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Family NP or Adult NP: Which Specialty Should You Choose

Posted by Hilary Applequist, revised by Sara Giboney Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2024

Family NP or Adult NP Which Specialty Should You ChooseHave you been thinking about going back to school to earn a doctoral degree to become a nurse practitioner? As a nurse practitioner (NP), you'll find a rewarding career in high demand.

Roles for nurse practitioners are expected to grow much faster than average for all other occupations. NP job growth is expected to be 38 percent between 2022 and 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are also multiple NP career paths that you can pursue - family nurse practitioner (FNP) and adult gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP). Both are important roles with many benefits.

At Nebraska Methodist College (NMC), you can earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) to become a nurse practitioner.

Specialization Benefits: Family NP vs. Adult NP

As a nurse practitioner with any specialization, you will meet with patients, treat ailments and dispense advice. You will diagnose illnesses and determine what the best course of action is for the patient, referring them to a specialist if necessary. 

As a nurse practitioner, you’ll be able to prescribe medications and treatment options.

You’ll have opportunities to work in hospitals, clinics, urgent care, home healthcare, facilities for veterans, colleges and universities, elderly care facilities and more.

Family nurse practitioners treat patients of all ages, from infancy to old age. They work in primary care, conducting health assessments, diagnosing illnesses and treating minor injuries.

Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioners specialize in working with post-adolescent patients, typically 13 years of age and older. 

Many AGNPs work in emergency departments and intensive care units.

NMC has two DNP nurse practitioner tracks:

  • BSN to DNP - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • BSN to DNP - Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

The family nurse practitioner track allows you to gain the knowledge, skills and clinical experiences necessary to diagnose and treat patients of all ages. 

In the adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner track, you’ll learn to develop, implement, assess and advance new practice approaches for healthcare delivery to post-adolescent patients.

Read more: Why You Should Choose NMC for Your DNP

Impact on Healthcare: Family NP and Adult NP Contributions

Hospitals and clinics are hiring advanced practice registered nurses more than ever before to increase access to care. A shortage of healthcare personnel, especially in rural areas, has created an increased demand for nurses with advanced degrees.

As a registered nurse, you have a thorough understanding of the needs of patients and the systems within the healthcare system.

Nurses understand not just the technical aspects of their jobs but the intricate systems at work in a hospital system and the interpersonal dynamics that can shape an entire organization. 

That knowledge along with the skills gained during nurse practitioner programs, helps improve patient outcomes and community health.

NMC’s DNP programs teach holistic healthcare treatment with an emphasis on provider-patient interaction. 

Read more: Four Reasons Why More Nurses are Earning a DNP

Family NP vs. Adult NP: Differences in Lifespan Care

Both paths give you the ability to provide primary care for people throughout the lifespan. Family nurse practitioners care for those from birth to death, while adult gerontology nurse practitioners care for those ages 13 through death.

If you want the option to care for those younger than 13, the FNP is the degree for you. If you know you never want to take care of a toddler with a raging ear infection, then the AGNP is the way to go.

Choosing Between Family NP and Adult NP: Locations of Care

NPs provide care to people across the lifespan in all parts of the country, from the rural town to the largest metropolis. Nurse practitioners work in various settings, including acute care sites, private practices, schools and nursing homes.

You want to pick the track that will allow you to care for the type of patient you desire in the setting that most interests you.

If you want to work in a family practice primary care clinic or a quick trip type clinic, the FNP is the obvious choice. AGNP programs will prepare you to work across settings where adults seek care. Keep in mind that some hospital systems are beginning to require NPs who work inpatient to acquire acute care certification.

Which DNP Specialty Should You ChooseHolistic Care Approaches in Family NP and Adult NP Specialties

Both the FNP and AGNP track build on the holistic care you already provide as a registered nurse. As you move to the head of the bed to direct care, you’ll provide care to each person you meet with a focus on the whole person. That holistic care means you’ll recognize that each patient is more than the disease or symptoms prompting them to seek care.

The Growing Need for Family NPs and Adult NPs in Healthcare

Excellent primary care providers are the unsung heroes of care in America given more adults are being diagnosed with chronic diseases. People are living longer with chronic diseases, which means it will be imperative to have enough providers to meet their needs. Unfortunately, statistics suggest there will be a shortfall of primary care doctors.

Nurse practitioners are well positioned and trained with the skills to fill this gap. Training as a FNP or AGNP will position you to provide excellent primary care.

Educational Pathways: Family NP vs. Adult NP

To pursue a career as a family nurse practitioner or adult gerontology nurse practitioner, you’ll need to earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice.

At NMC, you can earn your doctorate by enrolling in one of the following programs:

The BSN to DNP program admission requirements are:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited college or university.
  • A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale in the bachelor’s of nursing program.
  • Current RN license. 

During the nurse practitioner doctoral program, students take classes such as healthcare finance, advanced health assessment, advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, maternal and children nursing theory, population health and biostatistics.

During the adult gerontology nurse practitioner program, students take classes such as healthcare finance, environmental health policy, population health, epidemiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced pathophysiology.

Students complete a doctoral scholarly research project. The experience provides students with an opportunity to serve as change agents through project completion. 

The project process allows students to identify a gap or problem in practice. They review resources and research regarding best practices related to the issue. Students then implement evidence-based change to address the issue and evaluate the effectiveness of the change.

Read more: Should You Get a DNP? What You Need to Know Before Applying

Student Support and Resources at Nebraska Methodist College

NMC’s College of Nursing understands the unique circumstances of online graduate students, which is why faculty and staff provide a high level of support.

Some of the support and resources offered at NMC include:

  • Virtual meetings with NMC’s librarian for assistance researching a topic, writing in APA style and more. 
  • Access to the Center for Research, Education and Teaching Excellence (CREATE!), which provides students with help navigating Brightspace, the online learning platform used by the College.
  • A small faculty-to-student ratio for DNP students’ doctoral scholarly projects. The same faculty member works with the student throughout the 13 months of the project, from concept to dissemination.

Graduates say the DNP programs at NMC are rigorous but can be completed while working full-time.

“Faculty are very knowledgeable and supportive to students. Throughout the process of the doctoral scholarly project, they were present and engaged to guide me along the way,” said Maria Douthett, a graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Practitioner program at NMC. 

“It was definitely worth all the work. I became a provider working in a community clinic allowing me to improve the health of an at-risk population.”

Graduate students at NMC are eligible for financial aid, including scholarships, grants and student loans.

Students who work at Methodist Health System may be eligible for a tuition discount or for the Tuition Assistance Program, which provides up to $3,500 a year for tuition.

Read more: Why You Should Choose NMC for Your DNP

Are you ready to launch your adult gerontology or family NP career? Apply to NMC today or learn more about NMC’s DNP programs by contacting our admissions team at 402-354-7200 or

Topics: Family Nurse Practitioner, graduate programs, Doctor of Nursing Practice, nurse practitioner