What are the different settings a family nurse practitioner can work in?

If you ask anyone who is a family nurse practitioner to share their views on the question of work, you’re likely to get a different answer every time; all jobs are different, and all work environments require different skills – speedy decision-making, time management, empathy, various soft and hard skills. This is no surprise: after all, every experience of practicing as a family nurse is different, and no two experiences of this diverse job are similar.

If you’re a family nurse practitioner in a hospital, for example, it’s highly likely that you’ll be experiencing lots of fast-paced movement when it comes to managing demands like emergency patient intake and serious operations. Those who work in a community health center have more predictable days working in a less urgent environment – although, given the volume of patients, community healthcare is equally important for public health.

What does this mean for people planning to enter the role of a family nurse practitioner? Continue on to learn more about the responsibilities of this vital healthcare position.

What is a family nurse practitioner? 

Prior to exploring a potential career as a family nurse practitioner, it’s first important to ensure that you understand what this phrase means and what healthcare workers in the role offer. A family nurse practitioner is someone who “provides a wide range of family-focused health care services to patients of all ages, including infants, adolescents, adults and seniors.”

In practice, this means that they are often responsible for working with a whole host of different types of people to help boost their health outcomes. Usually, family health nursing involves working with people over time rather than for one experience; it can mean building extended relationships with people and ensuring that those who are being helped have somewhere to turn when they need medical advice.

Fortunately, it’s a profession with diverse opportunities for specialization: family health nurses are needed in a huge range of settings, so you can build a bespoke career around that.

Learning how to become a family nurse practitioner at a respected institution such as Texas Woman’s University, is highly important for students who want to develop their care skills and provide quality assistance to the vulnerable members of society. The question that many people considering this path want answering is, where do family nurse practitioners work?

Primary care settings

Primary care providers are the first point of contact for your healthcare needs. To some, the presence of a family health practitioner in a primary care setting may seem unusual. After all, family health practitioners often work by building long-term connections with their patients by getting to know their patients and their needs. In contrast, the purpose of most primary care is to assess and triage patients, not necessarily to build deep relationships between provider and patient.

Interestingly, in recent years, family health practitioners have worked in primary care settings as a way of reducing the burden on the other primary care staff. For example, a person who comes to a primary care office with generalized complaints of nausea will be assessed by a general practitioner who will order any tests to rule out problems related to serious health conditions. However, a family nurse practitioner will approach the situation differently, doing more complete assessments that include determining if any lifestyle-related issues are the root cause of nausea. A family nurse practitioner may advise on any dietary changes or use their knowledge of pharmacology to suggest over-the-counter medication.

Unlike some other types of nurses, family nurse practitioners are permitted to work independently. For this reason, they are often able to both assess and treat patients without sending them to other practitioners for consultations.

This is especially true in remote places, where patients may not be able to secure the services of a doctor; a family nurse practitioner who travels around by car may be the main healthcare professional for that area. In this instance, a family nurse practitioner would not be someone whose services were “prescribed” by a doctor but would instead be the one carrying out the triage side of the primary care, and perhaps referring patients out when necessary. This is one of the reasons why family nurse practitioner roles are considered advanced positions and requires specific training to qualify to practice.


Family nurse practitioners in hospitals can have a variety of roles. In many ways, they’re likely to be carrying out the same tasks that they would be carrying out in other healthcare settings, such as the community health center or the primary care environment: building relationships with patients, advising on bespoke ways to improve health outcomes, and so on. In this sense, the skills required are quite similar. This is a common characteristic of family nurse practices across different contexts: rather than changing the skills needed, family nurses tend to apply the same ones in different settings.

But there is likely to be a subtle difference in the level of urgency involved in tasks in a hospital. As a hospital is a place for more serious cases, such as emergency treatment or operations, the amount of urgent response required in a setting like this is strong.

Family nurse practitioners are unlikely to be on the front lines of the emergency room dealing with patients as they come in, but they are often needed in other contexts around the hospital; they may, for example, build a nursing relationship with a patient who needs aftercare following a significant and invasive operation.

And while family nurse practitioners do not exclusively work with people who have a family, it’s definitely the case that such professionals in hospitals are likely to come across more new parents as a result of the presence of maternity units.

With so many new parents in one place, many of whom perhaps with questions about what they need to do to ensure that they and their baby stay healthy, a family nurse practitioner can strike up a relationship with the new family and ensure that they get the information and support they need to make the best health choices for them as they embark on this new journey. Texas Woman’s University is an excellent choice to gain the skills needed to help families and babies maintain health and well-being.

Community health centers 

A community health center refers to a type of institution that helps people medically on the ground in environments where people experience low incomes or deprivation. This differs from a primary care setting in that a community health center is often not in the same part of the institution as the area for those who have health insurance; the community health center may be designed for those who do not have insurance.

The challenges here for a family nurse practitioner are likely to be broad. For example, studies have shown that there is a correlation between socioeconomic background and experience of addiction. One study found that experiences of opioid overdose were higher in locations that were less economically secure.

While this does not mean that someone who is using a community health center is necessarily going to have addiction-related issues, it does mean that certain such experiences are likely to be over-represented in this type of setting. In this setting, it’d be useful for a family nurse practitioner to ensure that they have the specialist training to work in this environment, and to have the resilience to hear what stories of traumatic backgrounds may be.

It’s also important for a family health nurse in such a context to be sure they aren’t prejudiced. Sometimes, nurses working in a community health center will come across situations that are likely to cause them to wonder how the patients in question got to where they did. But it’s vital for the family nurse practitioner to be sure that they treat everyone equally no matter what.

Specialty clinics

And yet another option you have available to you if you’re considering becoming a family nurse practitioner is the specialty clinic. This option is often chosen by people who want to pick up advanced knowledge in a particular technical area, perhaps because it’s one they’ve got an academic or professional interest in.

One such clinic might be a maternity clinic for those who are having difficult pregnancies. A family health nurse in this scenario might work with those who are pregnant to help them understand what medical conditions they are experiencing and how best to manage them, like back pain, neck pain, and post-natal depression, among other side effects of pregnancy.

They may also offer blood tests and other ways of helping to pinpoint the conditions involved and work with the person over time, even after giving birth. There are lots of different types of specialty clinics out there in which a family nurse practitioner could work, and they cover everything from rehabilitation clinics for those who have had serious injuries to infectious disease treatment locations.

How to choose your setting

If you’re studying to be a nurse and you’re thinking of specializing as a family nurse practitioner, then it’s likely that the next question you’re going to need to answer is which setting you want to work in.

The first thing to do is to ensure that you have all the information about what life is like in one or the other of the settings. It is important to consider your options before you commit yourself to a setting that isn’t right for you. You want to know upfront if the environment is too pressurized or the shift work required doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

One way to get some further information about this is to try an internship. Programs at Texas Woman’s University offer options to experience a work setting as a student. This is something that your college or learning institution might be able to arrange, so you should speak to your advisor. Often, colleges have links with healthcare settings and can set up internships easily. Another way to do it is to correspond with people who are already doing it: your college will provide you access to an alumni network, or you may be able to look on Facebook or other social networking sites to ask questions about pathways from people who are already there.

Final thoughts

In short, choosing a healthcare setting if you plan to work as a family nurse practitioner is not a simple task. The fact that family nurse practitioners build long-term relationships with people means that this is a service that is needed everywhere. Whether it’s in the specialist environment of a clinic supporting new mothers or in an environment where there are people experiencing the effects of poverty or low incomes, it’s clear that there is a place for a family nurse practitioner in plenty of different locations. A key first step is ensuring you choose the best possible study and settings; you too can find a position that works for your career in this interesting and stimulating profession.

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