Welcome to another exciting article comparing Family Nurse Practitioners with Acute Care Nurse Practitioners!
Today, we’ll walk you through every key difference between FNP and ACNP.
At the end of this article, you will learn the similarities and disparities between FNP and ACNP, their scopes of practice, the salary differences, how to choose between the two careers, and lots more.
This article discusses the following and more:
- FNP vs. ACNP – Overview
- Roles and Responsibilities
- Training and Education Requirements
- Licensure and Certification
- Salary and Job Outlook
Let’s dig in!
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) vs. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) Overview
Regardless of their degree programs and certifications, all Nurse Practitioners diagnose, assess, manage, and treat acute episodic disorders and chronic illnesses.
All Nurse Practitioner specializations are represented by the AANP (American Association of Nurse Practitioners).
Some people may be confused about the differences between a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP).
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are APRNs (Advanced Practice Registered Nurses) who engage in disease prevention.
They also diagnose, assess, manage, and treat injuries and illnesses, often independently.
Every NP Specialty offers patient care to one of six distinct patient populations, with additional specialization in acute care and primary care roles.
Acute care directs to the management of more intense periods of sickness that commonly necessitate hospitalization.
Primary care can cover the management of both chronic and acute disorders as long as they aren’t life-threatening.
ACNPs (Acute Care Nurse Practitioners) furnish care in hospitals and many other institutional care settings, whereas Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) provide general care to people of all ages.
The quality of care they provide and the intricacy of the problems they’re educated to manage to distinguish these two categories of nursing practices.
When deciding on a specialty, most prospective Nurse Practitioners weigh the cons and pros of FNP vs. ACNP.
Continue reading to learn more about the fundamental distinctions between FNP and ACNP.
Roles and Responsibilities
One area where FNP and ACNP differ is in their professional obligations.
Primary care is one of the professional tasks of Family Nurse Practitioners.
Their expertise extends beyond the treatment of non-life-threatening illnesses to the domain of preventative care, which includes education and working with patients to improve adherence to treatment plans.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners work with patients who have complex health conditions that have the potential to kill them.
ACNPs are trained in difficult procedures such as central line placement and intubation that may be required to stabilize their patients in addition to diagnosing and formulating treatment plans.
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, FNPs are APRNs that provide a broad scope of family-concentrating services to children, infants, adolescents, adults, older adults, and elderly citizens.
Diagnosis, treatment and physical exams including pharmaceutical remedies are all components of the FNP’s scope of practice.
Within this expansive scope of practice, Family Nurse Practitioners might decide to specialize by earning credentials in areas such as obesity, diabetes, mental health, pain management, women’s health, and further health-related topics.
One of the most substantial health services delivered by Family Nurse Practitioners is preventative care.
FNPs assist in lessening the amount of repeated Emergency Room hospitalizations and visits per patient.
This they do by educating ill people on healthy lifestyle choices and advising them to go with treatment suggestions, elevating patients’ lifespan, and lowering the overall expenditures of medical maintenance.
Where Do FNPs Work?
FNPs can be found in any healthcare environment that provides primary care.
These word settings include:
- Doctor’s offices: FNPs assist Doctors by diagnosing illnesses, providing tests, and establishing treatment strategies
- Their own private practices: FNPs are granted full practice power in twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia
- Hospitals: FNPs work in hospital emergency departments, ordering diagnostic tests, performing initial assessments, and prescribing treatments for patients with non-acute health problems
- Community clinics: FNPs commonly work in community clinics with patients who are unable to receive care in traditional settings due to insurance issues, language problems, or expensive prices
The main distinction between FNPs and ACNPs is that ACNPs are more concerned with the cure of medical disorders that appear suddenly and advance smoothly to become futuristically life-threatening.
This structure of specialist remedy is provided in hospital Intensive Care Units, emergency departments, and other areas where critically unhealthy patients are cared for.
You are expected to select between two specialties in ANCP, each with a distinct target population.
AG-ACNPs perform on adults and the elderly, whereas PACNPs operate with adolescents and children suffering from ailments such as cystic fibrosis, which are more typically associated with children.
Where Do ACNPs Work?
The work environment is a part of the contrasts between FNP and ACNP considered most significant.
ACNPs operate in any area where patients seek treatment for serious injuries or illnesses with intense symptoms and quick onset.
Among these acute care settings are:
- Critical Care Units: Pediatric and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners manage and diagnose illnesses and exacerbations of chronic conditions in pediatric Intensive Care Units, critical cardiac care units, and Intensive Care Units (ICUs)
They may undertake procedures such as central line placement and intubation, especially if they operate in non-teaching hospitals with no residents or medical interns.
- Emergency Rooms: Pediatric and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners offer medical services, coordinate triage efforts, and supervise patient admissions to hospital units in emergency departments
- Operating Rooms: ACNPs (Acute Care Nurse Practitioners) may acquire responsibility for postoperative and preoperative care until a patient is released to a non-surgical inpatient establishment, depending on the licensing laws in the states where they practice
Registered Nurses who have completed a DNP, an MSN Program, or an ACNP or FNP Certificate depending on their chosen field of expertise are all AG-ACNPs, PACNPs, and FNPs.
They do, however, take various certification exams.
FNPs take tests from either the AANP or the ANCC, whereas AG-ACNP Exams are conducted by both the AACN and the ANCC.
The PNCB oversees the certification exam for PACNPs.
Education Requirements, Licensure, and Certification
To appear for their separate certification examinations, AG-ACNPs, PACNPs, and FNPs must all finish a BSN, an MSN, a DNP, or a Post-Master’s Certificate in their chosen field of expertise.
While there will be some overlap in the coursework they study, prospective Acute Care NPs will focus more on collaborative management, advanced pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology.
Their clinical preceptorships will be in the types of acute care facilities they may one day work in.
On the other hand, aspiring FNPs are more likely to complete clinical hours and rotations at ambulatory care facilities and community organizations.
Registered Nurses (RNs) with a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or an MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) degree work as FNPs.
The NONPF (National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties) announced some years back that by the beginning of 2026, all Nurse Practitioner Programs for the entry-level Nurses must have to move their attention from the MSN Program to the DNP degree.
Nonetheless, Family Nurse Practitioners with MSN degrees will be excused.
Future FNPs must go through a certification exam executed by both the AANP (American Academy of Nurse Practitioners) and the ANCC after concluding their educational study in FNP Programs.
NPs who choose to become FNPs but hold a master’s in other NP fields can receive a post-certificate master’s with a Family Nurse Practitioner population focus.
One significant distinction between ACNP and FNP is that ACNP Nurse Practice is no more an Advanced Practice Nursing specialization.
Adult-gerontology ACNP Nurse Practice and Pediatric ACNP Nurse Practice have taken their place.
PACNPs and AG-ACNPs, like FNPs, must obtain a post-certificate master’s or a DNP or an MSN degree in their preferred specialty.
By 2026, the admission conditions for these Nursing specializations will switch from Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice.
AG-ACNPs are expected to go through an exam provided by the AACN (American Association of Critical Care Nurses) or the ANCC to get licensed, while the PACNP Exam is dispensed by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board).
FNP vs. ACNP Salary
ACNPs have slightly greater wages than FNPs, albeit this varies significantly depending on the city and state where the NP works.
FNPs make an average of $96,100 a year, while ACNPs make $103,100.
The disparity in pay is likely attributable to the fact that ACNPs are most frequently employed in hospital and medical center environments, where pay is typically greater.
Family Nurse Practitioner’s Salaries vary depending on where they work.
However, the average annual compensation for an FNP is a little over $96,100, or $46.50 per hour or $8,100 per month.
The states with the highest salary for FNPs are New York, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Alaska.
Even though remuneration is a part of the contrast between ACNP and FNP, the average pay gap between the two is not big.
ACNPs make only 6.5-7.1 percent more than FNPs.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners’ mean annual salary is $103,100, or approximately $8,600 per month and $50.10 per hour.
Acute Care NPs in Alabama and other regions of the south may probably make more finances than Family Nurse Practitioners in states like New York and California.
When weighing the benefits of FNP vs. ACNP, salary should be the last thing on your mind.
Major Differences Between FNP and ACNP
Scope of Practice
According to the APRN Consensus Model, PACNPs, AG-ACNPs, and FNPs all have different scopes of practice.
Both PACNPs and AG-ACNPs work with acutely ill patients who have complex, frequently unstable illnesses.
On the other hand, FNPs work with individuals who have health problems but are otherwise healthy.
This is the main distinction between FNP and ACNP.
Work Settings and Population Focus
PACNPs work with critically sick babies and children under the age of 18, while AG-ACNPs work with critically ill elderly citizens and adults.
FNPs see patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.
Acute Care NPs operate in specialist hospital units such as pediatric Intensive Care Units, critical care units, emergency departments, trauma units, and specialty wards like pulmonary and neurological units.
Their competencies are also put to good use in sub-acute settings like rehabilitation centers and cardiac step-down units.
Nurse Practitioners who practice in primary care settings are known as Family Nurse Practitioners.
These include community health clinics, hospital wellness clinics, Physician offices, and other ambulatory venues (in places where practice restrictions allow them).
They frequently serve as counselors to healthcare institutions and other supervised care systems, as well as enterprises in the healthcare industry and government bodies.
The majority of PACNPs and AG-ACNPs work in medical facilities and hospitals that are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
That implies these two Acute Care Nursing fortes may be required to work random shifts (11 p.m.–7 a.m.), night shifts (3 p.m.–11 p.m.), and any other weekend.
ACNPs may also be called into work during the holidays.
Workplaces with FNPs are more probable to follow regular 9-to-5 corporate hours.
Versatility and Marketability
Because their schooling qualifies them to work in both acute and primary care, PACNPs and AG-ACNPs are more versatile than FNPs.
Acute care procedures and protocols, on the other hand, are not covered in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.
FNPs must be deemed more marketable than PACNPs or AG-ACNPs because they serve a considerably more diversified demographic.
FNPs have a broader area of practice, which makes them more appealing to potential employers outside of critical care settings.
This is the determining factor for many aspiring Nurse Practitioners who are debating between ARNP and FNP.
The fact that AG-ACNPs have no training in treating children is a handicap.
While children may not make up a big portion of an urgent care clinic’s patient load or hospital emergency department, such facilities do treat them on occasion, and the ideal employee will have pediatric care among his or her skill sets.
PACNPs are also limited in their ability to treat adults when looking for work outside of a pediatric critical care unit.
Every five years, all Nurse Practitioners must either complete clinical practice and continuing education requirements or retake a certification exam to maintain their practicing qualifications.
ACNPs no longer have the option of taking a qualifying certification exam because the general Acute Care Nurse Practice Specialty was eliminated in 2014.
They can recertify, though, if they can show they’ve completed at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice in their field.
FNP vs. ANCP Job Outlook
When deciding between FNP and ACNP, one of the considerations prospective Nurse Practitioners examine is the relative ease of getting future employment.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners hold much fewer job prospects than Family Nurse Practitioners.
This is largely due to a severe shortage of primary care medics in the United States.
According to a forecast printed by the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2020, the country’s primary care Physician shortfall will reach 55,010 by 2033.
FNPs (Family Nurse Practitioners) can be great, low-cost alternatives to primary care Doctors, especially in jurisdictions where they are allowed to practice without medic supervision.
Post-Acute Care NPs work in hospitals, and the 25.9% of American hospitals that are teaching hospitals are far-fetched from having a strong need for their services because residents and medical interns perform a lot of the tasks that PACNPs and AG-ACNPs do in non-teaching hospitals.
If the job demand is your main reference in choosing a Nurse Practitioner Specialty, getting an FNP degree may offer more advantages over seeking a degree connected to the offer of acute care, as these important contrasts between FNP and ACNP demonstrate.
True, FNPs make slightly less than PACNPs and AG-ACNPs, but they have a lot more job prospects right now.
Of course, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, more healthcare services that are geriatric will be required.
Family Nursing is a vast practice area as well.
If your professional appeals alter or narrow over time, having received your initial Nurse Practitioner training as an FNP may make it more effortless to adjust to a new practice field.
The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam was abolished by the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) in 2014.
FNP vs. ACNP is now simply one of your concerns if you’re an Advanced Practice Nurse interested in providing acute care.
In the end, if functioning in the fast-paced acute care setting thrills you, then either the AGACNP or PACNP alternatives are the path to follow.
When deciding between FNP and ACNP, go with the specialty that interests you the most.
What is ACNP Meaning in Healthcare?
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) are certified, educated, and licensed to provide care for people who are physiologically unstable, critically ill, and highly vulnerable to complications. They also care for people who have rapidly changing conditions or have chronically complex illnesses, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
Can Acute Care NP Work in Primary Care?
Since their Nursing degree qualifies them to work in both Primary and Acute Care, PACNPs and AG-ACNPs are more versatile than FNPs and are Primary Care Providers. Acute Care procedures and protocols, on the other hand, are not covered in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.
Can FNP Work in ER?
The FNP is the greatest specialty for ER practice. Scholars in Family Nurse Practitioner Programs learn how to care for patients of all ages. Although studying basic care for a future in emergency medicine may seem paradoxical, primary care is the cornerstone for all other specializations.
Can FNP Work in Hospitals?
FNPs can work in the hospital setting in areas like the emergency department, as part of hospitalist groups, in specialty inpatient and outpatient offices, and in long-term care settings, thanks to their extensive clinical expertise and ability to manage patients of all ages.
Is the NP Job Market Saturated?
Market saturation is caused by the fact that some specialties are in higher demand than others. The job market for Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners for instance is far from saturated. If you’re a specialized NP looking for work in a small town, a few other similar local providers may be all it takes to make the employment market feel crowded.
Which Nurse Practitioner Specialty is Easiest?
PNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner). Again, this is a specialty with a primary care focus on a particular demographic, not Acute or Critical Care, making it one of the easiest Nurse Practitioner specializations to enter.
What Type of NP Makes the Most Money?
Nurse Anesthetist appears to be the highest-paying job for NPs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the hourly income for a Nurse with an MSN or Critical Care is $87.5 as of May 2019, making it one of the easiest Nurse Practitioner specializations to gain acceptance into.