the difference between a Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) vs. Nurse Practitioner (NP): What’s the Difference?

If you are looking to advance your nursing career, you likely know there are a few different paths you can take to advance your education. It can sometimes be overwhelming to know which path is right for you, when determining the specific area of healthcare you want to focus in. Two common careers for nurses interested in care across the age spectrum, are Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Although these are similar in the level of care that they provide, these roles are very different when it comes to certain duties and the populations they care for. Here are some of the key differences between FNP vs. NP careers.

FNP vs. NP: Roles and Responsibilities  In order to fully understand the differences between an FNP vs. NP, we must first look at the roles themselves and the responsibilities involved. NPs are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who focus their care in a particular specialization within the medical field. Some of these specializations include pediatrics, women’s health, oncology, and adult-gerontology. NPs usually work with a specific age group and or a population with a specific type of health condition, such as cancer patients. NPs are responsible for diagnosing patients, treating and preventing conditions, and educating patients on healthy living habits. They work in a variety of healthcare environments such as hospitals, doctors offices, outpatient facilities, urgent care clinics and nursing homes.

Similarly, FNPs are also Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. However, when comparing an FNP vs NP, the main difference is that FNP nurses care for patients – individuals and families – across all age groups, from infants to the elderly population. FNPs are typically the primary care provider for these patients and unlike NPs, they do not specialize within a specific patient population. FNPs diagnose, treat, and help prevent common and acute illnesses and diseases. While FNPs can treat a broad range of illnesses and conditions, they often will refer patients to a specialist, depending on the complexity and seriousness of the condition. FNPs work in similar types of healthcare environments as NPs, including hospitals and physicians’ offices.

FNP vs. NP: Education Requirements Now that you understand some of the similarities and differences between these two careers, let’s look at the steps involved in becoming either an FNP or NP. In terms of the education, there are some similarities and differences. Both careers require a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), as well as a Master’s degree in Nursing (MSN). However, the type of master’s degree is where it can differ between an FNP and NP. Those interested in an FNP career should apply to a master’s level FNP program. Aspiring NPs will need to complete a master’s degree in nursing, with a specialization in their dedicated path. Some NPs require further graduate education, depending on the specialization. 

With both FNP and NP programs, there is also a clinical aspect where students obtain practical experience working in the environments where they may work in the future. For future NPs, if there is a specific focus area you want to practice in, you should pursue your clinical there. For example, aspiring Women’s Health practitioners may choose to do clinical hours at an OB/GYN office. FNPs, however, may choose to do their clinicals in variety of different practice areas, so that they have the opportunity to work with patients across all age groups and with all different health backgrounds.

FNP vs. NP: Certifications Certification is a big, if not the most important, aspect for both of these nursing roles. FNPs and NPs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Family Nurse Practitioners will also need to pass national FNP certification. There are different options for licensure, however the two most common are the FNP-BC primary care certification provided by The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and a national certificate in family practice, offered by The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

Nurse Practitioners need to earn national certification as a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), earn APRN State Licensure as a Certified Nurse Practitioner, and any other specific certification that their specialization requires.  While both FNP and NP positions do have their differences, they are both excellent career paths for nurses looking to advance in their field. If you are interested in becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, and treating patients from infancy to elderly, Goodwin University can help.   Contact us at 800-889-3282 to learn more about these career paths and our Family Nurse Practitioner MSN program, offered entirely online for nurses with a BSN degree.