What is an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
Table of Contents
An acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) is someone who provides advanced nursing care to patients suffering brief but severe illnesses, typically in an emergency department, ambulatory care clinic or other short term stay facility. The ACNP profession is one of the more fast-paced nursing career choices, and it is loaded with responsibility and variety.
What does an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner do?
Acute care nurse practitioners diagnose and treat acute medical conditions, working in collaboration with the physician and other members of the health care team. In medical terms, care for acute health conditions is the opposite from chronic care, or longer term care. Hospital-based acute inpatient care typically has the goal of discharging patients as soon as they are deemed healthy and stable.
Acute care nurse practitioners can care for patients suffering from acute conditions such as heart attacks, respiratory distress syndrome or shock. They also care for pre- and post-operative patients, and may perform advanced, invasive diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.
Because of the extensive amount of education and specialized training acute care nurse practitioners receive, they have the ability to diagnose their patients ailments and treat an assortment of injuries and illnesses within the spectrum of their practice. They can also prescribe special medications, perform screenings exams, provide x-rays, assign patients to rehabilitation programs, open their own clinics and become primary health care providers for their patients.
Some of the duties acute care nurse practitioners are in charge of:
- diagnosing and treating their patients medical condition (within their field of speciality)
- reviewing their patients medical history (to ensure that the patient receives proper medical care and that treatment is safe)
- prescribing medications (related to their field of expertise)
- taking x-rays
- performing screenings
- researching the newest and latest medical procedures in order to advance their knowledge
- performing physical exams and prescribing rehabilitation therapy to patients in need of rehabilitation as well as other medical related tasks
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How to become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Acute care nurse practitioners are nurse practitioners (NPs) with a specialty in acute care nursing. They must first complete a two- or four-year degree in nursing and be licensed as registered nurses (RNs). Most gain experience as acute care RNs before returning to school to earn an advanced degree and become Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs).
To become an acute care nurse practitioner, you will also need to meet these requirements:
- You will need to get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that includes specialized ACNP coursework. Nursing schools usually offer this degree as a two-year program with about 40 credit hours of coursework, plus hundreds of clinical study hours.
- If you already have a master's degree in nursing, you may be able to prepare for ACNP certification with a one-year post-master's program.
- Once you have completed your nursing school training, you must become certified by your State Board of Nursing or receive a national certification from an agency such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
What is the workplace of an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner like?
Acute care environments include hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes, emergency rooms, operating rooms, critical care units, and walk-in clinics. All are clinical environments that utilize high tech equipment, skilled staff, and a variety of support staff. Acute care nurse practitioners may also serve as case managers and team leaders.
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