What Is A Family Nurse Practitioner, And How Do You Become One?


Nursing is a broad field with different types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). One of the possible career paths is becoming a family nurse practitioner. But what does a family nurse practitioner do, and how do you become one? This article goes into the details of becoming a family nurse practitioner and the typical responsibilities that come with the job.

Understanding the duties of a family nurse practitioner

Understanding the duties of a family nurse practitioner is key in determining if, as an individual, the functions would be aligned with your personal values and lines of interest in a nursing career. The duties or roles of a family nurse practitioner are diverse, but are centered on the nurse taking care of the family as a unit and family members as individual clients. The family nurse practitioner may work autonomously or collaborate with family doctors, physicians, pharmacists and social workers to care for the families. Let’s take a closer look at these responsibilities.

Providing preventive healthcare

Various preventive healthcare services are offered to the family, including prophylaxis, counseling, diet modification, lifestyle changes to prevent the development of lifestyle diseases, and screening for various diseases. The family nurse practitioner offers preventive care to all family members depending on their age, as some disorders are unique to age and may be different.


Family nurse practitioners need to have thorough assessment skills. Assessments vary, especially in extremes of age. However, the common assessment techniques include inspection, auscultation, palpation and percussion. Assessment, especially in newborns and babies, may consist of examining reflexes.


Family nurse practitioners have a thorough knowledge of practice as it involves diagnosis. The diagnosis may often be from presenting symptoms and signs but must be confirmed by laboratory tests. Therefore, a family nurse practitioner must accurately diagnose family members as this will determine how they are given initial management before they meet the physicians or doctors.


Family nurse practitioners need to be knowledgeable about treatment options. Treatment can either employ pharmacological or non-pharmacological modes of treatment. The treatment should always follow the right drug administration rules, including the right patient, the right drug, the right route, the right dosage and the right time. If the treatment does not work, the family nurse practitioner can escalate by referring the family to the doctor or physician.

A family nurse practitioner also plays a nurse’s general roles, including educator, counselor, advocate and caregiver. They work as educators by teaching the family members about different health topics and answering their concerns. They also act as counselors when they advise family members on matters they openly share with them. Family nurse practitioners serve as advocates when they present the client’s best interests to the healthcare team and the healthcare insurers.

Family nurse practitioners also act as caregivers because they can deliver good care to family members when sick. This is regardless of their age differences. They can offer care to the pediatric population, adolescents, adults or geriatric patients in the family. It is therefore important that before you decide to become a family nurse practitioner, you understand their roles and duties to the family members.

Become a registered nurse

Becoming a registered nurse is an important step in the nursing career. After completing the registered nurse program, you can choose your areas of advanced nursing practice and enroll to study. To become a registered nurse, it is necessary to take an accredited nursing program, which may include an associate nursing degree, a diploma in nursing, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. At the end of the course, you have to take a licensing board examination and earn a license for practice. During the study, the clinical nursing requirements and nursing school work requirements should be met.

Once the coursework is completed, you must apply for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and prepare adequately for it. The exam usually tests knowledge of different aspects of nursing. The exam helps the states to verify that candidates have completed the nursing curriculum and are competent to practice nursing and care for a patient. The questions are structured differently to test the cognitive skills of the student taking the exam. Passing the examination proves that you can think critically and handle a patient well.

After taking the NCLEX exam and confirming that you have passed the results, you can practice as a nurse. Some people may practice as a general nurse or advance their nursing career into another specialized nursing career, such as a family nurse practitioner.

Enroll in a family nurse practitioner program

Like any other advanced nursing practice, the family nursing practice also has a curriculum that has to be followed. To become a family nurse practitioner, you must enroll in a certified school offering an advanced family nurse practitioner program. The curriculum is designed to equip you with the necessary skills to help you take care of families as separate units of care and the individual family members as distinct clients. During the training, students acquire the skills required to manage families. These skills include communication, assessment, diagnostic, counseling, problem-solving, advocacy and advanced nursing skills.

The theoretical work of the family nurse practitioner program has an essential aspect of learning and reviewing the coursework on nursing in extremes of age such as pediatrics, adult health and geriatric nursing. With adequate knowledge of the different health issues, family nurse practitioners can handle all family members regardless of their age difference.

Complete clinical placements and graduate

There are internship programs that the students must take before graduation. For nursing school, the internships are called clinical placements. Nursing students are generally expected to learn clinical nursing skills during clinical placements. During the family nurse practitioner clinical placement, the nurses are expected to bridge the knowledge they learn in the theoretical work to the clinical setup.

As family nurse practitioners work with families as units, they must also identify a family they can work with during the clinical placement. When the students identify and work with the family during clinical placement, they usually have preceptors. The preceptors guide the student nurses and show them how to work with the families. During the clinical placement, they are also expected to meet individual clients and work on improving their health. The preceptor and the nurse also have time to go through any challenges that the nurse may have met and any approach to solving them.

Like any other clinical placement, the family practice nursing clinical placement also has a checklist. At the end of the clinical placement, the nurse and the preceptor go through the checklist to ensure that everything on the list has been checked and that the nurse has earned the required skills and has been able to apply the theoretical knowledge to clinical practice.

After completing the theoretical and clinical placement semesters, the next step is to graduate. However, there is more in store before you can be called a family nurse practitioner – the journey to becoming one does not end at graduation.

Take a certification exam

In nursing studies, it is necessary to take the final qualifying examination for certification and licensing, such as an ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) or AANP (American Association of Nurse Practitioners), after taking the advanced nurse practitioner training. Spring Arbor University is one of the higher learning institutions accredited to offer advanced nurse practitioner courses. The university equips people with the skills and knowledge required to become a family nurse practitioner, and at the end of the course, it also helps you to choose which certification examination is right for you by giving you information on both the AANP and ANCC.

Let’s compare AANP vs ANCC. While the AANP offers three different nurse practitioner certifications, the ANCC offers five nurse practitioner certification examinations. Both examinations offer family nurse practitioner examinations. You can enroll for online coursework and in-person residency to prepare for the licensure exam and grow your nursing career.

After completing the family nurse practitioner clinical placement, theoretical work and graduation, it is necessary to take either the ANCC exam or the AANP exam. Both exams offer certification for family nurse practitioners.

The AANP exam consists of 150 questions, out of which 135 are scored, and 15 are pre-test questions with a time limit of three hours. On the other hand, the ANCC exam consists of 175 questions, out of which 150 questions are scored, and 25 are pre-test questions with a time limit of three and a half hours.

The AANP exam contains only straightforward multiple-choice questions. In contrast, the ANCC exam contains multiple-choice questions and a few types of questions such as drag-and-drop, multiple-answer questions and ‘hot spot’ items. As both examinations accredit family nurse practitioners, the ultimate choice to take either exam is made by an individual. Everyone should consider the advantages and disadvantages of both exams and then register and prepare to take the one that suits them.

Obtain a license from the state

Licensure after passing the certification examination is handled by the state in which an individual wishes to practice. Each state gives a license to the nurse who desires to practice within its boundaries. The boards of nursing in the different states are responsible for issuing licenses. Considering the role of the board of nursing and the importance of licensure, family nurse practitioners should ensure that they are licensed before they begin their practice. It is illegal for a family nurse practitioner to start their practice without earning their license. To avoid legal cases against them, they should get their license and ensure that it is valid before and during their practice. A valid practicing license also helps clients trust a family nurse practitioner. Everyone wants to feel safe being handled by a professional, not a quack practitioner, right?

Obtain National Provider Identifier (NPI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) numbers

The NPI number is an identifying number that helps differentiate you from other providers in the country. It is a unique number and does not change. It is permanent to the individual who acquires it. The DEA number is a requirement to prescribe any scheduled drugs. Therefore, family nurse practitioners need to get the number before they can prescribe to any family member or any family as a client. The number is a requirement as the family nurse practitioner sees different patients of various ages.

Start a career as a family nurse practitioner

After the long but fulfilling process of becoming a family nurse practitioner, taking a certification exam and earning a license, it is finally time to start practicing as a family nurse practitioner. Becoming a family nurse practitioner can be a life-changing experience for an individual and the families they interact with.

Family nurse practitioners can practice autonomously or collaborate with other healthcare workers such as pharmacists, medical assistants and physicians. It is necessary to understand the diversity of both aspects before choosing how to practice. Family nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings, such as a primary care office or urgent care, and in several areas, including pediatrics, women’s health and dermatology. Family nurse practitioners who work in specialties consult and see short-term patient cases.

Although there may be some minor differences in the fundamental responsibilities, the overall tasks still include keeping up-to-date patient records, performing physical examinations, ordering or performing diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, creating treatment plans, and attending to both acute and chronic illnesses or injuries.

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