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Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Degree Program Information

Learn about online degree programs for family nurse practitioner. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed a master's or post-master's degree program with a specialty in family nursing practice. Courses in an online family nurse practitioner program consist of advanced study in pathophysiology, health assessment and pharmacology. Students learn about health promotion and maintenance as well as getting instruction in diagnosis and disease management.

In-person clinical training is usually required, so fully online programs aren't common. Instead, students can enroll in hybrid formats that combine online coursework with a clinical experience that must be completed at an approved medical facility. On-campus attendance may also be required for workshops, seminars and skills assessment. To apply to one of these programs, prospective students need to hold licensure as a registered nurse (RN) and have one to two years of nursing experience.

An alternative program that may be offered entirely online is a general Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). While these programs do not train students specifically in family nursing, they can still help RNs advance their careers in the field, without requiring on-campus attendance.

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Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can provide primary care in remote areas where physicians and hospital resources are far away or cost-prohibitive. Family nurse practitioners are advanced care specialists in family health care, and they are trained to assess and manage the medical needs of mixed populations in outpatient and ambulatory settings.

Online master's programs for family nurse practitioners are designed for licensed RNs with at least 1-2 years of clinical experience, and they consist of 50-65 classroom hours and 750-850 clinical practicum hours. Full-time students can complete a program in as few as five semesters, although some part-time schedules extend to five years.

Program Info and Requirements

Programs typically offer all classroom material and study resources online. Courses may be a combination of prerecorded lectures that can be viewed at any time and online live classroom events, which offer the remote student a chance to participate interactively.

Remote students need a computer with multimedia capabilities, a browser and high-speed Internet connectivity. Some schools and professors may have specific hardware and software requirements, so students should consult their distance-learning departments before purchasing new equipment.

In addition to remote coursework, the program may require students to attend some workshops or seminars in person. In some cases, students are asked to visit the campus for a final skills assessment at the conclusion of the program. These on-site visits are typically scheduled well in advance, so that students have plenty of time to make travel arrangements. Clinical practice is a vital part of family nurse practitioner training, and schools work with students to select a preceptor and primary care site located near the student's home for the required hours of supervised clinical training.

Course and Class Information

Students in an online family nurse practitioner program are experienced RNs, and courses focus on health assessment, health maintenance, decision-making and leadership required of advanced care practitioners.

Foundations of Family Health Care

This class discusses the diagnosis and management of common acute and chronic health problems experienced by family patient populations. It provides students with strategies to help educate clients about good health practices.

Health Assessment

Nurse practitioners require critical thinking and decision-making skills when assessing the health status and health risks of family populations. Students are exposed to techniques useful for generating differential diagnoses and managing treatment options.

Health Care of Childbearing and Childrearing Patients

Students develop a scientific knowledge-base for assessing and managing the health care needs of infants, children, adolescents and childbearing mothers. Students learn to consider the needs of the whole family in addition to those of the patient.

Advanced Pathophysiology

This course provides a deeper understanding of changes to cells, biorhythms and primary body systems due to aging, external factors and disease. The physiologic effects of various treatments are also explored.

Issues in Health Care

The course examines legal, economic and political pressures exerted on health care organizations and providers. It also investigates their effect on patient populations and the quality of care.


Career Information

Family nurse practitioners can be cost-effective primary care providers in the absence of physicians in remote or rural settings, as well as valuable staff members in agencies like hospitals, community health clinics, private practices, government health departments and nursing schools. According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary for family nurse practitioners in October 2016 was $88,274. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that nurse practitioners, including family nurse practitioners, would increase by 35% between 2014 and 2024.

In online MSN programs for aspiring FNPs, trained nurses study advanced medical and healthcare administration topics, especially as they relate to family care. Graduates may seek traditional roles within large medical facilities or serve as primary care providers in rural communities.

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