dnp vs. fnp

A DNP Degree vs. An FNP Designation — What’s the Difference?

DNP stands for Doctor of Nursing Practice and is one of the highest healthcare degrees attainable next to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). A DNP degree differs from a Ph.D. in that a Doctor of Nursing Practice emphasizes patient practice while a Ph.D. is more research-focused.

A DNP degree also varies from professional Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) requirements because DNP curriculum is at the doctoral-level and commands more courses and additional hours of clinical training, among other elements.

A Family Nurse Practitioner is a professional nursing title attributed to someone who has:

MSN-FNP programs prepare graduates to take the Family Nurse Practitioner certification, and if successfully completed, graduates are eligible for FNP licensure. Once obtaining FNP licensure, family nurse practitioners must also register with the nursing boards in their designated state.

Nurse practitioners needed present-day

In 2017, the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care reported that one-quarter of all primary care physicians were over sixty years of age and steadily trending toward retirement within the next ten years. Alongside the aging baby boomer population and the expansion of healthcare access through the Affordable Care Act, America’s need for advanced practice registered nurses is reaching all-time highs.

Family Nurse Practitioners and those with DNP degrees are considered subsets of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that nurse practitioner positions will increase 45% from 2020 to 2030, resulting in an estimated 121,400 incremental job openings over the next ten years.

In June 2021, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) further estimated the extreme shortage of primary and specialty care physicians, anticipating the decline of 37,800-124,000 doctors by 2034 — all positions that FNPs and those with their DNP degrees could fill.

Slightly similar subcategories

Despite fundamental differences, graduates having earned their DNP and family nurse practitioners share some similarities. DNP degrees and FNPs require higher education beyond a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and once employed, both entail minimal to no supervision. Alumni with a DNP degree and family nurse practitioners can additionally hold administrative, clinical, and managerial roles. As a result, both educational and professional accolades assist in gaining significant and competitive career advantages.

Roles and responsibilities of DNP professionals

Doctor of Nursing Practice professionals examine healthcare trends to implement large-scale policy and clinical changes. Those who have earned a DNP ensure that evidence-based practice is appropriately applied to patient care. Graduates of DNP programs can also review patient data to develop better overall patient outcomes.

DNP graduates often accept careers in decision-making roles such as advocacy and leadership positions, business management positions, academic titles for universities, researchers for hospitals, or executive directors in the healthcare field.

A preventive medicine physician is a key example of a DNP-eligible role. Preventive medicine physicians who practice population-based medicine have 13,400 projected job openings annually until 2030. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2022, a physician earns a median income of $208,000 per year.

Duties and descriptions of Family Nurse Practitioners

A Family Nurse Practitioner provides advanced and direct healthcare services to patients across the lifespan, from infants to aging adults. A Family Nurse Practitioner is afforded the most occupational flexibility of the APRN specialties, as the field is not limited to specific age groups or medical settings.

FNPs can administer acute, primary, and specialty care throughout the continuum — diagnosing medical issues, developing care plans, and performing procedures. Family nurse practitioners typically have full practice authority and can prescribe most medicines with little management oversight. The FNP category of APRNs also has a unique opportunity to build long-term, lasting relationships with patients and their families over time.

FNPs often diagnose and treat patients in healthcare settings such as community clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient care centers, private practices, and more.

As cited above, nurse practitioner positions are expected to grow by 45% through 2030, and as of May 2020, the average salary for nurse practitioners in the United States was $111,680 per year.

Family Nurse Practitioners are proud providers of compassionate patient care and are emerging leaders of the healthcare industry. FNPs are in-demand and are an occupational option that could be the professional fit you’ve been waiting for. If you’re captivated at the thought of influencing holistic health and are compelled to care for the well-being of others, consider a fulfilling career as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Interested in enlightening patients on the path to better health?
Learn more about becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner today!