ACNP - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Marissa Mararac

What Does An Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Do?

An acute care nurse practitioner ( ACNP ) is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in acute care nursing.  Some choose a subspecialty such as geriatric or pediatric acute care.  These nurses are also called critical care nurse practitioners.  They deal with human responses to life-threating events and conditions. ACNPs in some states have the authority to write prescriptions.  They are clinical experts with oversight for evaluating and treating patients in acute situations and assessing any changes in condition.

What Are The Job Roles For An ACNP?

Discover Nursing lists these major ACNP roles: 

  • Operates systems for life support
  • Serves as a patient advocate
  • Provides intensive therapy and intervention as needed
  • Performs assessments of conditions that could be critical

Job Characteristics  

  • Jobs have a fast pace
  • Jobs tend to be multifaceted
  • Positions are usually structured
  • Work is face-to-face with patients

What Education & Certification Is Needed For An ACNP?

All nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs).  The path to becoming an RN begins with completing a hospital program or a two- or four-year degree in nursing.  In order to become licensed to work as an RN, a candidate must pass the National Council Licensure Examination ( NCLEX-RN ). 

To enter acute care nursing, at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is necessary.  A nurse practitioner has a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and some hold doctorates.  Various types of critical or acute care certification are available from professional nursing organizations.

Among the schools offering this training are:

What Are The Degree Requirements For An ACNP?

ACNPs need an MSN.  This degree should include specialized acute or critical care coursework.  Nursing schools typically offer a two-year program that includes around 40 credit hours of classroom work plus hundreds of hours of clinical study.  Some programs permit a portion of the coursework to be completed online.

What Certification is Needed To Be An ACNP?

ACNPs must be certified by their respective State Board of Nursing or receive a national certification from one of two organizations, according to . The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) designation. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners awards certification in a number of broader areas such as Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and Adult Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) that are applicable to some ACNPs .

What Are the CEU Requirements As An ACNP?

Each state has specific continuing education requirements for RNs.  A listing is available in our CNE guide.  Continuing education is essential in light of new demands on nurses linked to legislation such as the Affordable Care Act and constant upgrades in healthcare technology.

In many cases, employers offer onsite continuing education or will pay for all or a portion of off-site training.  Some offer employees online clinical, ethical, and regulatory courses.  Professional organizations such as the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offer continuing education offerings, many of them free to members.

Completing a specified number of continuing education points is also a requirement for renewal of an ACNP certification.

Where Can I Work As An ACNP?

The AACN lists:

  • Hospital emergency rooms
  • Adult intensive care units
  • Pediatric intensive care units
  • Cardiac care units
  • Cardiac catheter labs
  • Telemetry units
  • Recovery rooms
  • Progressive care units
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Nursing schools
  • Private practices
  • Flight units


Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.

Marissa Mararac


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