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The Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Family Nurse Practitioner




The healthcare field contains various roles and specializations contributing to quality patient care. Two roles often confused are nurse practitioner (NP) and family nurse practitioner (FNP).

While both professions share similarities, there are distinct differences that set them apart.

Understanding these differences is crucial for individuals aspiring to enter the nursing profession or those seeking to clarify the responsibilities and scope of practice within these roles. In this article, we break down the differences between the two and highlight what makes each specialization different.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) play a crucial role in integrating patient care coordination with the provision of primary and specialty healthcare services. They go beyond the responsibilities of registered nurses by engaging in activities such as diagnosing health issues, analyzing and modifying patient treatment plans, and prescribing medications. NPs are also involved in conducting research on various aspects of healthcare delivery, including exploring new medical procedures and staying updated with evolving policies. The specific scope of their duties can vary depending on the state in which they practice.

Similar to RNs, nurse practitioners have the option to specialize in their care delivery. They collaborate with physicians and other healthcare professionals to coordinate care within specific patient demographics, such as pediatrics, women’s health, or older adult patients. In certain states, nurse practitioners may also practice independently without direct physician supervision.

The extent of their autonomy is determined by state regulations, particularly whether the state grants them full practice authority or full prescriptive authority.

The ability of nurse practitioners to specialize and their potential for greater autonomy in certain states underscores their importance in expanding access to quality healthcare.

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?

A family nurse practitioner is a specialized nurse practitioner dedicated to providing comprehensive patient-centered care to patients of all ages and their families. As the primary healthcare provider, a family nurse assumes responsibility for the well-being of individuals throughout their entire lifespan. Nurse practitioners, in general, are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who often focus on specific age groups or populations with specific health conditions, such as cancer.


The family nurse profession is great for those who have a passion for working with diverse individuals and desire greater autonomy in their professional roles. As a family nurse, you have the opportunity to make a significant impact by delivering holistic care to patients across different backgrounds and age groups. The role offers increased independence and responsibility in healthcare, providing you with a fulfilling and rewarding career path.

Differences Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Family Nurse Practitioner

It is common to need clarification between the roles of a family nurse practitioner and a nurse practitioner, as they share similar responsibilities. However, there are distinct differences between the two. Here are some of the key contrasting elements between the two roles:

Scope and Work Setting

Nurse practitioners typically provide primary and specialty patient care, a role that may require them to alter treatment strategies based on a patient’s condition. Also, they can go on to research new care methodologies and teach staff about new care policies and procedures.

On the other hand, family nurse practitioners offer a comprehensive range of healthcare services focusing on family-oriented care. You get trained to provide medical attention to patients of all ages, from infants and children to adults and seniors. While you often undertake responsibilities similar to those of physicians, it is important to note that in certain states, you may be required to work under the supervision of a physician.


As a nurse practitioner, your chosen specialty plays a pivotal role in determining the population you serve and your specific responsibilities. You can be a neonatal nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, or an acute care nurse practitioner. In contrast, a family nurse practitioner concentrates on providing healthcare services to the broader general population and their families.


To pursue an FNP or NP career, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). This can be achieved by completing a school nursing degree program and passing the NCLEX examination. However, to advance further in these roles, it is essential to obtain a master’s degree in nursing.


A variety of FNP and NP programs are available to accommodate your unique needs. These programs offer flexibility through modified class schedules and diverse course delivery formats, allowing you to choose the learning format that best suits your needs, enabling you to study at your preferred time and in your preferred manner. Enrolling in the comprehensive online post-masters FNP program offered by Rockhurst University empowers you with the ability to experience a myriad of benefits, including greater flexibility in your educational journey, unparalleled personal fulfillment through expanded knowledge and skills, and enhanced prospects to embrace a more traditional work schedule that aligns with your lifestyle and commitments.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nurse practitioner is among the top 10 occupations projected to experience significant growth from 2020 to 2030. NP employment opportunities are estimated to increase by 46% during this period. Determining the average salary for a nurse practitioner or a family nurse practitioner involves considering several factors, such as specialization, work environment, and geographic location. However, the most recent median salary was reported as about $120,700.


Understanding the differences between a nurse practitioner and a family nurse practitioner is crucial in comprehending their distinct roles and responsibilities within the healthcare field.

While both nursing and family nurse practitioners have advanced training and play vital roles in providing patient care, the latter specializes in delivering comprehensive primary healthcare to individuals of all ages, while the former may specialize in specific populations or health conditions. The demand for nurse practitioners, including family nursing practitioners, is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and pursuing a career in this field can offer diverse opportunities for professional growth an

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