Everything You Need to Know to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Choosing a career path, especially in a field as specialized and qualification driven as nursing, often requires you to tailor your career path to suit emerging trends and job outlooks. With the shortage of primary care physicians in the United States today, there has never been a better time to consider a career as a family nurse practitioner. 

Family nurse practitioners are some of the most in-demand nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners are trained as primary care providers and can fill the role of primary care physicians cost-effectively and efficiently. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 40% increase in the demand for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. This means that pursuing a job in any of these fields will set you up for a good career progression and place you in a better position to control your work life. 

However, before considering a career as a family nurse practitioner, you need to understand what the role is about, what you need to fill the role, and the factors you should consider when making that career decision. 

Who is a family nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse with an advanced graduate degree in nursing who provides primary care and specialty care to patients, either alone or alongside a physician. A nursing practitioner may also be referred to as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Nursing practitioners focus primarily on preventing diseases and promoting the health of individuals. They also function as patient advocates and participate in developing health policies and conducting medical research. 

There are, however, different career options for a nursing practitioner, one of which is to become a family nurse practitioner. Family care is one of the top clinical areas of focus for nurse practitioners. A family nurse practitioner or advanced practice registered nurse offers family-focused healthcare services to patients of different ages (family medicine). These may include infants, children, young adults, adolescents, and elderly patients. 

Family medicine, also known as general medicine, is a primary healthcare field that involves providing comprehensive healthcare to patients of all ages and genders for all types of diseases and parts of the body.

What does a family nurse practitioner do? 

A family nurse practitioner has roles that are similar to or overlap with those of a family care physician. Their roles include ordering or performing diagnostic tests to arrive at a precise diagnosis of patients’ conditions, maintaining patients’ medical records, performing physical examinations on patients, prescribing medications, developing treatment plans, and treating conditions requiring primary care. A family nurse practitioner can work in any facility providing primary care, such as community health centers, private practice clinics and institutional clinics such as schools, universities, and workplaces. 

A family nurse practitioner can also obtain advanced qualifications in the management of specific ailments and conditions. For example, a family nurse practitioner can become certified in the management of diabetes. 

What do you need to become a family nurse practitioner?

What you will need to become a family nurse practitioner depends on whether you are already practicing as a nurse or you’re just getting started on the journey. Outlined below are the steps involved in becoming a family nurse practitioner.

Understand the role

Before you take any specific steps toward becoming a family nurse practitioner, you need to take the time to conduct some research and understand what the role entails. You must be sure that the nurse practitioner role is the right fit for you, considering your personality, family situation and educational background. Conducting research will prevent you from making the mistake of delving into family nursing practice and then realizing it wasn’t the right fit for you. 

Become a registered nurse

You cannot become a family nurse practitioner without becoming a registered nurse first. To become a registered nurse, you must have graduated from an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Both programs will qualify you to take the nursing licensing exam to become a registered nurse. The difference between these two programs, however, is that a BSN program is a double honors program that can increase your eligibility for certain administrative roles. 

Apply for an FNP program

An FNP program is an advanced postgraduate program that qualifies you to take the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) certification exams. These exams will make you an eligible member of the associations and a qualified FNP. 

If you already have a postgraduate degree in another field and want to transition into family medicine as a nursing practitioner, you can enroll for a second degree MSN-FNP online. This would allow you to gain more momentum in your career as a nursing professional. 

Complete clinicals

After completing your coursework, you must have at least 500 hours of clinical experience to fully qualify as a nursing practitioner before you can get certified as a family nurse practitioner. Although you can complete all of your coursework online, you need to work in a clinical setting for the specified period to fulfill your clinical requirements. 

Get certified

Upon completing these programs, you need to take the certification exams to become a recognized family nurse practitioner. In addition to the accreditation bodies mentioned earlier, you may also need additional qualifications from your state depending on where you live or want to practice. Once certified, you must comply with the rules of the bodies you belong to and continually renew your license to remain eligible to practice. 

How to manage and maximize an online FNP program

Many people give up on their dream of becoming a family nurse practitioner because they cannot manage the demands of their work life and getting an advanced degree. Fortunately, most of these programs can be obtained online, allowing for greater flexibility for nurses who want to take them. Many online courses are abandoned before they are completed, so you need to learn how to make the most of your online program. 

The following tips will help you make the most of your online FNP program.

Set a schedule and stick to it

One of the main reasons people do not finish their online courses is that they do not set a schedule and stick to it. It is important that you set a schedule for yourself and make sure that you follow through with it. This will help ensure that you complete your coursework on time.

Create a study plan

To make the most of your online course, you need to create a study plan that includes when you will complete your assignments and how you will review the material. Your study plan should also cover how you intend to complete your coursework and clinical hours.

Set realistic goals

When you are taking an online course, it is important to set realistic goals. This means you should not try to complete the entire course in one sitting. You should also not try to finish your assignments a week before they are due. If you set unrealistic goals, you will only end up frustrated and stressed.

Make the most of resources

When you are taking an online course, there are several resources you can use to help you complete your assignments and review the material, such as online forums, chat rooms, and email lists.

Stay organized

One of the most important things you can do when you are taking an online course is stay organized. This means you should keep all of your assignments and materials in one place. You should also create a filing system for your coursework. This will help you keep track of everything and make it easier to find what you need when you need it.

Enlist the help of your colleagues and superiors

As a registered nurse, you already have work duties that you must fulfill. Taking an FNP program alongside this can be very intense, so you must learn to ask for help from your colleagues and superiors. Letting them know that you are trying to make a career move will enable them to accommodate your schedule and assist you when needed.

By following these tips, you will be able to make the most of your online FNP program and ensure that you complete the course successfully, and you will be on your way to becoming a successful family nurse practitioner.  

How to choose an online FNP program

As the demand for family nurse practitioners grows, more FNP programs that claim to cater to the educational needs of nurses are being established. However, not all of these programs have the potential to effectively prepare you for a career as a family nurse practitioner. Your success as a family nurse practitioner starts with choosing a good program. 

The following tips will help you select the right FNP program for your career progression.

Choose an accredited program

This is the most important factor to consider when selecting an FNP program. Ensure that the program you choose is accredited by a reliable body such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Check the curriculum

A good FNP program should offer a comprehensive curriculum that covers all the important aspects of family nursing. The program should also offer clinical rotations in different specialty areas so you can get a well-rounded education.

Consider the faculty

The faculty of an FNP program plays a very important role in your success as a student. Make sure that the faculty members are experienced and qualified to teach the course. It is helpful to choose a program where the faculty members are practicing family nurse practitioners. 

Look at the admission requirements and reputation 

A good FNP program will have reasonable admission requirements so you can easily get into the program. However, this does not mean that you should opt for inferior programs or unaccredited programs that will not adequately prepare you for a career as a family nurse practitioner. You should also consider the reputation of the program in the industry. 

Check the cost of tuition

Tuition is an important factor to consider when choosing an FNP program. Make sure you choose a program that you can afford. Some programs are unjustifiably expensive, so you need to choose a program that offers you the greatest value considering your budget. 

What are the skills you need to become a family nurse practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners play an essential role in healthcare delivery, and they must possess certain skills that will allow them to fulfill this role effectively. Here is a look at some of the most important skills for family nurse practitioners.

Analytical skills

Family nurse practitioners deal directly with patients’ records and data. Having strong analytical skills is a plus for any nurse practitioner as they can easily draw conclusions for patient care based on available data. Strong analytical skills will also help in executing the administrative aspects of the role. 

Communication skills

Nurse practitioners must develop a good rapport with their patients that will foster honest and open communication. It is not enough to ask for a patient’s symptoms and deliver a diagnosis. A family nurse practitioner should be able to make their patients feel comfortable and establish trust between them. A nurse practitioner should also be able to break down complex medical terms for patients and their caregivers or relatives. 

Leadership skills 

A nursing practitioner must be able to provide leadership and guidance whenever needed. This is more important in a community health center setting, where a nurse practitioner will have some administrative functions to perform in addition to patient interaction and care. 

Strategic decision making

A nursing practitioner will be faced with many decisions in the discharge of their duties. From resource management in community health centers to workplace culture, nurse practitioners must perfect the art of strategic decision-making to carry out their duties effectively. 


Family nurse practitioners must be aware of the principles and ethics that bind them within the profession. This allows them to maintain the best practices in patient care and management. 

Technological aptitude

Medical technology has seen an increase in adoption over the last decade. Medical tech makes the process of diagnosing and treating patients easier and faster. A nursing practitioner must be adept with these tools and able to use them effectively in caring for patients. 

The benefits of becoming a family nurse practitioner

Aside from the fact that family nurse practitioners are in demand and have a good job outlook, there are other benefits to pursuing an advanced degree in nursing and a career as a nurse practitioner. Here is a look at some of the most noteworthy advantages. https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/sustainability/doctor-shortages-are-here-and-they-ll-get-worse-if-we-don-t-act

Higher income

Family nurse practitioners generally earn a greater salary than registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other entry-level nurses. A nursing practitioner has undertaken advanced training in nursing and, as a result, has more roles in clinical care and practice, enabling them to earn more money. 

Better work-life balance

Although family nurse practitioners have more roles in clinical care, they also enjoy a better work-life balance as they can manage their work schedules better. Family nurse practitioners have more traditional work schedules that encourage balance in the professional setting.

Community service

Family nurse practitioners are in a unique position to offer their services directly to their communities. It is estimated that by 2034, there will be a deficit of between 37,800 and 124,000 primary healthcare physicians, especially in rural areas. Family nurse practitioners can help fill this gap as they are trained to take on similar roles to those of physicians. 

Increased autonomy

As a family nurse practitioner, you enjoy a higher level of autonomy in patient treatment and care. Family nurse practitioners can diagnose patients and develop treatment plans for them without the supervision of a physician, unlike other nursing professionals. 


Family nurse practitioners enjoy a high level of versatility in the services they render. They can attend to patients of all ages and genders presenting all types of diseases, injuries or conditions affecting any part of the body. 

Where do family nurse practitioners work? 

Family nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings, including private physician offices, clinics, hospitals, and home healthcare agencies. Some FNPs also work in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. FNPs typically work in collaboration with physicians and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive primary healthcare services to patients of all ages.

The type of employer largely influences the earning potential of a family nursing professional. Therefore, family nurse practitioners generally prefer working in private institutions and nursing homes over government-run health centers. Other factors, such as location and years of experience, also influence the earning potential of a family nurse practitioner. 

Whether you’re a new nurse practitioner or an experienced one who is looking to become a family nurse practitioner, there are a lot of great ways you can achieve your professional goals.