What Does a Family Nurse Practitioner Do?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are a fast-growing sector of primary healthcare providers. You may be wondering if becoming a family nurse practitioner is a good career choice, one that allows you to combine your nursing background and values with medical training, granting you greater autonomy in caring for your patients. Let’s take a look at what family nurse practitioners do and what makes them a valuable asset to the healthcare system.

The Role of a Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners have a unique view of healthcare. As nurses, they are trained in advocacy and nursing care that encompasses the patient’s health needs, psychosocial needs, and spiritual needs. The duties of a family nurse practitioner do not revolve around just one type of patient, one symptom or condition, or one age bracket. Family nurse practitioners deliver a wide range of healthcare services to patients of all ages and socioeconomic classes.

The Growing Demand for FNPs

The future for family nurse practitioners is looking bright. As the U.S. faces a shortage of primary care physicians—between 17,800 and 48,000 by the year 2034 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges—the number of graduate-level providers is growing and will likely double by 2036. Family nurse practitioners are in a position to positively impact the future of primary healthcare services.

Core Responsibilities of a Family Nurse Practitioner

So, what does a family nurse practitioner do? At the heart of a family nurse practitioner’s mission is the desire to provide patient-centered care. As a nurse, you know that your duties are based on the nursing scope of practice. Likewise, the family nurse practitioner job responsibilities must align with the nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.

The scope of practice for nurse practitioners includes:

  • Assessment: Conducting comprehensive physical exams and health assessments.
  • Ordering, performing, and interpreting tests: Utilizing diagnostic tests to inform patient care.
  • Diagnosing, treating, and managing acute and chronic conditions: Including prescribing medication.
  • Counseling and education: Providing patients with information about their health and treatment plans.
  • Care coordination: Ensuring seamless transitions and continuity of care among different healthcare providers.

A family nurse practitioner job description might include the following tasks:

  • Completing physicals for all ages.
  • Diagnosing, treating, and managing acute and chronic conditions.
  • Performing procedures.
  • Prescribing medications.
  • Displaying excellent communication skills.
  • Providing health counseling.
  • Keeping accurate patient records.

Autonomy in Practice

Some states allow family nurse practitioners to set up their own practices without oversight by a physician. This is especially helpful in rural areas where there may be a shortage of primary care physicians. This autonomy allows FNPs to provide crucial healthcare services to underserved populations, improving access to care.

Diverse Roles Beyond Direct Patient Care

Family nurse practitioners are not limited to providing medical care. While most FNPs work as family care providers, some may also perform research, serve as consultants, or teach future nurse practitioners. This versatility opens up a wide range of career opportunities and allows FNPs to contribute to the healthcare field in various ways.

Work Environments for Family Nurse Practitioners

The family nurse practitioner job description and responsibilities vary depending on where they work and the needs of the patients.

Family nurse practitioners practice in various locations, including:

  • Primary care practices
  • Family care practices
  • Urgent care centers
  • Hospitals
  • Specialty clinics
  • Emergency departments
  • Nursing homes
  • Prisons
  • Educational institutions
  • Public health departments
  • Drug store clinics
  • Community health centers


Family nurse practitioners play a critical role in the healthcare system, providing comprehensive and patient-centered care across various settings. Their ability to manage a wide range of health conditions, coupled with their nursing background, makes them invaluable assets to the medical community.

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