An FNP consults with a mother and her young family.

The Role of the Family Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care

Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners are an essential part of the health care landscape, providing wellness guidance and necessary care services to patients in need. These practitioners help manage patient caseloads at hospitals, clinics, and medical practices, working alongside physicians and specialists to care for the sick, injured, and healthy patients. The role of the family nurse practitioner is increasingly important as patients struggle to access care resources in some areas of the United States.

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who attain advanced education and training to practice in a primary care setting. These health professionals are passionate about improving the lives of patients and contributing to an efficient, high-quality health care system. Nurses looking to advance their careers to the nurse practitioner level should consider pursuing an advanced degree such as Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner degree, which offers an FNP track.

What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide primary care services for patients ranging from infants to seniors. They conduct well checks, screen for disease symptoms, administer treatments, and order tests under the premise of enhancing a patient’s overall well-being. FNPs treat healthy patients, injured individuals, patients with viral symptoms, and those struggling with diabetes, high cholesterol, and other chronic ailments. However, these practitioners do not treat critically-ill patients.

Family nurse practitioners are essential providers of preventive care services, which can help reduce repeat visits and avoid the emergency room and hospital admissions. These proactive measures include counseling patients on healthy lifestyles and disease prevention and ensuring that patients follow treatment recommendations. FNPs also help to establish consistent office procedures, develop individualized patient care plans, and create educational materials.

Family Nurse Practitioner Common Responsibilities              

  • Record patient health histories.
  • Perform physical exams.
  • Observe and assess patient symptoms.
  • Order tests and analyzes results.
  • Diagnose physical and mental health conditions.
  • Develop and administer treatment plans.
  • Prescribe medications.
  • Track symptom changes and treatment responses.
  • Promote healthy nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits.
  • Communicate with families.
  • Coordinate with patients’ other caregivers.
  • Refer patients to specialists.

FNPs work in private practices, physicians’ offices, community clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and government or occupational settings. In some states, family nurse practitioners have full practice authority, meaning they can operate autonomously without physician oversight. In others, FNPs must operate under a physician’s supervision. While the prescriptive authority of nurse practitioners varies by state, all FNPs can write prescriptions either with or without supervision.

Family Nurse Practitioner Skills and Characteristics

A health practitioner must have a strong balance of leadership, communication, and management skills to succeed as an advanced practice nurse. These capabilities are established through extensive education, training, and on-the-job experience.

Family Nurse Practitioner: Core Competencies              

  • Communication—sharing information with patients and families.
  • Interpersonal relations—coordinating care with coworkers.
  • Technology—recording and analyzing patient data.
  • Critical thinking and decision-making—diagnosing and treating patients.
  • Leadership—guiding other nurses and aides.
  • Organization—multitasking and practice management.

Family Nurse Practitioner: Personal Characteristics

  • Compassion—considering patients’ needs and beliefs.
  • Resourcefulness—developing treatment plans and conducting research.
  • Teamwork orientation—collaborating with other providers.
  • Detail orientation—noticing symptoms and tracking changes.
  • Resilience—operating under high pressure and stress.
  • Independence—making autonomous decisions.

Nurses can strengthen their knowledge and skills to excel in a nurse practitioner role by pursuing an advanced degree such as Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing degree with a Nurse Practitioner concentration. The program’s Family Nurse Practitioner track can help students become key medical resources in primary, specialty, and acute care settings.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary and Job Opportunities

Aging populations, increased rates of chronic disease, and shortages of medical professionals are fueling growth in the family nurse practitioner profession. Advanced practice nursing roles (including nurse practitioners) are projected to experience 26% growth between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average 5% growth rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

FNPs are in particularly high demand in areas where patients experience difficulty accessing sufficient primary care, such as isolated towns or low-income neighborhoods. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration lists more than 7,000 health professional shortage areas (facility, population, or geography) in primary care across the nation and a current shortage of nearly 15,000 primary care physicians. FNPs have the skills and knowledge to help fill this gap and improve the quality of care.

The median salary for nurse practitioners was $115,800 in 2019, according to the BLS. Total pay for a family nurse practitioner ranges from $80,000 to $124,000 depending on factors such as location, education, and experience, according to PayScale reporting in April 2020. FNPs with one to four years of experience earn about $94,000, while nurses with 20 or more years of experience earn about $102,000. Pay rates are about 15% higher in New York City and Los Angeles. Other higher-than-average salaries can be found in locations that include Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, and Dallas.

Learn More About Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner program and Family Nurse Practitioner track can help students gain the competence and confidence to succeed in advanced nursing careers. The FNP track prepares nurse practitioners to care for a diverse patient population across the lifespan. It includes intensive clinical experiences and coursework covering epidemiology, patient safety, health care technologies, leadership, and pharmacology. The FNP track also prepares students to take the FNP national certification exam from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Learn more about how Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner program can help you pursue your professional goals and have a meaningful impact on health care quality.

Recommended Readings
Nurse Educator vs. Nurse Practitioner: Comparing Two Key Health Care Careers
Want to Become a Nursing Supervisor? Job Description and Fundamental Skills
The Future of Nursing

Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?, American Association of Nurse Practitioners
Nurse Practitioners Overview, Scope of Practice Policy
Family Nurse Practitioner, Daily Nurse
Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Practice Characteristics, Journal of Ambulatory Care Management
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Shortage Areas, U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration
Average Family Nurse Practitioner, PayScale
Salary for Certification: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), PayScale

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