If you are already a nurse or interested in a nursing career, looking to obtain a highly acclaimed nursing position, advance your career, and increase your earning potential, you should consider becoming a family nurse practitioner (FNP).
Family nurse practitioners have increased autonomy, career opportunities, and higher salaries than registered nurses (RNs). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn a median annual salary of $123,780 versus an RN’s median yearly salary of $77,600.
Plus, with a forty percent projected employment growth rate, its no wonder many current and aspiring nurses are seeking to go from being an RN to family nurse practitioner (FNP).
In today’s blog, we’ll cover the steps you can take to become a family nurse practitioner and the benefits of doing so.
What is a Family Nurse Practitioner?
A family nurse practitioner (FNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse with advanced training and education in family practice. They provide primary, preventative, and general medical care to infants, children, adults, and older people.
Individuals in this position are responsible for diagnosing, prescribing, and treating common and acute illnesses, promoting overall wellness, and building relationships with patients of all ages.
While many family nurse practitioners work under the supervision of doctors, some are allowed to work independently, depending on the state in which they work. For example, family nurse practitioners in Connecticut can work independently after three years of working under a doctor.
Six Steps to Going from RN to Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Candidates must follow these six steps to go from an RN and become a family nurse practitioner.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor of Science (BSN) in Nursing Degree
Before applying to a graduate family nurse practitioner program, candidates must have an accredited Bachelor of Science (BSN) in Nursing degree and an RN certification.
While the most standard option is earning a four-year, entry-level Bachelor of Nursing degree, many candidates earn their associate degree in Nursing first, get on-the-job experience, and then complete an RN-to-BSN program. In addition, candidates holding bachelor’s degrees in other fields can enroll in Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.
Upon earning their degree, family nurse practitioner candidates and RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to be fully licensed upon earning their degree. Many programs also want applicants to have at least one to two years of RN experience.
Step 2: Apply to an Accredited Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program
Once you have your bachelor’s degree in nursing and a few years of experience, it’s time to apply to an accredited Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program.
Remember that admission requirements will vary depending on the specific program and university. However, most will require an applicant’s resume, college transcripts, letters of recommendation, and many programs also have GPA requirements.
At Goodwin University, for example, our applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 and submit the following:
- Graduate application
- Professional resume
- Proof of immunizations
- Official transcript verifying receipt of a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing
- Current, unencumbered RN license
- Minimum of two years of direct patient care
- 800-1,000 word personal statement
- Telephone interview with the program director
- Ability to travel significant distances to clinical sites
Step 3: Complete the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Degree
Family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs ensure candidates master holistic healthcare practices and assess treatment needs based on a whole patient-care picture. Students further develop their nursing skills as well as skills in leadership theory, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and the policy and politics of healthcare.
Candidates also gain hands-on practice with six hundred hours of clinical experience to prepare them for the workforce.
These programs can take one to three years, with many schools offering flexible options like fully online classes or hybrid models. At Goodwin University, our students can complete our forty-seven credit program year-round in as few as twenty-seven months.
Many students in family nurse practitioner programs are already working nurses with various responsibilities and commitments. It’s why, outside of orientation, immersion weekend I and II, and clinical practice, our students take classes entirely online to fit their specific lifestyle and schedule.
Step 4: Obtain Family Nurse Practitioner Certification
Like RNs, family nurse practitioners must pass the exam and be certified to practice. And each state will have different requirements, so candidates should research to learn the specific requirements.
Two organizations offer family nurse practitioner certifications:
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC): 175 questions focusing on nursing policy, advanced research, and theory resulting in the FNP-Board Certification (FNP-BC).
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): 150 questions focusing on clinical management, assessment, diagnosis, and patient evaluation resulting in the FNP-Certification (FNP-C)
Eligible examinees must have a current and active RN license, a master’s degree from an accredited family nurse practitioner program, at least five hundred faculty-supervised clinical hours, and graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology.
Step 5: Secure Licensure as a Family Nurse Practitioner
But passing one of the two family nurse practitioner exams does not immediately guarantee licensure.
To acquire and maintain their licensure, candidates may also need to pay for application fees and processes, observe more clinical hours, obtain continuing education credits, and other renewal requirements. All of which depends on the state in which they live.
Step 6: Get a Job as a Family Nurse Practitioner
Now that you’ve earned your degree from a Family Nurse Practitioner program and secured your licensure, it’s time to turn your dream career into a reality.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 30,200 openings each year to 2031, and family nurse practitioners work in a variety of workplaces and settings, including:
- Hospice centers
- Home healthcare
- School clinics
- Community health centers
- Emergency rooms
- Physicians’ offices
Benefits of Going from RN to Family Nurse Practitioner
Whether it’s a purely personal or professional decision, or a combination of both, going from a career as an RN to a family nurse practitioner is filled with many opportunities and benefits.
Family nurse practitioners have:
- Increased autonomy: Candidates can operate and own their clinic depending on the state. They can also diagnose, prescribe medication for treatment, and order testing in all fifty states.
- Increased opportunities to advance in the field: Family nurse practitioners can expand their practice beyond bedside nursing and obtain more specialized and intense training—which, in turn, generates more freedom and flexibility in their career.
- Higher salary and job satisfaction: Family nurse practitioners make a high salary, with the highest ten percent earning a median salary of more than $200,540 annually. And even the lowest ten percent earn $79,870, still more than an RN. This, in addition to the other benefits, leads to many practitioners reporting high levels of job satisfaction.
Are you ready to make the switch from a career as an RN to a family nurse practitioner (FNP)? Our faculty, staff, and support services are ready to help you personally and professionally every step of the way.
Don’t wait to advance your nursing career. Learn more today!