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What It Takes to Be a Family Nurse Practitioner

Healthcare careers are always in demand and a family nurse practitioner career is no exception. In fact, employment growth for family nurse practitioners is much higher than average, with a 38% growth rate predicted from 2022 to 2032.

If you're looking for a healthcare career that gives you room to keep growing, it's safe to say that being a family nurse practitioner will fit the bill. However, becoming a family nurse practitioner takes time and you need to understand where to begin.

Don't worry, we have you covered. Read on to learn everything you need to know about becoming a family nurse practitioner and start preparing for your new career.

Family Nurse Practitioner Overview

First things first, it's essential to get a better understanding of what a family nurse practitioner (FNP) is and what they do each day.

An FNP is a registered nurse who becomes an advanced practice nurse from specialized education and clinical training in primary and preventative care for infants to older adults. A family nurse practitioner is much like a family physician and can treat illnesses, prescribe medications, and diagnose medical conditions.

Different laws in each state regulate whether or not FNPs can work independently since some states require that you work under the supervision of a physician.

Family Nurse Practitioner Qualities

Becoming a successful FNP requires you to have specific personality traits and skills that allow you to work with people day in and day out. You'll need different skills like:

  • Empathy
  • Active listener
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Physical and mental endurance
  • Confidence
  • Interest in science and biology

It's essential to sit with yourself and assess your personality and current skills. If you have problems communicating, take the time to gain confidence in that area. You can work on these skills as you continue to work and take courses.

Family Nurse Practitioner Duties

The best thing about being an FNP is that you have a wide range of duties, and your days are never the same. You'll initially focus on three areas that include urgent care, internal medicine, and primary care or family nursing.

You'll be able to work in clinics, emergency rooms, hospital departments, urgent care, and private physician or FNP practices. You can also find jobs at hospice centers, universities, and schools. Your main duties will typically include:

  • Perform physical exams
  • Educate patients on lifestyle changes
  • Order diagnostic and screening tests
  • Maintain health records
  • Treat acute illnesses
  • Manage chronic illnesses

In addition, you can decide to obtain certifications in various subspecialty areas like cardiac, surgical, long-term care, pulmonary, emergency care, and critical care. You'll need at least 2 to 3 years of nursing experience and currently be working as an FNP.

Remember, these specialties are optional, but they offer a wonderful way to explore your interests and further your nursing career.

Family Nurse Practitioner Work Hours

Another key part of becoming a nurse practitioner is understanding the types of hours you're expected to work. Thinking about this early on in the process is ideal since it gives you time to consider your lifestyle in depth.

For the most part, you can expect hours to vary, depending on where you want to work. Obviously, working in a private practice will allow for daytime hours during the week when the practice is open. 

If you work in a school, you'll have to work during typical school hours and, of course, hospitals often have non-traditional hours.

Family Nurse Practitioner Salary

On average, nurse practitioners in the United States make approximately $125,551 annually with less than a year of experience.

Once you have at least five years of experience, you can potentially make over $135,000 per year. In addition, if you go into a subspecialty area, you'll need additional certifications which leads to more income.

How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a family nurse practitioner is a multi-step process, and depends on how much healthcare education you currently have.

These steps include:

Consider Your Path and Find a Nursing Program

Take this time to get a better understanding of the types of programs available and decide where you'd like to begin. You can find flexible online programs that allow you to work and take classes. 

You can get a diploma and take an exam to practice as a licensed practical nurse. This allows you to take an exam and start gaining experience. LPN programs typically last a year and you can continue schooling to become an RN.

Associate degree nursing programs (ADN) are two years in length, and you'll be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN). Getting a BSN typically requires four years of study, and you can move on to the next part of your education easily.

Remember that if you get an associate degree and start practicing as an RN, you'll usually need to advance your degree further and obtain a BSN. The best part about this is you can find many programs that offer various options to help you, like RN to BSN programs.

Starting with an ADN means it will take another 1 to 2 years of school, but you'll be able to gain plenty of work experience and take a few courses at a time toward your BSN degree.

Overall, remember that you'll typically need a BSN degree to move on to the next steps of your FNP education, but you can choose your path.

Take the NCLEX Exam

Once you complete your RN program, you'll need to prepare to take the NCLEX exam. This pass-or-fail, computer-adaptive exam has 85 to 150 questions. It starts with easier questions and becomes more difficult the more you answer correctly.

If you don't pass the exam the first time, you'll have opportunities to take it again. Most nursing programs will offer a course to prepare you, but it's wise to sign up for a review course. Review courses are an essential part of exam preparation and give you resources like a study plan and NCLEX practice questions. 

You'll be able to take practice tests and get insights into your results to help you improve your performance the next time. You'll also be able to take readiness assessments and track your progress up until you take the exam.

Get Work Experience

Once you pass your exam, it's a good idea to begin looking for nursing jobs as soon as possible. In general, most RN to NP programs require at least two years of experience as a registered nurse. 

As a nursing student, you'll get clinical experience in various hospital and long-term care settings, which will give you an idea of the area you'd like to work in. You may even receive a job offer when you're in school. This allows people to work in other healthcare roles while studying for the exam.

Otherwise, you can look for nursing jobs at your local hospitals, doctor's offices, urgent care clinics, schools, etc. If you have a specific area of interest like cardiology, try looking for entry-level jobs in those areas to get your foot in the door.

Get Your Master of Science in Nursing

Since FNPs are classified as advanced practiced registered nurses (APRNs), they need education to obtain advanced clinical skills and knowledge to diagnose and manage patients properly.

The easiest way to do this is to look for RN to MSN degree programs. You'll find many quality online programs that allow you to go from BSN to MSN. If you have an associate degree, you can also find programs that allow you to go straight to a master's degree program.

You may also see direct entry MSN programs for people with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. This type of program is a great way to fast-track your degree if you haven't been working in nursing.

Take the FNP Exam

There are two certification exams, AANP and ANCC. AANP has 150 multiple-choice questions, and ANCC has 175 mixed-format questions, although the vast majority of them are multiple-choice.

Prepping for the FNP exam is similar to prepping for the NCLEX, so you'll need to ensure you set aside time to practice.

The FNP exam utilizes a pass-or-fail scoring system, and like the NCLEX, you'll need to prepare for it by taking a review course and working on practice exams.

Once you pass your exam and obtain your license, you'll be able to start practicing as an FNP.

Start Your Family Nurse Practitioner Career Journey Today

As you can see, becoming a family nurse practitioner takes patience and time, but the end result is well worth it.

Whether you're just starting to look at nursing programs or starting your degree, having access to the right educational materials can benefit you.

Archer Review is a quality independent resource you can turn to for informational and educational materials. We're here to guide you on your healthcare journey and ensure you achieve your goals.

Don't hesitate to explore our resources today to get a better idea of how to prepare for your AANP/ANCC exam!