Advances in medical treatment have caused a steady increase in the appearance of acutely ill patients that now dominate the inpatient population landscape. This increasing inpatient population has led to a great need for qualified medical professionals that can, in effect, will take the place of traditional physicians when it comes to providing quality healthcare. Nurse practitioners fulfill the role of helping provide this care and statistics also show that they help reduce patient stay while increasing patient and family satisfaction with the services received.
What Functions Do Acute Care Nurse Practitioners Perform?
An Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) are extremely needed in many emergency settings where they help to assess acutely ill people and manage the diagnosis and treatment within the inpatient or hospital facility where treatment will take place. ACNPs are found in emergency rooms, intensive care units, acute and sub-acute specialty wards, clinics or any combination. ACNPs can are legally allowed to participate in diagnostics and subsequent treatments they would proscribe. They are also involved in all aspects of patient management from admission, through treatment to eventual discharge. ACNPs typically work in collaboration with physicians and other assigned medical team members to make a fully qualified care team. The actual structure for the ACNP role may be dependent upon the setting as well as directed by any physicians involved in delivery of acute care services. However, ACNPs are fully trained to provide advanced nursing care to patients suffering brief but severe illnesses, typically in an emergency department, ambulatory care clinic or other short term stay facility. ACNPs diagnose and treat acute medical conditions, working in collaboration with the physician and other members of the health care team. The ACNP profession is one of the more fast-paced nursing career choices, and it is loaded with responsibility and variety.
Education Needed to Qualify for ACNP
You will need to be a registered nurse (RN) and have already obtained a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN). You will then need to obtain an advanced degree – typically a Master of Science in Nursing where you have a great deal of course study concentrating on acute care knowledge and skills. Once you have obtained the necessary educational credentials, you will need to be certified by a State Board of Nursing or receive national certification through an authorizing entity such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. The actual career path can look something like this:
- Complete a two- or four-year nursing degree program and be licensed as registered nurses (RN).
- Gain experience as acute care RNs before returning to school to earn an advanced degree and become an Advanced Practice Nurse.
To become an acute care nurse practitioner, you will also need to meet these requirements:
- A master’s degree is currently required to be an acute care nurse practitioner. For admission into a master’s program, you generally need to have an associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), as well as a registered nurse (RN) license; however, some programs accept a bachelor’s degree in another field, allowing you to first take the courses necessary to become an RN. You may be required to have some acute care experience as an RN prior to admission into a program.
- Master’s-level studies prepare you to become a certified ACNP, generally through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and include instruction in advanced physical assessment, nursing research, pathophysiology and pharmacology, among other topics. A nurse practitioner program specializing in acute care can take two-three years to complete. ACNP post-master’s certificate programs are also available if you’re already a nurse practitioner and desire training in acute care nursing.
Doctorate Soon Will Be Needed
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the minimum degree requirement to become an ACNP is slated to transition to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) by 2015. Acute care DNP programs are two-three years in length and include coursework in differential diagnosis, mass casualty care, chronic healthcare management, economics of healthcare, bio statistics and other subjects.
Future Career Outlook is Quite Positive
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing careers on the whole have been projected to increase 22 percent from 2008-2018 . BLS also reports that nurse practitioners overall will be in high demand, especially in underserved areas like rural and inner-city communities. Nurse practitioners in the 10th-90th percentile pay range, who had ACNP certification, earned from $61,683 – $99,411 as of May 2011.