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What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners play an important role, providing healthcare to many people who would otherwise receive none. In 2012, according to a national survey, there were an estimated 154,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the United States. Of these, about 127,000 were providing patient care, and about half of these are family nurse practitioners working in primary care practices or facilities.

A family nurse practitioner is a specialized nurse trained to provide comprehensive and continual healthcare for adults and children within the community. Nurse practitioners, at minimum, must hold a master's degree.

What do nurse practitioners do?

Much like a family doctor, a family nurse practitioner who works in a primary care setting will deliver comprehensive care to patients over their life spans. Their duties can include the following:

  • Obtaining histories and conducting physical and/or psychological examinations
  • Diagnosing, evaluating and managing treatment of both minor acute and chronic illnesses of adults and children
  • Performing and ordering diagnostic tests such as EKGs, X-rays and lab work
  • Requesting or referring to allied health professionals such as occupational therapist or physical therapists for rehabilitation
  • Prescribing medications for minor acute and chronic illnesses
  • Performing pediatric health screenings, well-child checks and immunizations
  • Performing health maintenance for adults within primary care or specialty settings
  • Assisting with or performing minor surgical procedures
  • Teaching preventive health that includes behavior and lifestyle modifications
  • Teaching self-care skills or information that helps patients and families choose treatment options
  • Providing counseling in coordination with other therapists and healthcare providers

How to become a family nurse practitioner

Family nurse practitioners must complete an accredited master's degree program. The program should include training in evidence-based primary care practice, which should be specific to the health needs of patients and families at each stage of life. The program also should offer courses in research, advanced pharmacology, advanced health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, diagnosis and clinical management.

The master's degree program should include clinical experiences in your local area that prepare you to assume the responsibilities of an advanced practice primary care nurse.

An online family nurse practitioner program can be an ideal way for nurses who are employed part time to complete a master's degree. Online course schedules are flexible and time-efficient, which helps students manage family, work and community obligations.

The opportunities have never been greater for nurses who want to complete an online family nurse practitioner program and become an important part of a healthcare team that delivers high quality care to a growing number of patients.

Learn about the UT Arlington MSN – FNP online program.


Ann Steele. "Role & scope of practice of a family nurse practitioner."

Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. "Highlights From the 2012 national sample survey of nurse practitioners."

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