FNP: How Do I Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Oct 20, 2021

Should I Become a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (RNs) who specialize in treating patients throughout all stages of life. They provide advanced nursing care in general or family medical practice settings or situations. In addition to nursing care, family nurse practitioners conduct examinations, make assessments and diagnoses, order or perform diagnostic tests, perform minor surgical procedures, provide medical treatment and prescribe medications under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Many hours spent standing might be required, and practitioners may need to lift or move patients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree or post-graduate certificate
Degree Field(s) Bachelor's degree in nursing, master's degree/post-graduate certificate in family nurse practitioner
Licensure and/or Certification All states license registered nurses (RNs), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies family nurse practitioners
Experience Experience as a registered nurse is required
Key Skills Strong communication skills, attention to detail, good decision-making skills; familiarity with specialized medical equipment, such as IV infusion pumps, cardiac monitoring devices, EKG units, oxygen analyzers and nebulizers
Salary (2014) $95,350 yearly (median for all nurse practitioners)

Sources: Careerbuilder.com job listings (September, 2012) State nursing boards, American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Aspiring family nurse practitioners must first train to become registered nurses (RN) by completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Nursing programs provide students with a combination of supervised clinical experience and classroom learning. Common courses in nursing degree programs include anatomy and physiology, patient health assessment, pharmacology, pathophysiology and nursing throughout all life stages.

Step 2: Obtain State License as Registered Nurse

All nurses, including family nurse practitioners, must be licensed to legally work in the field. Candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Once a nurse has passed the examination, there may also be additional state nursing board or employer requirements in order to earn and maintain state licensure.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Many graduate degree programs encourage or require applicants to have at least one year of experience working as registered nurses. Graduates can find work at hospitals, nursing homes, private practices and long-term care facilities. They might acquire experience working with different kinds of patients, such as children, seniors and pregnant women, who they'll later encounter as a family nurse practitioner.

Step 4: Enroll in Family Nurse Practitioner Master's Degree Program

Students may choose from several graduate programs in order to become a family nurse practitioner, including master's degrees as well as post-master's certificates for those who have a master's degree in a different nursing background. These programs generally take 1-3 years to complete, depending on the school and a student's previous education.

Family nurse practitioner programs combine didactic learning and clinical experience. These programs place heavy emphasis on learning advanced clinical skills, such as performing physical examinations, conducting assessments and diagnoses and providing treatment. Courses generally cover medical issues for all stages of life, nursing methods and primary care practices.

Step 5: Apply for Certification

Graduates of accredited family nurse practitioner graduate programs are eligible to take family nurse practitioner board certification exams. According to the BLS, earning one of these professional credentials is often a requirement for state licensing as an advanced practice nurse. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), for example, awards the Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC) designation to successful examinees. Candidates must have a valid RN license and a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice to qualify for certification.

Success Tip

  • Maintain certification. In order to maintain certification, FNP-BCs must have a minimum of 1,000 practice hours as a family nurse practitioner and complete 75 hours of approved continuing education training during each 5-year certification cycle. The ANCC also has other requirements that must be met from which the FNP-BC may choose, including publication, conducting research, serving as preceptor, putting on presentations or taking college courses. These requirements have specific conditions that must be met to qualify for professional development credits towards re-certification. The FNP-BC must also maintain his or her RN license. Re-certification requirements for RN licenses vary from state to state.

Step 6: Consider Advancement Opportunities

Family nurse practitioners can advance in the field by becoming teachers. Nursing doctoral programs are also available to advanced practice nurses interested in developing their clinical skills or preparing for roles in nursing research or administration.

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