Career Profile: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
By Anne Devine, RN, BSN, BA, CBC
You’re a nurse, and you like working with complex patients in the hospital. So you’ve decided to become an acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP).
How can you make sure this is a good decision?
What is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
An ACNP is a nurse practitioner who focuses on hospital-based care with either pediatric or adult/gerontology patients. ACNPs can assess and treat patients with acute and chronic conditions.
An ACNP who works alongside physician hospitalists may be known as a nurse hospitalist.
What are the Educational Requirements for an ACNP?
ACNPs must earn a Master’s degree from an accredited school.
Competency is measured by national education program requirements and certification exams.
What does an ACNP do?
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) defines nurse practitioners as “licensed, independent practitioners who practice in ambulatory, acute, and long-term care as primary and/or specialty care providers.”
Acute care nurse practitioners can practice in:
- Physician offices
- Nursing homes
- Adult and neonatal intensive care units
ACNPs may perform the following responsibilities:
- Take health histories
- Perform physical examinations
- Diagnose and treat acute and chronic illnesses
- Prescribe and manage medications and durable medical equipment
- Order and interpret diagnostic tests
- Assess trends in a patient’s status and take appropriate actions as necessary (order treatments, medications, and tests; interpret results; make referrals)
ACNP Salary Potential
According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for advanced practice RNs (including nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives) was $100,910 per year. Salaries can vary by region, so check out salary ranges for where you live and work.
Where Do I Get Started?
- Decide which population you enjoy -- either adult-gerontology or pediatric
- Research programs approved by a nationally-recognized body like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
- Have an active registered nurse license. Licensing requirements vary by state. You can visit Nursing Licensure.org for information about your state
- Know how many years of nursing experience you need in order to apply
Ask yourself these questions:
- Will this program prepare me for the role?
- Is the program accredited?
- What percentage of graduates pass the national certification exam?
- Do I want an online, on-campus, or hybrid program?
How Do I Become Certified in My ACNP Specialty?
When you graduate, you’ll need to sit for your exam. Once you’re certified, you can use the PNP-AC designation (pediatric nurse practitioner, acute care) or AG-ACNP (adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner) after your name.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification.
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses offers a number of certification credentials, including the acute care adult-gerontological nurse practitioner (ACNPC-AG).
Nurse wishing to specialize in pediatrics can do so through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board-PNCB to obtain a CPNP-AC certification.
A Bright Future for ACNPs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing career futures are bright.
As Baby Boomers age and need more complex care, opportunities for ACNPs will thrive.
How Can You Advance Your Career?
High-paying nursing opportunities abound. As an in-demand nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve. Click here to see today's best nursing opportunities.
Anne Devine, RN, BSN, BA, CBC, is a freelance healthcare writer who lives in Seattle, Washington. She has more than 15 years of experience working with employers and clients in the academic, nonprofit, healthcare, and corporate worlds, including a medical device company, online pharmacy, and a variety of startup and software/in-the- cloud firms. With roots in public health nursing, she especially enjoys working with and writing for healthcare organizations and the professionals who keep them going.