Family Nurse Practitioner Career Guide

    Family Nurse Practitioner Career Guide

    Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are registered nurses with specialized graduate education who provide primary health care services to people of all ages. FNPs perform physical exams, order diagnostic tests and procedures, diagnose and treat illness, prescribe needed medications, and teach their patients how to develop healthy lifestyles to promote health and prevent disease.

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    Part OneWhat Is A Family Nurse Practitioner?

    Family nurse practitioners fill a crucial role in the health care system and care for people of diverse ages and backgrounds – often the underserved.

    FNPs provide services for individuals and families throughout the lifespan. This can be especially rewarding for those who enjoy developing long-term relationships and getting to know people over time. FNPs can have rewarding careers professionally, personally, and financially. 

    Part TwoWhat Is The Salary Range For Family Nurse Practitioners?

    Advanced practice nurses command higher salaries than registered nurses, and this holds true for family nurse practitioners.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2016, the median annual income for nurse practitioners was $100,910, with the lower 10% of FNPs earning $72,420 or less and the upper 10% of FNPs earning $140,930 or more. 

    As with any employment situation, FNPs should think about many factors when looking at any job offer, such as local cost of living and total benefits package (health and dental insurance, retirement benefits, educational benefits, and others). Search for positions in the location where you want to work to find out more about the specific FNP salary ranges in your area.

    Nurse practitioners who wish to set up a private practice will need to evaluate the local market, obtain professional advice from their accountant and legal professional, and create a solid business plan. Savvy FNPs with a solid business plan can develop a lucrative private practice.

    The BLS reports that in 2016 the highest paying states for nurse practitioners were:

    • California: $124,330
    • Alaska: 121,250
    • Massachusetts: $117,860
    • Hawaii: $117,180
    • New Jersey: $115,230

    The BLS also reported that the top five cities for nurse practitioner pay were:

    • California $124,330
    • Alaska 121,250
    • Massachusetts 117,860
    • Hawaii 117,180
    • New Jersey 115,230

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    Part ThreeWhat is the career outlook for family nurse practitioners?

    The BLS predicts that nursing employment will increase at a rate of 16 percent through 2024 – much faster than the average for all jobs. With baby boomer nurses nearing retirement, there will be a demand for new nurses to enter the profession. The growing health needs of our aging population also contribute to the need for more advanced practice nurses. Our healthcare system direly needs to improve efficiency and curb costs. Advanced practice nurses such as FNPs provide a cost-effective avenue for providing high-quality health services to more people, including underserved segments of the population.

    Part FourHow Do I Become A Family Nurse Practitioner?

    If you have an eye to a family nurse practitioner role, you must first complete an entry-level nursing program:

    • Graduate from a four-year college or university program accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or the National League for Nursing (NLN), and leading to a Bachelor’s degree in nursing
    • Take the RN licensing exam after graduation, also known as the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). The NCLEX is a nationwide examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States and Canada
    • Once you pass this exam, you may apply for your first nursing job

    Most nurses work a few years in a registered nursing role before deciding on a career in advanced practice nursing

    Once you decide to become an FNP:

    Obtain your Master’s degree in nursing at an accredited college or university Courses to prepare you for the FNP role include family nursing theory/intervention, managing acute, episodic, and chronic illness, research, primary health care concerns, and preparation for leadership Become certified in family practice through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) of the American Nurses Association (ANA) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Certification Board. Check with your state board of nursing to find out if they have a preference for the certifying body

    To take the certification exam, which is conducted online, you must have:

    • A current, active RN license in a state or territory of the U.S. or the equivalent in another country
    • A master’s postgraduate, or doctoral degree from a family nurse practitioner program accredited by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
    • At least 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours and completion of comprehensive graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/ pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology

    Recertification is due every five years, along with maintaining an active registered nurse license with your state board of nursing according to its requirements for practice and continuing education. Refer to our Continuing Education Guide; you can see that states vary in their requirements for renewing an RN license. For example, Alabama requires 24 contact hours every two years, Maine has no CE requirement for renewal, and Utah requires one of the following every two years: 30 contact hours, or 200 practice hours and 15 contact hours, or 400 practice hours.

    Regarding recertification, your certifying organization has specific requirements for renewal, so be sure you’re on top of those, as well as prepared to pay any fees. Both the AANC and AANP require a certain number of clinical practice hours and CE credits. Become familiar with these requirements well before your recertification is due.

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    Deciding on a Nursing Graduate School

    Choosing a graduate school is a big decision. Make sure that any school you consider is accredited by the AACN or the NLN. For a listing of programs nationally, check the listing provided on the APNA website, searchable by state.

    If you’re searching for top-ranked schools of nursing, check out the U.S. News & World Report listings. In 2016-2017, top graduate programs in family practice nursing were:

    1. Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD)

    2. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

    3. University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

    4. Duke University (Durham, NC)

    5. The University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

    Keep in mind that there are many accredited schools of nursing that can help you meet your career goals to become a family nurse practitioner.

    Part FiveWhat is it like to be a family nurse practitioner?

    Family nurse practitioners enjoy work that is multifaceted, patient-facing, and structured. In the FNP role you will: 

    • Assess for and diagnose health conditions
    • Conduct routine physicals
    • Design and carry out treatment plans for acute and chronic illnesses
    • Provide primary health care
    • Prescribe medications and other therapies
    • Order and interpret lab and other diagnostic tests
    • Assist in minor surgeries
    • Make referrals as appropriate
    • Work independently and with others on the healthcare team

    As a family nurse practitioner, you may work in a variety of settings:

    • Clinics
    • Private offices/private practice
    • Hospice centers
    • Nurse-managed health centers
    • School clinics
    • Home health care
    • Community health centers

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    Part SixWhat Are The Continuing Education Requirements For Family Nurse Practitioners?

    Clinical practice and continuing education requirements for renewing a nursing license, certification, and advanced practice certification vary by state and credentialing body. Check with your state board and credentialing agency for the rules on keeping your RN license and certification(s) up to date. You can also visit our CE Guide for details. See item No. 4 for information on keeping certification up to date.

    Where can I learn more about family nurse practitioners?

    You can learn more about FNP roles by searching the web and talking with nurses currently working in the field. Also read as much as you can about the professional role, including the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (JAANP). A good start is to visit the website for the (American Association of Nurse Practitioners)[ 

    Also, reach out to your local hospital or school of nursing to find out about any upcoming career fairs. Set up an appointment with a student advisor or career counselor at your local college or university to discuss the roles and responsibilities of an FNP. Many school websites also provide information about what it takes to become an FNP. 

    Where can I find the best jobs as a family nurse practitioner?

    There are many sources to get you started in your search for family nurse practitioner positions. Check the “Careers” pages of websites for hospitals and agencies that interest you. Many online resources are also useful in job searching, including nursing social media sites, career sites, websites of professional organizations, and dedicated nursing career sites including our job board. Use your professional network to find out where the good employers are, and to talk to a seasoned entrepreneur about the potential for setting up a private practice.

    Family nurse practitioners play a vital role in improving the health and lives of patients, families, and communities. As an FNP you’ll receive daily personal rewards working in partnership with people from many walks of life as they overcome health challenges and work to stay healthy. The professional rewards will come from the lifelong learning required to keep abreast of new technologies and treatments as you strive for the best possible health outcomes for your patients.

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