Family Nurse Practitioner Programs


Nurse practitioners (NP) saw their start in 1965 when the University of Colorado developed the first nurse practitioner education program in the country.  The role of the family nurse practitioner was legitimized in 1974 when the American Nurses Association established the Council of Primary Care Nurse Practitioners.  This helped to further create the scope of practice and other standards that nurse practitioners are held to.

This type of nurse practitioner will work in a variety of settings providing total care to patients of all ages.



Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

The average family nurse practitioner salary is $94,525 per year.  The lowest 10 percent earns around $81,611 per year and the highest 10 percent earns around $109,821 per year.

Family nurse practitioners are able to care for patients in a general care capacity just as doctors do.  However, their salaries are determined by different factors.  Those working in a hospital setting tend to earn more than those working in a private clinic, for example.  Factors like certification, your level of education, how many years of experience you have and your geographic location also play major roles in how much money you earn.


Family Nurse Practitioner Job Description

A family nurse practitioner works similar to a family doctor.  This type of nurse is an advanced practice nurse with additional roles and responsibilities in providing total patient care.  The following roles and duties can be performed by a nurse practitioner:

  • Diagnose diseases, conditions and injuries
  • Prescribe therapies and medications
  • Make referrals to specialists and for diagnostic testing
  • Conduct routine physical examinations
  • Order necessary laboratory testing
  • Provide preventative care to patients
  • Manage total patient health
  • Assist in minor surgical procedures

A nurse practitioner may work at a hospital or a doctor’s office and will have his or her own patient load.  Nurse practitioners can also have their own practice in many states throughout the country.  There is a lot of autonomy in this type of nursing and NPs are able to make the majority of healthcare decisions without a doctor’s supervision.


Family Nurse Practitioner Education

A nurse practitioner will have at least a Master’s of Science in Nursing, but some choose to also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.  The master’s degree takes approximately three years to complete when studying full time and you must be a registered nurse to apply for a nurse practitioner program.  This degree will require classroom time, clinical hours and research.  While all schools and programs will differ, the following are classes that can be taken when pursing a Master’s of Science in Nursing with focus on family nurse practitioner:

  • Health policy
  • Advanced assessment and clinical reasoning
  • Pathophysiology for the advanced practice nurse
  • Nursing research and theory for practice
  • Advanced nursing roles
  • Pharmacology for nurses in advanced practice
  • Advanced practice clinical
  • Health promotion and disease prevention
  • Acute and episodic care management
  • Clinical skills and procedures for advanced practice nursing
  • Child health
  • Women’s health
  • Chronic illness management
  • Geriatrics

You will also complete a set amount of clinical hours that will vary depending on the state that you are studying in.  You often get a choice of where you will complete your clinical hours and many nurses choose to complete them with their current employer.  You cannot be compensated for your clinical hours, so you must do these in addition to your normal work schedule.

Research projects will vary by school and not all schools may require them.  In general, the research project will focus on an aspect of family medicine and you will need to work within the rules and guidelines set forth by your school to successfully complete it and present it.


Family Nurse Practitioner Certification and Licensing

The licensing laws that you must abide by will depend on the state that you live in.  You can pursue a certificate in primary care on the nurse practitioner level through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.  Once successful, you will hold the following credential: Family Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified (FNP-BC).  To apply for this credential, you must have an active registered nursing license, have your Master’s of Science in Nursing, have completed classes in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced health assessment and have completed at least 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours.  The examination that you must pass consists of 200 questions and you get four hours to complete it.

Once you obtain your certification, it is good for five years and then you must renew it.  To renew your certification you must have an active registered nursing license, pay all applicable fees and present proof of all necessary continuing education hours.  It is recommended that you start the renewal process approximately eight weeks in advance of your certification expiring.  This allows for adequate time to meet all renewal requirements and for the organization to process your information.


Family Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

Job opportunities for family nurse practitioners are expected to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020.  In the United States, this is far faster than the average career.

Many factors come into play to create this statistic.  Many hospitals are creating outpatient care centers and smaller clinics and they need primary care providers to staff them.  The shortage of medical doctors in family medicine is leading to more and more nurse practitioners filling this need.  Nurse practitioners are also becoming the family care providers in many underserved and rural areas throughout the country.  Other factors include an increased demand for nurse practitioners in academia.



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