Acute Care Nurse Salary and Career Opportunities
Written By: Vonda J. Sines
Acute care is a nursing specialty. Nurses in it generally work with patients for only a short time. Typical duties might include treatment after surgery or for a chronic illness.
An acute care nurse is a registered nurse (RN). Just as the demand for RNs is robust, so is the number of acute care nursing vacancies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of jobs for RNs will increase 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average.
In 2012, the median pay for RNs was $65,470 per year. Specialties generally pay more. For advanced practice specialty nurses like acute care nurse practitioners, annual compensation averages $91,450, according to Nurse Journal.
Acute care nurses are highly skilled and in demand. Rasmussen College points out that they need to learn something new each day and must solve conflicts with time management. Job needs change continually due to new developments in health care.
Paths to Increase Acute Care Nurse Salary
The starting point of an acute care nursing career is the RN credential. Candidates must complete one of several types of nursing programs and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (RCLEX-RN) to be eligible for licensing in the state where they want to work.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses indicates that because of a nurse shortage, many hospitals now offer acute care orientation and internship programs. By taking positions in acute care subspecialty areas such as oncology, cardiac care, or geriatrics, nurses can advance their careers. A majority of these positions require acute care nurse practitioners. This advanced practice designation requires prior experience and at least a master’s degree in nursing.
Acute care nurses can also increase their compensation by becoming certified. The American Nurses Credentialing Center cites as certification examples:
- Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN)
- Tele-ICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN-E)
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in Adult Gerontology (ACNPC-AG)
Additional steps on the career ladder include advancing to a charge nurse or becoming a nursing educator or administrator.
Some nurses opt to boost their salaries by working as travel or per diem nurses. Employers often provide financial help for relocation expenses and housing needs. Search travel and per-diem ACNP jobs now.
RNs employed as acute care nurses might have an interest in moving into these related specialties:
- Flight/transport nurses accompany critically ill or injured patients during a transfer from one treatment location to another. Many of these individuals require acute care such as transfusions and high-tech monitoring. Certifications available include Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) and Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN). See what jobs are available for flight and transport nurses.
- Telephone triage nurses provide first-responder advice for acute medical problems such as possible ingestion of a poison. Some work in crisis centers where they take calls from possible victims of sexual assault. They must use acute-care knowledge to quickly assess the nature of a problem, calm callers, and steer them to the right treatment facility if one is required. See open positions for telephone triage nurses.
- Rehabilitation nurses working in acute rehabilitation facilities bring valuable experience to the treatment of individuals who have undergone traumatic injuries, suffer from debilitating illnesses, or have had specific surgery. Because of their acute care background, these nurses are able to help patients benefit from a rehabilitation program that’s both intensive and multidisciplinary. Explore opportunities for rehab nurses now.
Further Your Career
Acute care nurses have plenty of opportunities for career advancement and increased salary. A number of job boards show an abundance of available jobs. These nurses are highly skilled and enjoy great demand, and openings are in available in a variety of settings beyond hospitals. Continued hiring growth makes the outlook for this nursing specialty a truly positive one.
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, womansday.com, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.