Mar 18 2024

The different settings that FNPs work in


Career advice

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are increasingly the primary care providers of choice in the United States. As the demand for doctors increases and their time becomes better spent with acute patients, FNPs are filling the need for skillful routine care. Some of these medical professionals are experts in specific realms of care, making them a universal asset in medicine. This article will explore where FNPs work and how they care for patients with everything from the common cold to cancer.

How do you become an FNP?

FNPs are advanced practice professionals with a lot of education behind them. They are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) responsible for diagnosing and treating illnesses, managing chronic diseases, advising the public on common health concerns, and engaging in continuous education. FNPs need to hold an MSN degree in order to practice. Nurses wishing to study further and specialize in family care can look into enrolling in post masters FNP online programs which are becoming increasingly popular. For example, Wilkes University offers an online post-graduate/APRN certificate for aspiring nurse practitioners, which provides students with the knowledge crucial to providing care to patients with various concerns.

What do FNPs do?

While some responsibilities will vary depending on role and area of expertise, there are some universal duties that the vast majority of FNPs will carry out, including those listed below: 

      Administering medication

      Educating patients

      Diagnosing health concerns

      Interpreting and ordering health tests

      Managing care plans

In other words, FNPs can accomplish every facet of primary care, from diagnosis to treatment. They are trained to work with patients across a broad spectrum of ages, from babies to elderly individuals and everyone in between. That doesn’t mean that FNPs have to treat all ages, but they are typically trained to do so.

Beyond the everyday responsibilities mentioned above, FNPs often carry out several additional tasks depending on their expertise. Family primary care providers will likely spend time conducting wellness exams, vaccinating patients, and managing treatment plans. On the other hand, FNPs specializing in female health are likely to spend more time conducting physical routines and analyzing test results. Their responsibilities will revolve closely around female health, with time spent on patients outside that sphere held to a minimum.

FNPs can specialize in various areas, including those listed below:



      Women’s health

      Elderly care

      Public health

      In-school care

      Acute trauma

These are just a few of the many options; we’ll explore some in more detail below. It is worth noting here that FNP duties also vary depending on the workplace. For example, FNPs who work exclusively in an emergency department will have different responsibilities than those who work in a private pediatric doctor’s office.

With all that in mind, let’s look at where FNPs work and what each location entails.

Traditional vs. specialized environments

There are two broad categories of FNP workplaces: traditional and specialized. Traditional environments include hospitals and care clinics. In those locations, FNPs typically fill most of the universal duties described earlier in the article. In specialized environments, on the other hand, they are more likely to take on additional roles specific to the workplace. Specialized environments include female health offices, pediatrics, schools, public health, primary care, and academia.

Traditional settings

Traditional FNP work settings primarily include general care clinics and hospitals.

Care clinics

FNPs working in care clinics typically work alongside other healthcare professionals like physicians. They are responsible for patient consultations, treatment administration, conducting examinations, and developing ongoing care plans while remaining in close contact with other members of their patient’s care team. In addition to working as primary caregivers in care clinics, FNPs often serve as acute trauma care providers in urgent care facilities.

Community health centers

Community health centers function similarly to hospitals and care clinics but are typically low-cost to the community. This kind of healthcare facility provides affordable and accessible primary care to populations traditionally underserved. More specifically, community health centers focus on the unique health concerns in individual communities to provide culturally sensitive and comprehensive care.

FNPs promote health literacy and support care initiatives through community health centers that seek to expand the reach of treatment options. For example, some of these might encourage older patients, sometimes less willing to seek medical care than other populations, to contact the center for detailed care options.


FNPs work in hospitals in a variety of capacities. Sometimes, they focus on emergency departments and provide urgent care and life-saving treatment to patients with injuries and health emergencies. Other times, they focus on surgical floors, providing crucial post-surgical care. Labor, delivery, and intensive care are other common locations where FNPs can be found in hospitals.

FNP inpatient practice is an ever evolving and expanding need in most hospitals nationwide. Wherever care is needed, and doctors are scarce, you will almost assuredly find a qualified FNP, filling the care gap and providing impeccable care.

Specialized environments

In addition to the traditional environments listed above, FNPs also work in a variety of specialized environments. These are workplaces that require special training beyond the foundational concepts of FNP knowledge. Each one of them employs professionals with a deeper understanding of the specific population in question. From women to toddlers and even aspiring nurse practitioners, here are just a few of the most common specialized work environments for FNPs.

Female health

First, many FNPs work closely with female patients to ensure that female-specific health is a priority. This includes carrying out annual wellness examinations and interpreting related test results, diagnosing acute issues, determining an effective care plan, and sometimes providing prenatal care and postnatal care. It is unusual for FNPs specializing in female health to also care for more general health issues better served by more generalized primary care providers, but they can weigh in on these matters if necessary.


Children grow at an exponential rate. They have many milestones to meet and skills to develop, and sometimes we need professionals who are experts in those areas to ensure they are developing properly. FNPs that specialize in working with small children (pre-adolescent) are pediatric care providers. Following and measuring the development of things like fine motor skills and verbal communication are under their purview, and they can run necessary tests if children do not seem to be developing at a healthy rate.

Pediatric nurses work in care clinics as well as hospitals and doctor’s offices, providing specialized care to anyone who needs it.


Schools are increasingly turning to nurse practitioners when it comes to providing care to students of all ages. FNPs are ideal for this as they typically have a robust foundation of knowledge regarding common health ailments as well as wound identification and dressing and medication administration. These health professionals provide care to students with basic and temporary needs such as a scratch or flu as well as students living with more complex and chronic disorders. Children with diabetes or cancer (assuming they are well enough to attend class), for example, require more detailed care.

Depending on the school in question, FNPs not only provide care for students in need but also take charge of communicating with their guardians and, sometimes, other care professionals on a child’s care team. Students with diabetes or cancer diagnoses are a great example of students who likely have many professionals tied into decision-making and treatment development. FNPs have experience interacting with other healthcare professionals and balancing complex needs, making them an ideal solution for health communication.

 Public health

Public health FNPs are responsible for helping the sick to recover well and keeping the healthy stay well. Public health professionals promote and protect the health of widespread populations using knowledge and tactics from nursing, public health science, and social science. When combined, these disciplines ensure that FNPs deftly maneuver around cultural concerns and community-specific obstacles and provide care to the people who need it. Public health nurse practitioners usually care for a wide gamut of people of all ages and with all manner of health concerns. More specialized care might be passed on to more specialized FNPs, of course, but public health FNPs provide the bulk of general care to patients in need.

Primary care

We’ve touched on primary care and the important role that FNPs play in it, but we haven’t gone into detail about what primary care encompasses. In general, primary care FNPs fill the same needs that primary care doctors serve. As the number of doctors available in the United States dwindles, the reliance on FNPs to ensure that access to care is not diminished is increasing. Patients of FNPs can consider their healthcare professional a one-stop-shop for basic medical needs. If you think you have the flu, for example, you can visit them for a second opinion. If you’ve noticed a difference in your body or mood, you can make an appointment. If you need medication, health exams, tests, and even treatment for chronic conditions, FNPs are the right choice.

For many patients, there is little to no difference between the care they’d receive from a doctor and the care they receive from an FNP.


We’ve covered why FNPs are important for patients and how they facilitate comprehensive healthcare, but that’s not all they do. Experienced FNPs are also important to students hoping to break into the profession. More specifically, FNPs can serve as faculty in institutes of higher education. While not everyone will be able to find a job in academia, they typically have the qualifications needed to legally enable them to teach.

In addition to teaching lectures and practical courses in nursing schools and universities around the country, FNPs can also help students by taking them on as mentees and showing them the ins and outs of patient interaction. This experience is invaluable for students as it prepares them for the reality of working one-on-one with other people.

FNPs make a difference

Nurse practitioners are an important part of the healthcare industry in the United States, and FNPs are some of the most crucial. These professionals cover everything from patient outreach to patient care and even education. No matter what health issue you are facing, chances are good that the right FNP can help. This is especially true for those who have specialized in a particular area of medicine and acquired advanced knowledge to provide the best care possible. If you’re interested in becoming an FNP, use the information above as a starting point and pick the best specialty for you. 


Tags: Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs), Primary Care Providers, Specialized Healthcare Environments, FNP Responsibilities, Healthcare Work Settings