FNP vs AGNP

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There are almost a quarter million nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States. More than 60 percent work as family nurse practitioners (FNPs), but less than 10 percent work as adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs). As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), both types of NPs must matriculate from a rigorous, graduate-level nurse practitioner program prior to practicing; the most fundamental difference between the two specializations is the patient population they serve.

An FNP serves patients of all ages and backgrounds, from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood. They often work in primary care, making them the central point of contact and the first line of defense for all health issues and questions. FNPs will diagnose and treat illness, promote healthy lifestyles, and guide patients in efforts of disease prevention. All FNPs have at least a master’s of science in nursing (MSN), and some have a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), meaning that they are all experts in providing care for patients of all ages.

On the other hand, an AGNP exclusively works with adult and geriatric patients, beginning at adolescence. They can work in either primary care or acute care. Primary care AGNPs will be the familiar face for long-term patients with routine medical visits, and they typically take a wellness-based and holistic approach to medical care. Acute care AGNPs will manage critical and chronic conditions with a treatment-focused and targeted approach. Whether they work in acute care or primary care, all AGNPs hold either an MSN or DNP degree and have an intimate understanding of the aging process and the unique challenges present in the later stages of life.

The scope of practice for both FNPs and AGNPs varies by state and facility. In some settings, they may be able to prescribe medication, while in others they may only assist a health professional in performing medical procedures. However, authority for nurse practitioners is increasing.

In all cases, FNPs and AGNPs must undergo repeated professional development and continuing education to maintain competency in their specialization and stay on top of the emerging practices in the areas of nursing and healthcare.

The primary difference between FNPs and AGNPs comes down to the age of the population served, but there are further divergences, both subtle and overt, in their respective educational programs, core competencies, and certifications.

Read on to learn the details of each type of nurse practitioner.

Side-by-Side Comparison: FNP vs AGNP

FNPAGNP
DefinitionA family nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who provides family-focused care to patients of all ages, from early childhood to senior.FNPs almost exclusively work in primary care.An adult-gerontology nurse practitioner is an APRN who specializes in the treatment of adults and geriatric populations.AGNPs can focus their practice in either primary care or acute care.
EducationFNPs will hold either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).AGNPs will hold either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Featured ProgramsDuke University (MSN, 49 credits)George Washington University (MSN, 48 credits)University of Cincinnati (MSN, 50 credits)Johns Hopkins University (DNP, 81 credits)University of Washington (DNP, 93 credits)Rutgers University (DNP, 74 credits)Duke University (MSN, 42 credits)Boise State (MSN, 50 credits)Seton Hall (MSN, 48 credits)University of Washington (DNP, 93 credits)University of Maryland (DNP, 80 credits)University of Cincinnati (DNP, 76-78 credits)
Typical CoursesAdvanced pathophysiologyAdvanced pharmacologyHealthcare policyHealth promotion and disease preventionManagement and advanced practice nursingResearch and analytical methodsAGNP curriculums will vary depending upon whether they are focused on primary care or acute care. However, some typical courses include:Advanced pathophysiologyAdvanced pharmacologyPhysical assessment and diagnostic reasoningHealth promotion and disease preventionHealth concepts of agingManagement of adult and geriatric health and illness
Program AccreditationFNP programs should be accredited through one of the following organizations:Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)AGNP programs should be accredited through one of the following organizations:Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Clinical HoursMost MSN programs require at least 500 clinical hours, while DNP programs often require at least 1,000 clinical hours.Most MSN programs require at least 500 clinical hours, while DNP programs often require at least 1,000 clinical hours.
Licensing & CertificationFNPs can receive certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).AGNPs in primary care can receive certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). AGNPs in acute care may gain certification through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
Percentage of NPs in SpecializationAccording to the AANP, more than 60 percent of nurse practitioners focus in family care.According to the AANP, less than 5 percent of nurse practitioners focus in adult-gerontology primary care, and 2 percent of nurse practitioners focus in adult-gerontology acute care.
CompetenciesCompetencies for primary care FNPs include:Providing care to a diverse population over a wide age rangeDeveloping long-term treatment plans for the management of health conditions, prevention of disease, and promotion of wellnessOffering medical guidance and counseling to patients from childhood through adulthoodCompetencies for primary care AGNPs include:Developing long-term treatment plans for the management of health conditionsOffering guidance and counseling, especially with regards to disease prevention and health promotionIntegrating contemporary diagnostic and clinical methods in the delivery of primary careCompetencies for acute care AGNPs include:Diagnosing health conditions through evidence-based practiceProviding care and health assessments for acutely, chronically, or critically ill patientsIncorporating demographic factors into personalized diagnoses and treatment plans
Professional Associations & ResourcesAmerican Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)International Council of Nurse Practitioners (ICNP)California Association of Nurse Practitioners (CANP)American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association (GAPNA)Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing
The Bottom LineFamily nurse practitioners provide care to patients of all ages and backgrounds. They are proficient in pediatric, adolescent, and geriatric issues. FNPs will offer guidance and counseling regarding disease prevention and wellness in addition to diagnosing, treating, and managing disease.Often working in a primary care setting, FNPs play the long game, holding a patient’s hand over the years and transitions from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood.Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners focus on adult and elderly patients. They can work in either primary care or acute care. In addition to nursing fundamentals, AGNPs have an intimate understanding of the aging process.Their education and practice focus on serving those patients 12 years of age and older in dealing with the unique medical challenges that occur in the later chapters of one’s life.

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