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A Day in the Life of an FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner)

Trailblazers / A Day in the Life of an FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner)
A Day in the Life of an FNP - an FNP examining a patient's knee.
July 6, 2022

Most articles about the typical day in the life of any healthcare worker usually starts with the phrase “there is no typical day”. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true! There’s no typical day for any healthcare worker, and a day in the life of an FNP (family nurse practitioner) is no exception.

I chose to become an FNP because of the amazing flexibility it offers. FNPs can work in various areas of healthcare, from primary care to specialty clinics to inside the hospital. Each setting has different routines and flexibility that so many of us crave after working as a registered nurse.

FNPs see patients of all ages and different diagnoses. Not only is every day different, but so is every single patient visit during each day. On any given day, I will see patients with chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension. I also perform well-child checks, newborn checks, prenatal visits, and sick visits of all ages –all in one day.

The broad scope of practice makes it almost impossible to portray a day in the life of an FNP. So instead, we’ll discuss the average day for an FNP working in a primary care clinic simply because it’s the most commonplace for FNPs to work. We’ll walk through what my day usually looks like in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) primary care office.

FNPs can work in hospitals, specialty clinics, and more, as we’ve discussed in other articles, so check those out to learn all about more opportunities FNPs are afforded.

If you’re interested in becoming an FNP but not quite sure it would work for you, keep reading to learn more about a day in the life of an FNP!

A Day in the Life of an FNP

6:00 am – Wake up

Usually, FNPs working in a family practice clinic start their workday between 8 am and 9 am. Therefore, an FNP's days need to start even earlier so they can prepare for the whole day. I start my day with breakfast, a quick work out, and a shower. While this is early, it is not as early as the time most registered nurses (RNs) start their workday (7 am for a 12-hour shift). This is a meaningful perk that can make being an FNP worth it. It also gives me a little more flexibility to be on the same schedule as my husband. Thus, we can spend some time together in the morning.

7:30 am – Arrive at the clinic and prepare

Most FNPs will arrive between 7:30 am and 8 am to prepare for their patients. I usually arrive at the clinic by 7:45 am to start prepping for my day. This is the time I take to discuss patients with my assistants and answer any urgent tasks.

Most of the time, looking at the schedule for the day and preparing for those patients can really make a day in the life of an FNP much easier. You can designate time to review patients' need instead of rushing through during the visit. Many FNPs try to do this so that they can focus on the patient instead of charting.

8:00 am – Morning patients

Nowadays, a day in the life of an FNP is busy! Most primary care providers see patients as often as every 15 minutes. This can vary throughout the day and be as high as 16 patients in the morning alone. I usually see twelve in the morning and twelve in the afternoon on a full schedule of 24 patients. This schedule depends on the location as well. Most clinics seem to have a three patient an hour rule and are laid out in the following structure:

  • 8 am, 8:15 am, and 8:30 am….. With no patient at the 45 min mark
  • 8 am, 8:20 am, and 8:40 am….. With patients every 20 minutes

Either way, it equals three patients an hour. Some locations have patients every 15 minutes throughout the day, however most do not.

An FNPs patients will vary by the chief complaint they report as well as the time they need to be assessed. Sometimes they’re well and require their annual physical or screenings like blood work or pap smears. Other times they are there for their chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension checkups. Patients can also have an acute issue like an injury or illness, which is generally called a sick visit. These patients will usually range in age, from newborns to the elderly, and everything in between. An FNP can also see patients during prenatal care, perform certain procedures, and participate in visits related to mental or behavioral health and substance abuse.

Personally, I see a lot of chronic disease management and well-child checks. Still, I can also do procedures like IUD or nexplanon insertions and removals. Procedure ability will vary by location, but most will offer to train you if you’re interested in learning how to do a specific procedure.

In between visits, I’m answering messages and calls, completing tasks, reviewing labs, and filling out paperwork, which can get hectic! Everyday in the life of an FNP is a good day.

12:00 pm – Lunch break in the life of an FNP

After a busy morning, a lunch break is essential to recharge. Most primary care providers will get between 30 to 60 minutes to eat and try to relax from the busy morning. I get 60 minutes, which is a huge bonus for my clinic. I usually find a quiet spot to eat and read or listen to a podcast– something to take my mind off of work. Many providers tend to work through their lunches, trying to catch up from the morning. However, a day in the life of an FNP requires time to take a break, so most FNPs try, even if it’s not for their whole lunch break.

1:00 pm – Afternoon patients

The afternoon is similar to the morning for FNPs, mine included. They see patients on the same schedule as they did in the morning and continue to deal with issues as they arise.

Some primary care providers will have specific days or afternoons dedicated to certain patients, like a procedure day or a well-child check afternoon. If it’s not one of those special days, the afternoon is usually full of the same variety as the morning.

4:30 pm – Wrap up the day

Typically, a day in the life of FNP will wrap up by 5 pm, with the last patient scheduled between 4 and 4:30 pm. This gives FNPs time to end their day by finishing up charts, answering any last messages, and emptying their tasks and paperwork inboxes. They can also use this time to prepare for the next day and catch up on pending tasks like calling patients, reviewing labs, refilling medications, etc.

Honestly, I’m usually still seeing patients during this time, right up to 5 pm. This keeps me there until about 5:30 pm most nights while I finish charting, paperwork, answering tasks, etc.

5:00 pm – Head home

An FNP can head home when all tasks are done and the patients are gone. A day in the life of an FNP is almost complete. Sometimes they finish charts and prep for the next day, but it should mainly involve resting and recharging for the next day!

Even on days where I’m running behind, I’m home by 6 pm. That's a sharp contrast to working as a hospital nurse and getting home at 8-8:30 pm sometimes. I have the evening recharge and spend time with my husband before doing it all again.

The end of the Day in the Life of a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Does a day in the life of a FNP sound like a good day to you?

Before working as an FNP, I worked as a hospital nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit. This was stressful, hard, and sometimes traumatic work, and it burned me out. If you feel like you’re in the same position, start thinking about what other options there are out there. There are many different places for nurses to work, FNP being one of the many.

If A Day in the Life of a Family Nurse Practitioner sounds like a good day to you, check out United States University’s FNP program and start your journey today!

Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C is a NP, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, blogging, and healthcare worker wellness. She has been in nursing since 2014. Alison works in intensive care, women’s health, and primary care as an RN and FNP. Her specialty topics include mental health, health and wellness, yoga philosophy and practice, and community health. She also serves as a health coach and mentor to other nurses and healthcare workers with regards to healthy lifestyles and mental health.