The difference between a nurse and a family nurse practitioner


With the growing demand for healthcare professionals, nurse practitioners (NPs) have gained increasing popularity in recent years. A nurse and a family nurse practitioner (FNP) are both medical professionals, but the two jobs play different roles in the medical field.

Although some people have the skills to do both, most are trained to be one specific type of nurse. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between these two healthcare professionals and their job responsibilities.

Professional degrees

To become a family nurse practitioner, you need to obtain a master’s degree in nursing and pass an exam administered by your state’s board of nursing. To become a registered nurse (RN), however, all you need is an associate degree or a diploma from an accredited school.

RNs are licensed to provide health care under the direction of physicians or NPs, while FNPs can independently diagnose and treat patients with common ailments. An RN has less training than an FNP, but both are qualified to practice medicine within their scope.

To specialize as a family nurse practitioner, you need at least an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree and possibly even more advanced training to qualify for certification. You can enroll in one of the University of Indianapolis MSN programs offered online to work toward this goal.

This program will prepare you to provide primary care to children, adolescents, adults, and families through various settings. It will also equip you with the skills and insight needed to assume leadership roles in medical settings, such as hospitals and clinics.

Practice settings

Family nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide primary care to patients of all ages. They work in various practice settings, including private practices, clinics, community health centers, school-based health centers and other settings.

Although they are nurses, their scope of practice is broader than that of registered nurses and nurse anesthetists. This means they can diagnose patients, order tests and prescribe medications without consulting a physician first.

In some states, nurse practitioners have prescriptive authority (the ability to write prescriptions), but not all do. Some also offer counseling services to help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

On the other hand, registered nurses typically focus on providing direct patient care while under a doctor’s supervision. They usually work in hospitals or doctors’ offices and specialize in specific areas, such as pediatrics, emergency medicine or surgery.

In addition to delivering direct patient care, RNs often supervise LPNs and CNAs, provide reports to physicians and participate in staff meetings.

5 steps to becoming a family nurse practitioner

Family nurse practitioners focus on the family and can provide primary care to patients of all ages, helping them with chronic illnesses and treating acute conditions.

If you are interested in becoming an FNP, keep these five steps in mind as you learn more about this exciting new career.

Complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing

The first step to becoming a family nurse practitioner is getting your bachelor’s degree in nursing. Bachelor’s degrees typically take four years of full-time study to complete, but you may be able to earn yours in less time if you attend school online.

Become a registered nurse

After completing your bachelor’s degree in the nursing program, you’ll need to become licensed as an RN. The requirements vary by state, but most require at least one year of full-time work experience and passing scores on a national licensing exam.

Work as a nurse

The next step in your journey toward becoming a family nurse practitioner is finding employment as an RN. There are many nursing jobs available, but you’ll want to look for one that puts you in contact with as many different types of patients as possible.

Obtain a master’s degree

After working as an RN for several years, you’ll be ready to advance your career. A master’s degree in nursing will allow you to work with more autonomy and authority.

Become certified

Upon completing the master’s program, you will be eligible for certification as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board.

Wrapping up

Patients need high-quality healthcare from experienced professionals. For example, family nurse practitioners are ideal for individuals with chronic illnesses or acute injuries. They are also great at providing preventive care, which can help patients avoid future issues. Nurses and nurse practitioners are essential members of any healthcare team.

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