The Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed graduate-level education and training in various healthcare settings. The nurse practitioner completes a master’s degree program, which includes coursework and clinical hours.

The role of an FNP is to provide quality medical care for patients of all ages. FNPs work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practices. They are RNs with advanced training in primary healthcare. Like all health professionals, they must undergo an extensive qualification process and ongoing training throughout their careers.

The role of the FNP differs slightly from that of a doctor or general practitioner (GP). While both professions offer similar services, including prescribing medication and diagnosing illnesses, there are some critical differences between them.

What can an FNP do?

The FNP collaborates with other healthcare professionals to provide primary care services for patients. The role of an FNP is to provide healthcare for patients of all ages with non-emergency illnesses or injuries. This includes routine physical exams, immunizations, treatment of minor injuries and illnesses, screenings for common conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, chronic disease management, and coordination of care between medical specialists and other health professionals if needed.

NPs may also be called advanced practice nurses (APNs), RNs with specialty certification, or physician assistants. They work under a doctor’s supervision, but can diagnose illness and prescribe medications independently of doctors in most states.

Their general duties include the following.

Physical examinations

A family NP performs physical examinations on patients at every visit for routine checkups or when something seems amiss with their health condition. They also take vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate, and weight during these visits. They also listen to heart sounds through stethoscopes and check lung sounds while taking the patient’s pulse on both sides of their chest with hands placed over each lung separately.

Physical exams may also include checking lymph nodes in the neck region for any abnormalities such as swelling or tenderness before starting any treatment. In addition to physical examinations, they also perform neurological assessments on their patients to check if they have any neurological problems that could be affecting their mobility or coordination skills.

The other kinds of exams that family NPs perform are dental examinations and vision checks on their patients before starting any treatment plan. They also conduct reproductive health exams on women who are planning to get pregnant or are already pregnant to detect any issues during pregnancy early enough that corrective steps can be taken immediately.

Ordering diagnostic tests

FNPs may order diagnostic tests such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, or ultrasound images to help identify a patient’s condition or disease process. They may also order laboratory studies such as a complete blood count (CBC), liver function panel, or electrolyte analysis through a blood sample.

Making diagnoses

An FNP can make diagnoses based on their education and experience. They may be able to diagnose common illnesses such as strep throat or bronchitis. Still, people who have severe symptoms or a rare condition should see their primary care physician first before visiting an FNP. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners recommends that people schedule appointments with an FNP if they have chronic diseases that require ongoing treatment, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Laboratory tests

FNPs may perform laboratory tests to detect diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. The results of these tests help them assess whether your medical condition needs further treatment or not. These tests include urine analysis, blood sugar test, and electrocardiogram (ECG).


An FNP will provide immunizations for you if your pediatrician cannot do so during office hours or if they are away on vacation. An FNP can also administer vaccines generally not covered by insurance companies but are very important to your health. These include hepatitis B shots and pneumonia immunizations, among others.


Families may be screened for diseases such as obesity or cancer using various methods such as patient interviews or physical examinations by the FNP. Screening helps identify patients with certain illnesses early so that they can receive appropriate treatment without delay.

Developing care plans

FNPs develop individualized treatment plans based on a patient’s needs and goals. They may work with patients to create plans that address symptoms or illnesses, monitor their progress, and make adjustments as necessary.

An FNP can also provide treatment for minor injuries at home or in an urgent care center without having to refer the patient to another provider for treatment, such as an emergency room doctor or surgeon. This includes treating cuts, burns, allergic reactions, and other minor medical issues.

Managing chronic diseases

FNPs are trained to manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure, so they can prescribe medications accordingly when necessary and make recommendations regarding lifestyle changes that may help improve symptoms associated with these conditions.

Prescribing medication

An FNP may prescribe medications for common ailments such as allergies, high blood pressure, and diabetes. However, they will not prescribe narcotics or other potent drugs unless they have received additional training in pharmacology and pain management techniques.

The ability to prescribe varies from state to state. In some states, NPs are allowed to prescribe medications without the supervision of a physician or another healthcare professional if they meet certain criteria set by law.

Counseling patients

FNPs often counsel patients on managing certain health conditions to avoid future complications or preventative measures that could help prevent the reoccurrence of specific illnesses or conditions.

Consulting with other healthcare professionals

An FNP works closely with the patient’s primary physician and other medical professionals to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care. The FNP may consult with other doctors and nurses about problems that arise during treatment, or may confer with them before making decisions about treatment plans.

Work settings for FNPs

FNPs practice independently and can be found in several different settings, including the following.

Family medical clinics

FNPs work directly with patients to identify health problems. They may also coordinate care with other providers such as physicians or physical therapists.

Hospital clinics

FNPs provide direct patient care at hospitals and other institutions. In some cases, they may see patients discharged from the hospital after surgery or an acute illness but still have ongoing needs for treatment or monitoring.

Private practice

FNPs can choose to work in private practice, where they can set their own hours and establish their pay rates. Private practice settings allow them to develop relationships with patients over time to manage chronic conditions and ongoing illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. The long-term nature of these relationships enables FNPs to develop skills in communicating with their patients about their health concerns and needs.

Schools and universities

FNPs often work in schools offering students and faculty members health services. They also work at colleges and universities, researching health issues affecting students.

They may teach students about proper nutrition and exercise or lead classes on health topics such as smoking cessation. FNPs can also assist teachers and administrators with addressing schoolwide issues such as bullying and violence among students. Additionally, FNPs may provide individual counseling services for students struggling academically or behaviorally.

Assisted living facilities

Assisted living facilities provide medical and social services for older adults who can live independently but need help with daily activities, such as cooking and cleaning. FNPs working in assisted living facilities typically conduct routine checkups and order lab tests for residents. They often teach residents how to manage their health conditions at home.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes are a type of long-term care facility that provides medical and hospice care to elderly patients who need assistance with daily activities, such as dressing and bathing. FNPs working in nursing homes may perform routine checkups, administer medications, and order lab tests for patients. They may also teach family members how to administer care at home safely.

Other long-term care facilities

FNPs may provide care for residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other long-term care facilities. They may also provide services to homebound patients who cannot visit a doctor’s office regularly. In this role, the FNP may need additional training to become certified as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). This certification allows the FNP to provide primary medical care and administer medications.

Public healthcare centers

Some family nurse practitioners choose to provide care through public healthcare centers that offer services at low or no cost. They may take on an official role as part of a larger clinic or make themselves available on an ad hoc basis when needed by patients who need extra help getting access to affordable healthcare services.

FNP scope of practice

The scope of practice for FNPs varies by state. In some states, FNPs may practice independently. In others, they practice only under the supervision of a physician.

Full practice authority

Although many FNPs practice independently in a variety of settings today, most states require them to work under the supervision of an MD or DO until they meet full practice authority requirements set out by law. Full practice authority means that FNPs can practice without physician supervision in all aspects of their profession except surgery or procedures requiring general anesthesia or sedation.

Reduced practice authority

Some states allow FNPs full practice authority, while others restrict them to certain areas such as women’s health or geriatrics. In some states, FNPs must work under the general management of an MD or DO in addition to having a written agreement in place that outlines what the FNP is allowed to do without the doctor’s approval. The MD or DO doesn’t have to be on-site with the FNP but often has to approve treatments and prescriptions.

Restricted practice authority

FNPs have a limited scope of practice in some states. In these states, FNPs can’t prescribe medications or perform procedures outside their specialty area without a doctor’s supervision.

How FNP roles differ from doctor roles

A doctor is a health professional who has completed medical school, passed the USMLE (US Medical Licensing Examination), and is licensed to practice medicine. Doctors are usually required to complete residency training after medical school, which is typically three to five years long.

To become an FNP, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). You must then complete a master’s degree in nursing or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) program approved by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). The length of these programs varies from two to four years, depending on whether it is a traditional or an accelerated online MSN FNP program – students who take on Rockhurst’s course will graduate in 2 to 2.7 years.

Doctor roles vs FNP roles

The role of a doctor is different from the role of an FNP. FNPs are trained to provide basic healthcare and may treat patients with common illnesses, such as colds and cases of flu. They also perform routine physical exams and immunizations. An FNP’s main goal is to provide preventive care and primary care services for families across all ages, genders, and stages of life.

In contrast, doctors are trained to diagnose illnesses and treat patients with severe conditions such as cancer, heart disease, or mental illness. They can prescribe medications and perform surgeries when necessary. Doctors often specialize in a specific area of medicine, such as cardiology or internal medicine.

The scope of practice for each profession varies by state. However, most states allow doctors to prescribe medication without supervision by another physician. In some cases, doctors are required to collaborate with an FNP or other healthcare professional before issuing prescriptions for certain drugs.

Doctors can also refer patients to specialists who will provide additional care if necessary. FNPs cannot make referrals unless they have the approval of their supervising physician.

Doctors are responsible for deciding whether treatment should be provided based on their best judgment.

Do doctors and FNPs work together?

Yes! FNPs work with doctors daily. FNPs are often the first point of contact for patients. They will meet patients and their families, assess them, and then determine what other specialists need to be involved in their care. This could include a referral or recommendation to a primary physician or an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, or other specialist.

Doctors and FNPs work together to provide the best care possible for patients. Many doctors are now referring their patients to FNPs for primary care needs because they recognize that FNPs are more efficient and effective at treating some health issues than they are.

FNPs also have a more comprehensive understanding of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, which allows them to manage these conditions more effectively than many physicians without additional training in specialty care. The result is that FNPs can reduce costs for patients and insurance companies by providing better treatment at lower prices with fewer complications or relapses.

However, all this does not mean that an FNP should be viewed as a substitute for a doctor – they are both essential parts of a team approach to solving health problems.

What does the future hold for FNPs?

The future of FNPs is bright. There is an increasing need for FNP services as populations age, healthcare costs continue to rise, and primary care providers become increasingly overworked or leave their practices altogether.

As an FNP, you’ll have numerous opportunities to practice medicine. You’ll have the education and training to diagnose and treat chronic conditions, acute illnesses, and complex medical problems. You can also diagnose and manage complex social issues within your community.

What experience and education are required for an FNP?

The journey to becoming an FNP is both rigorous and rewarding. Nurse practitioners must complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another relevant field and attend a graduate-level program that includes research, clinical experience, and other requirements. After completing the program, they must pass state exams before working as full-fledged professionals. In addition to their education credentials, FNPs should have at least one year of clinical experience under their belt before starting their practices or joining existing teams of medical providers.

Final thoughts

FNPs are often the first point of contact for many people. They may be able to offer advice and support, but they may also refer patients to other specialists if needed. They’re valuable to any healthcare team because they can deal with many common conditions without requiring expensive tests or referrals.

An FNP provides long-term care for patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. In contrast, a doctor usually only provides short-term treatment for these conditions.

FNPs usually see their patients on an ongoing basis rather than just once every few months, as doctors do. This means that they have more time to discuss a patient’s needs and come up with solutions.