How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Get Program Details
. What degree program are you most interested in?
What degree program are you most interested in?

Nurse practitioner consistently ranks among the top in-demand jobs according to Forbes magazine. Beyond job security, however, nursing is a calling that drives one to go the extra mile in providing compassion and comfort to those who are ailing. While there are a variety of different nurse practitioner specializations, a family nurse practitioner serves as a primary and specialty healthcare provider — performing a variety of tasks, including analyzing a patient’s medical history, conducting physical exams, and prescribing certain forms of therapy.

Becoming a family nurse practitioner is an ideal decision for someone seeking flexible work hours; the ability to work practically anywhere in the United States; and the opportunity to work directly with people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities throughout their lives.

nurse practitioner taking patient's blood pressure

Choosing a Specific Family Nurse Practitioner Program

Family nurse practitioners specialize in family medicine, or treating people at all stages of life. Most aspiring FNPs earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before receiving a state license, selecting a specialty (cardiac, medical-surgical, family planning, adult and geriatric care, pediatrics, pulmonary, etc.), earning a master’s degree (MSN), and eventually becoming licensed and certified as a family nurse practitioner.

For students wondering how to become a family nurse practitioner, there are four main educational paths that can lead students to this exciting and potentially lucrative career.

  1. Master of Science in Nursing with an FNP Concentration (MSN FNP)
    This program is ideal for nurses who already have a BSN and have decided to concentrate on becoming a family nurse practitioner.  
  2. BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice with an FNP Concentration (BSN to DNP FNP)
    This streamlined approach to a doctoral degree is ideal for students who aspire to work with the autonomy associated with advanced education and leadership.
  3. Post-Master’s FNP Certificate (MSN FNPC)
    This program is for nurses who already have an MSN but want to further sharpen their skills in a specific area.
  4. Doctor of Nursing Practice with an FNP Concentration (DNP-NP FNPC)
    This terminal degree will facilitate nursing professionals’ return to a clinical setting..

FNP Educational Timeline

The time necessary to complete the academic requirements to become a family nurse practitioner will depend on the model chosen. While each of the four models requires 745 clinical hours, the timeline varies.

For example, the MSN FNP requires the completion of 15 courses; the BSN to DNP FNP usually requires about 40 months of coursework; and the MSN FNPC typically takes just 24 months.

The availability of online nurse practioner programs makes it possible for students to complete their degrees and certifications on their time, without having to visit a campus.

Required Nursing Courses

The curriculum for a family nurse practitioner program is designed to provide students with the foundational knowledge and support needed to launch their nursing careers. While the actual courses students take will depend on the models and universities they select, there are core courses that will touch on a host of concepts, including the below examples.  

Roles and Responsibilities

In this introductory course, students learn about the roles and responsibilities of a family nurse practitioner, and legal and ethical considerations. The coursework focuses on the roles of individual medical team members and the formation of health policy.

Pathophysiology

By learning how an illness originates, develops, and characterizes itself through specific symptoms, students learn how to diagnose and treat most illnesses. This course is foundational to an FNP’s nursing education and career, and most students take the course at the beginning of a family nurse practitioner program.

Pharmacology

Pharmacology courses focus on the therapeutic uses and effects of pharmaceutical drugs in primary healthcare. Students learn to write prescriptions in accordance with state and federal standards, the specifics of commonly prescribed medications and their possible side effects, and alternatives to drug therapy.

Advanced assessment and diagnostics

During this course, students rely on their knowledge of pharmacology, physiology, and anatomy. Because family nurse practitioners take on many of the duties that a doctor does, they need to know how to perform a host of tasks, including recording a patient’s medical history and conducting physical assessments and diagnostic tests.  

Skills Needed to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

While students will build a strong foundation in medical training and practices, they also need certain other skills or traits in order to position themselves for success as a family nurse practitioner.

Communication

The ability to speak, listen, and communicate effectively is paramount since family nurse practitioners serve as a patient’s advocate as well as the intermediary between the patient’s family members and the medical staff.

Ethics

Because life and death decisions are a part of everyday nursing, it’s vital that FNPs respect their patients, as well as their patients’ rights and dignity. Because patients entrust their family nurse practitioners with their well-being, FNPs must guard their privacy, strive to understand their concerns, and adhere to their wishes.

Attention to detail

Since family nurse practitioners care for a group of patients, rather than just one, being detail-oriented is key to how well they perform their responsibilities. Attention to detail, however, goes far beyond being organized; it includes, for example, taking the time to precisely measure medications and paying close attention to the physical and emotional symptoms of each patient, rather than merely passing quickly through a room.

Other Essential Qualifications for a Family Nurse Practitioner Career

Beyond coursework, there are a few additional steps needed before one begins a career as a family nurse practitioner.

Licensing

FNPs need to be licensed and certified to demonstrate their advanced education and training. In most cases, the board of nursing in the state where a nurse wishes to practice will handle the licensing for family nurse practitioners.

Real-world experience

Clinical placement is an integral part of the family nurse practitioner experience. Once placed in a real-world clinical setting, nurses will gain the invaluable experience of working side by side with medical professionals as they put their theoretical skills into practice.

It’s Not Too Late to Start Your Family Nurse Practitioner Career

If you think it’s too late to begin your journey to becoming a family nurse practitioner or you’re putting it off because you just don’t have the time, you should think again. Through the convenience of online learning, you can complete your coursework on your schedule.

Even if you’ve been in another career for decades, mature and responsible family nurse practitioners are in demand throughout the healthcare industry.

The need for family nurse practitioners is expected to increase substantially for the foreseeable future. In fact, because the nation will be short at least 100,000 family medicine doctors by 2025, job openings for family nurse practitioners are expected to increase by 31 percent.   

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner with Maryville University

Not all programs are equal. That’s why it’s vital to remember that the school students select is important to their future career success. The online family nurse practitioner programs at Maryville University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The flexible and convenient online learning model means that students can streamline their education and complete their coursework on their time.

Sources:

U.S. National Library of Medicine

Medline Plus

ANA Enterprise

National Nursing Centers Consortium

National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties

Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation

The Mayo Clinic