Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) are trained and educated to provide an extensive range of preventive as well as acute health care to patients of any age. From recording patient medical histories to performing physical exams to diagnosing and treating a number of chronic problems, ACNPs provide a full range of care. ACNPs also read and interpret lab results and X-rays, prescribe medication, and offer counseling to patients on how to maintain their health. ACNPs are authorized to practice nationwide; however, each state has its own licensing requirements.
While registered nurses (RNs) can work in acute care, becoming a nurse practitioner specializing in this field is the next step for career advancement. Critical care nursing means that RNs must be comfortable with a variety of medical technology. Some of this equipment includes: hemodynamic and cardiac monitoring systems, mechanical ventilator therapy, intra-aortic balloon pumps, and other life support devices. Most importantly, as first responders, they must be very accurate and very fast in assessing injuries and health conditions, as well as planning the next step in appropriate patient care.
Degree Options and Career Information
Coursework in most MSN Acute Care Programs includes advanced physiology and pathophysiology, comprehensive adult health assessment, assessment of the critically ill, clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, cardiopulmonary, trauma, end of life care, diagnosis and management of complex acute care problems, and dealing with families in crisis.
Programs take 1-2 years to complete after which students must have 1750 hours of treating critical or acutely ill patients and then take the critical care examination. Postmaster’s certificate programs can be taken afterwards to specialize in areas such as pediatric acute care.
- ACNP Requirements: To practice as an ACNP you must be a licensed RN, complete a master’s or doctorate degree with a specialization in acute care, and pass the National Board certification.
- Work Environment: ACNPs can work in employee health centers, colleges and universities, student health facilities, school clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, and any other health care facility where patients can be treated.