked best for them.
Differences Between Online and In-person FNP Programs
You’ll find the requirements to be relatively similar. But there are key differences.
You’ll need to find your own practical site and secure a preceptor. A preceptor is a teacher or instructor at your clinical rotations. You may need to attend in-person events during your program. These include program kick-offs and meet-ups during your courses.
The final big difference is price. Online FNP programs tend to be more affordable than in-person programs. Though these programs are cheaper, that doesn’t mean you’ll get any less of an education.
Online programs are incredibly viable options if you’re looking for a flexible, affordable path to become an FNP.
FNP Certification Process
To become a certified FNP, you’ll need to do four things:
- Obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree.
- Complete your Master’s of Science in Nursing.
- Get state licensed.
- Get an accredited national certification.
After you get your FNP certification, you’ll need to renew it every five years. Beyond renewing your national certificate, you’ll also have to get state recertified. These requirements may change and require different fulfillment expectations depending on which state you get certified in. Staying organized and on top of your recertifications will help keep you from losing your certification.
Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner -Board Certified (FNP-BC)
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requires an active RN with a current license. They also require an MS, MSN, postgraduate, or doctoral degree from an accredited program. After you complete your clinical hours, you’re eligible to take the FNP-BC exam. Once you pass the exam, you’ll be board certified for five years. This program is very similar to becoming an FNP. However, this program will help you prepare better for taking your board exam.
Becoming an FNP
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) requires similar expectations as the FNP-BC. However, you’ll also need to take APRN core courses during your certification. Once you meet the requirements, you can take the FNP exam. You’ll remain certified for up to five years with continued education.
The FNP exam will examine your competency and knowledge based on family and individuals across a lifespan. The exam includes prenatal, pediatric, adolescent, adult, older adult, and elderly care questions. You’ll be able to study for this exam through your regular courses and from hands-on experience.
Subspecialty Certifications for FNP
The best part about pursuing the RN to FNP program is the endless opportunities you have. There are a variety of subspecialties you can choose which will help your career in the long run. An FNP goes further than family practice. Depending on the specialty you choose, you could land in pediatrics or internal medicine. You don’t have to choose a subspecialty immediately. You’ll have time during your clinicals to better understand what you do and don’t like.
Having a subspecialty will also help you build your leadership skills as an FNP. In this role, you’ll be the one delegating responsibilities and managing people under your subspecialty. In many cases, you’ll have a team of nurses and other healthcare members.
FNP Career Outlook
The Market for FNPs
The job market for FNPs is looking good. There’s a projected job growth for FNPs of 45% through 2029. That indicates working towards an RN to FNP program is a lucrative career. The process of becoming licensed takes about two to five years, so starting sooner than later can get you in the job market. It’s never too late to change your career or specialize in something new as well.
To help yourself stand out, you should consider a sub-specialty. You will get a competitive advantage over other FNPs in the job market. These specialties can include but are not limited to:
- Diabetes management
- Pain management
- Obesity management
- Acute/critical care
- Emergency care
Each specialty will require renewed licensing every two to five years, depending on which one you pursue. When thinking about the type of sub-specialty, know some cities may have more openings than rural communities—another reason you need to consider location when looking for a job. Your location will also affect your salary range.
A few factors will determine your salary range. It will vary based on location, salary versus hourly positions, and the organization you’re working under. If you’re managing your practice, you may make more than other FNPs working in clinics. The average salary rate for an FNP now is about $114,000 annually.
Your salary range will also depend on whether you practice in a rural community or a metro area. Working in a larger city or metro area pays more, but there are other higher costs you’ll have to consider. There are pros and cons to either type of location. You should have the freedom to find a placement where you choose and feel the most comfortable.
You’ll be able to find more information about proper compensation in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Survey Results. It’s a free resource that helps compare different salaries and ensures you’re getting fair compensation. You should also feel comfortable negotiating for what you think is appropriate concerning your skill level and other factors.
RN to FNP Resources
These resources will guide you in your search for the right RN to FNP program. There’s more information regarding certification options and ways to stay informed and connected to the FNP industry. While you’re in school, it’s a good idea to start looking at professional organizations. There might be student organizations you can join on campus or online. Staying connected will help you get into the industry. Conferences and events will also keep you informed while helping you network with other practitioners. These conferences are significant networking events.
FNP Certification Options
FNP Professional Organizations
- American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN)
- The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
- Association of Family Practice PAs & NPs (AFPPANP)
- Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE)
- International Family Nursing Association (IFNA)
- National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC)
- National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF)
FNP Conferences and Events
- AANP Annual Conferences
- AFPPANP Annual Symposium
- ENP Network NP Events
- Guide to Nurse Practitioner Conferences
- National Nurse Practitioner Symposium
- Primary Care Conferences
- Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners
- The Journal for Nurse Practitioners
- The Nurse Practitioner
Working towards your RN to FNP program can be a lucrative career jump. An FNP is a commonly pursued certification. Though just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s an oversaturated market. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to get into FNP practice. You’ll have many locations to choose from with this certification. There’s no better time than now to start pursuing an RN to FNP program.