What does a Family Nurse Practitioner do?


Family nurse practitioners – or FNPs – provide primary care to individuals of all ages. The role of an FNP is an independent and autonomous one, and these specialists need to be well-trained, experienced, highly qualified, knowledgeable, and well-equipped.

While FNP positions are invariably challenging, they are also superbly rewarding in a range of different ways.

FNPs expertly diagnose and treat illnesses and conditions that affect babies, children, teenagers, young adults, adults, and elders, and provide healthcare advice and education to aid in the prevention of disease and injury to individuals from all backgrounds.

In this article, we will discuss several aspects associated with the role of a family nurse practitioner, including: 

● Specific duties of an FNP.

● Ways in which FNPs are different from other types of nurse and healthcare professional.

● Settings in which FNPs work.

● Training required to become an FNP.

● Ideal mindset of a successful FNP.

Whether you are thinking of training to become a family nurse practitioner or are simply curious about this role and its functions, you will learn everything you’ll need to know by reading the handy information below.

What are the duties of a family nurse practitioner?

We have already mentioned that the role of an FNP can be broad and varied, but what do these healthcare specialists actually do?

The chief responsibilities and duties of a family nurse practitioner involve the following: 

● The undertaking of routine checkups and physicals.

● The application of preventative healthcare techniques.

● Assessing and diagnosing conditions and illnesses.

● The development and implementation of ongoing treatment plans.

● Referring patients for other treatment.

● Writing out prescriptions.

● Ordering diagnostic tests.

● Occasionally assisting in minor surgical procedures.

How is an FNP different from an RN?

The role of a family nurse practitioner is similar to that of a registered nurse (RN) in many ways – however, there are some significant differences.

One key distinction between these two roles is the higher level of autonomy afforded to FNPs as opposed to RNs. FNPs tend to work more independently and have greater freedom when it comes to decision-making.

To this end, the practical duties of an FNP involve higher levels of responsibility within the sphere of patient-centered care. 

FNPs can take on some of the tasks often reserved for physicians and MDs, such as prescribing medications and treatments, the official diagnosis of conditions, injuries, and illnesses, referring patients for certain tests and surgeries, and the admission of patients to the hospital.

Of course, the precise nature of the FNP role varies significantly depending on location and specialization. So, where do family nurse practitioners tend to work?

Where do Family Nurse Practitioners work?

As is the case with many other roles within the medical sector – and with nursing in particular – FNPs may be deployed in a wide range of different settings, including hospitals and outpatient care centers, clinics specializing in urgent care, longer-term facilities such as psychiatric institutions, care homes and hospices.

They may also work in academic settings, such as schools, colleges, and universities, or correctional facilities, such as prisons and youth detention centers.

Furthermore, FNPs may undertake their duties in community clinics or medical centers run by nurses or provide home healthcare.

Some even work in government premises or private offices.

Much of the time, an FNP’s place of work and typical patient demographic will dictate their day-to-day duties, as well as the makeup of the team in which they work.

What training do you need to be a family nurse practitioner?

As FNPs have greater levels of autonomy, responsibility, and specialist authority than RNs and many other nursing specialists, they require a significant amount of additional training before they are permitted to work in this capacity.

In this section, we will explore the path most individuals take to become a family nurse practitioner – starting from high school graduation and finishing with a fully paid FNP position. 

Of course, this is not the only route that can be taken to become an FNP, but it should give you a fairly clear idea of the process.

  • Bachelor’s Degree

The most common route a family nurse practitioner follows is first to attain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). Unlike for an associate RN, this is not mandatory – however, you will likely discover that most institutions offering training to become an FNP will require this qualification.

  • NCLEX-RN Exam and License

The next step is to take and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Once you have completed this, you must obtain a license to become an RN in the relevant state.

At this point, you will be permitted to practice as a registered nurse. However, there are a few more steps involved if you want to move on to the position of family nurse practitioner.

  • Experience

Once you are a licensed RN, you will need to gain a good amount of on-the-job experience before moving on with your training. 

By delivering as much patient-centered care as you can, you will be able to get an excellent grasp of your current responsibilities and a better understanding of the work you will be qualified to do once you become an FNP.

  • MSN or DNP

Next, you will need to go back to school to study for your MSN or DNP. The first of these is a Master of Science in Nursing, while the second is a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

The first option will take around two years to complete, while the second can take up to three years and is considered a “terminal degree”, meaning it sits among the highest qualifications you can achieve in medicine.

While an MSN will allow you to move on to more specialized areas of nursing, a DNP will position you to become a leader in your sector if you so choose, as well as enable you to move over into research and other connected fields if this is what you wish to do.

You can take a full-time or part-time course to tie in with any work and responsibilities you may have, or you could even seek out online FNP programs. These will provide you with increased flexibility and mean that you can study for your qualification from absolutely anywhere. 

  • Certification

The next step on the journey is to become certified as a family nurse practitioner. To do this, you will have to take a specialist test.

  • FNP License

Once you have passed your test to become certified, you will need to apply for your FNP license. Remember – once you have this, you must keep it up to date. The amount of time before your license expires will depend on the state in which you practice.

  • DEA and NPI Numbers

These two numbers identify you and enable you to prescribe certain specialist or “scheduled” drugs. Your employer may aid you in applying for these and paying the required fees, so be sure to approach them before you get to this step.

Once all the above tasks are complete, you will be able to find work as a family nurse practitioner in the state for which you are licensed.

Of course, you will need to keep up with any training required by your employers, maintain your license and continue to grow your knowledge throughout your career.

What kind of mindset do you need to be a family nurse practitioner?

While you certainly need an advanced set of specific qualifications to work as an FNP, this is not all that is required. It will also be helpful to develop certain traits that will aid you in the delivery of your work and make your day-to-day life much more straightforward.

Our top ten traits for those wishing to be excellent family nurse practitioners are:

● Strong organizational skills.

● Attention to detail.

● Patience.

● Good communication.

● Friendliness and a good bedside manner.

● A collaborative outlook.

● Mental and physical stamina.

● Initiative.

● A keen interest in the current medical sphere, along with new developments.

● Confidence.

Strong organizational skills

An FNP’s day can be busy, so it is vital that anyone working in this role must be superb at timekeeping and excellent at working to a schedule. They will need to keep their calendar up to date, complete tasks by their required deadlines, and always keep on top of their paperwork.

For these reasons, any future FNP must develop their organizational abilities as a matter of importance.

Attention to detail

FNPs will need to learn a whole new range of drug types, uses and dosing methods, patient symptoms, treatments, techniques, and systems – on top of those they already know from being an RN.

Their notes must be meticulously kept and highly accurate, and their listening and assessing skills must be on point.


Many family nurse practitioners are required to work with very elderly or very young patients, which may mean that some assessments or treatments may go slowly, and matters may need to be explained numerous times.

You will need to listen closely and attentively to make the right diagnoses and work out the best course of treatment every time.

What is more, some FNPs work in potentially hazardous or stressful situations. The ability to remain calm and retain an excellent bedside manner is extremely important. 

Good communication

Communication is not necessarily about speaking the same language in the same way – it is more about the ways in which everyone can find themselves “on the same page” when it comes to a particular piece of information.

As a family nurse practitioner, it will often fall to you to explain how a particular treatment, drug, or diagnostic test will work, deliver diagnostic information to other healthcare specialists or a patient, or clearly lay out a treatment plan in a way that everyone understands.

Friendliness and a good bedside manner

Most of your patients will be courteous, well-mannered, and willing to take your advice. A few will be harder to get along with. Everyone has their own reasons for behaving the way they do.

As a family nurse practitioner, you need to be willing to get along with everyone – to provide them with support, advice, sympathy, and firm but polite instruction. It is important to be able to “read a room” and to find the best ways to communicate with each and every patient (and colleague).

Being personable, relaxed, and positive will get you a long way.

A collaborative outlook

We have mentioned that you will have more autonomy when working as an FNP than an RN, but this doesn’t mean you will not be working as part of a team. 

Be willing to listen to others and impart your own knowledge as and when you feel it is required. You should be present in a way that will enable you to support your colleagues – or to be supported by them when the situation calls for this.

If you are flexible, able to take advice, and happy to share certain duties and responsibilities in an effective and constructive manner, you will find yourself becoming a valuable asset to any team or department.

Mental and physical stamina

FNPs are often busy and can work all kinds of shifts. You will need to be able to concentrate well and keep up with the demands of your superiors, colleagues, and patients while always providing the best possible level of care.

With pressure of this kind comes the need for physical and mental stamina. If you invest time and effort into caring for your own health and well-being in and outside of work, this will be much easier to achieve.


As an FNP, you will be trusted to make complex decisions alone or with minimal support. For this reason, you need to be creative, open-minded, and proactive. Simply put, you need to be great at working effectively under your own initiative.

A keen interest in the current medical sphere, along with new developments

With greater independence, autonomy, and authority comes the vital necessity to always remain well-informed. As we have just mentioned, you need to be able to take the initiative and make informed choices as an FNP – often with no one else to advise you.

For this reason, you need to have an extensive knowledge of current medical techniques, treatments, regulations, and diagnostic approaches, as well as other services to which you may refer your patients where relevant.

If you can develop an ongoing interest in your specialist field and those directly adjacent, you will always be highly effective in your role.


Medicine is a rapidly growing and changing field in which things are not always straightforward. Diagnoses can be challenging, and treatment plans complex. It can be easy to feel bewildered occasionally and to question your own skills or level of knowledge.

However, great family nurse practitioners can develop a level of self-confidence whereby they innately understand that every excellent care provider will face challenges and puzzles, and even the most advanced and talented professionals can find themselves at a loss occasionally.

True confidence comes with practice. However, you will almost always have a mentor or set of colleagues present to provide you with all the support you need to feel like the highly competent healthcare expert you truly are.

Fortunately, all the above facets are easy for anyone to develop, particularly with support from tutors and colleagues. That means that absolutely anyone can be an FNP with the right training.

In conclusion

As a family nurse practitioner, you may work in a hospital, a school, a prison, an office, a community clinic or anywhere else.

You will need to undergo extensive training and achieve the correct qualifications, certifications, and licenses before you can become established within your chosen discipline, and you will need to get used to a level of independence and authority that you may not have experienced before.

You can complete your studies online, on-campus, or through a combination of the two. 

Once you are qualified and you have started to gain a little on-the-job experience, it is important to continue to work on your skills and knowledge and to cultivate the key traits we mentioned above to be as effective, efficient, competent, and comfortable in your role as you possibly can.

There are so many opportunities available for trained, qualified, and licensed FNPs. Their versatility makes them highly in demand and employable within a range of settings, and the advanced qualifications they hold mean that positions of this kind are invariably well-paid.

Further progression is possible into a wide selection of exciting specialist fields, and while many family nurse practitioners move on to research, policy, education, or even the position of MD or physician, countless others choose to stay within the rewarding, challenging, and varied role of FNP.

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