Six Differences between an RN and a Family Nurse Practitioner 

While choosing a career path in nursing, it is crucial to know what skills, education and experience you require for various roles. Many students of this field aspire to become family nurse practitioners. However, first, they need to become registered nurses (RNs). Every family nurse practitioner is an RN, but every RN is not a family nurse practitioner. Besides similarities in both the roles, there are many differences in their duties. Knowing these similarities and differences, you can decide what career path to choose and what nursing degree to pursue.   

A registered nurse and family nurse practitioner vary in the following areas:

  • Education 
  • Scope of work
  • Practice authority
  • Clinical hours completed
  • Licensure / Type of certification 

In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between an RN and a family nurse practitioner.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Registered nurses help in the coordination of patient care delivery within the healthcare facility. Following are the duties performed by registered nurses (RNs):

  • Admission assessments
  • Administration of IV medications
  • Development of nurse care plans
  • Taking verbal orders from doctors or nurse practitioners
  • Provision of blood 
  • Provision of primary care to patients
  • Administration of dialysis and chemotherapy medications
  • Access or flush subcutaneous ports, PICC lines, or central lines 
  • Recording patient’s information
  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs
  • Communication with patients and their families

Family Nurse Practitioners

Family nurse practitioners must require a master’s degree in their field to practice. They can pursue masters of science in nursing FNP degree. They help promote health and prevent disease and illness by using a family-centered approach. They are responsible for the basic healthcare requirements of families from infancy through adolescence. Their duties are mostly the same as that of a physician. They diagnose patients and create treatment plans for them. Moreover, they work with patients with chronic conditions and help them manage the situation and make necessary changes. Along with these responsibilities, nurse practitioners perform the following duties:

  • Writing prescriptions to patients
  • Management of staff and other nurses in the clinic
  • Ordering lab tests and other diagnostic tests like X-rays and CT scans
  • Collection of information and samples from patients
  • Analysis of test results to find the causes of symptoms
  • Documentation
  • Follow-up care
  • Administration of routine examinations
  • Explaining treatment plans to patients and their families
  • Discussing preventive care with patients 

Procedures performed by family nurse practitioners include:

  • Suturing and stapling wounds
  • Splinting
  • Inserting intravenous lines
  • Biopsies 
  • Inserting central lines
  • Incubating

Differences between RN and family nurse practitioner

Educational requirements

The major difference between an RN and a family nurse practitioner is their education level. Registered nurses can have an associate, diploma, or bachelor’s degree to practice. However, family nurse practitioners should possess a minimum of a master’s degree in their field. 

In addition to the studies, both roles need to have training. RNs usually require at least 400 hours of clinical experience. In comparison, nurse practitioners require about 500 or more hours of clinical experience. 

Furthermore, both roles need to complete continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their licenses.  

Work environment

Registered nurses commonly work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, surgical suites, nursing homes, home healthcare, schools, or other outpatient clinics. In comparison to RNs, the nurse practitioners usually work in more private settings such as government agencies, community clinics, nonprofit organizations, or educational settings. Many nurse practitioners are also working as managers and executives. Moreover, they also work as researchers and entrepreneurs. 

Scope of practice

Based on the advanced level of education and training, nurse practitioners have a greater scope of work than registered nurses. For instance, nurse practitioners can diagnose patients or write prescriptions that RNs can not. Family nurse practitioners also learn about leadership so that they might become managers or entrepreneurs. 

Practice authority

Family nurse practitioners and RNs are quite different in their autonomy. You can witness this in the scope of practice. RNs learn how to approach the patient-provider for ordering diagnostic tests. In contrast, nurse practitioners can order, analyze, and determine treatment plans based on tests. An RN’s autonomy varies on the basis of work environment, type of specialization and experience, but they need to have a physician’s approval for almost every job duty.

Salary 

Since nurse practitioners have higher education and training than an RN, there is a significant gap between their salaries. As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of an RN was $80,010, and that of a nurse practitioner was $117,670 per year in 2020. Moreover, BLS has expected a 52% increase in the jobs of nurse practitioners between 2019 and 2029. This rise in employment has occurred due to increased nurse retirements observed at this time. Secondly, this growth is due to the enhanced requirement to deliver patient care in rural areas where there is an absence of physicians. 

Licensure 

Registered nurses are required to get licensed in the state in which they live in order to practice. The standards of certification vary based on the state. However, the following requirements are the same for all certifications:

  • Completion of the educational program at an accredited institution 
  • Background check
  • Passing NCLEX exam

Once they receive their licensure, they can acquire certification in the specialty of their choice.

For family nurse practitioners, the licensure requirements are mostly the same as that of registered nurses. However, they need to get their licensure through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Conclusion 

Becoming a registered nurse is the first step to kick-start your nursing career, but one must not stop there. Even though registered nurses are integral for a healthcare facility, there are numerous benefits, including greater autonomy and higher salaries that a nurse practitioner enjoys. Since family nurse practitioners usually coordinate with families from adolescence to old age, there is a greater opportunity to flourish in this field. In the end, whatever specialization you opt for, remember to pour your heart into it and excel in your career.