What Makes the Family Nurse Practitioner Role Unique?

There are several specialties within the advanced nursing practice, but none as diverse and unique as the role of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Today’s FNP fills a gap in primary care, as communities struggle with a shortage of primary care physicians.

Popularity of Family Nurse Practitioners

There are 222,000 licensed Nurse Practitioners in the United States. NPs are the fastest growing group of primary care providers – Americans make over 916 million annual visits to see their local Nurse Practitioner.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP):

  • 96 percent of NPs have graduate degrees
  • 89 percent of NPs are prepared in primary care
  • 75 percent of NPs are actively practicing primary care
  • 60 percent of NP see three patients per hour
  • 55 percent of NPs specialize in family practice
  • 18 percent of NP practice in rural communities

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of 130,000 physicians by 2025, with half of those being in the area of primary care. This creates continued openings for Family Nurse Practitioners to step in and provide high-quality patient care. Nurses who have been considering a Master of Science in Nursing have a clear path forward when studying to become an FNP.

Scope of Practice of a Family Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioners play a vital role in health and wellness by extending the services of the family doctor. They are trained to provide comprehensive services to patients of all ages, from pediatric to geriatric. The majority of FNPs treat geriatric patients over the age of 85, while only three percent of NPs specialize solely in geriatric care.

The scope of practice is similar to the family physician, with the FNP providing:

  • Routine preventive care including annual physical exams, vaccinations, and periodic lab tests.
  • Sick care for children and adults, diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications. On average, full-time NPs write 23 prescriptions per day.
  • Injury care with recommendations for treatment and therapy, as well as further diagnosis.
  • Health management for patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD and many other conditions.

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

The AANP has published a statement on Nurse Practitioner Curriculum regarding the required education of nurses seeking to advance their skills and careers. In this statement, the AANP puts forth that:

“The completion of a formal graduate educational program and a commitment to lifelong learning and professional self-development assures society that NPs acquire and maintain the theoretical knowledge and clinical skills appropriate for their scope of practice. Formal graduate education also enables NPs to achieve and maintain professional certification and statutory recognition.”

With this in mind, an aspiring FNP would be well served to seek out a CCNE accredited Master of Science in Nursing degree with a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner. Online degree programs should be considered, especially for working professionals looking for convenience and flexibility in their learning opportunities.

Regardless of the MSN program, nurses should ensure that it prepares them to sit for certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.


American Association of Nurse Practitioners




The Campaign for Nursing’s Future


American Association of Colleges of Nursing


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