Many nurses begin their careers with a future goal of becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). Among the 13 types of nurse practitioner specialties is acute care nursing. Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNP) provide care to patients in the short-term treatment of serious injuries or illnesses. They can work in hospitals, surgical centers, and trauma care clinics. Acute care nurse practitioners work in fast-paced, exciting environments. Their jobs come with incredible responsibility and variety, so there is never a dull moment.
In this article we will explore:
- What does an acute care nurse practitioner do?
- Where do acute care nurse practitioners work?
- What is the fastest way to become an ACNP?
- What is the ACNP scope of practice?
- How much does an ACNP make?
- Are ACNPs in demand?
What does an acute care nurse practitioner do?
Acute care management and disease prevention are the primary responsibilities of acute care nurse practitioners. Other duties common to ACNPs include:
- Collaborating with physicians and other members of the acute care team
- Developing treatment plans
- Diagnosing and treating acute medical conditions
- Monitoring hospitalized patients and tracking their progress
- Ordering and interpreting lab tests
- Performing acute-care procedures (casting and splinting, lumbar punctures, inserting chest tubes, intubation/extubation, wound debridement)
- Prescribing medications
- Stabilizing critical care patients
These are just a few of the job responsibilities the ACNP scope of practice covers. Employers may have additional tasks.
Where do acute care nurse practitioners work?
Emergency rooms, operating rooms, surgical centers, walk-in acute care clinics, and critical care units are all appropriate environments for ACNPs. Since acute care nurse practitioners look after and assist patients suffering from a range of acute conditions – heart attacks, stroke, respiratory distress, shock, trauma – they have flexibility in their work environment.
The role of an acute care nurse practitioner has expanded over the years. With physician shortages gripping parts of the nation, acute care nurse practitioners help fill the void.
What is the fastest way to become an ACNP?
Becoming an ACNP requires some of the highest levels of education, experience, and licensure to work as an acute care nurse practitioner. Since ACNPs are essentially nurse practitioners with a specialization in acute care, they must first complete a 2-to-4-year degree program in nursing. Once they finish their initial schooling, they must sit for the NCLEX-RN exam.
Once a nurse earns an RN license, there are some options. They can either work as an acute care RN for a few years to gain some experience or can continue with their schooling to become an advanced practice nurse (APN).
There are other requirements to becoming an ACNP:
Nurses must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that includes specialized coursework in acute care. Most accredited MSN programs include 40 credit hours of coursework and hundreds of hours of clinical study. It takes on average 2 years to complete an MSN. RN’s who already hold a master’s degree can opt for a yearlong post-master’s program that prepares them for ACNP certification. There is also an RN to MSN bridge program that is popular.
Nurses must become certified as an ACNP by their state board of nursing. Alternatively, RNs can seek national certification through an agency like the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
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What is the ACNP scope of practice?
Acute care nurse practitioners hold the same rights as all nurse practitioners in the U.S. Twenty-three U.S. states grant nurse practitioners full practice authority, meaning they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor. Acute care nurse practitioners have prescriptive privileges in all 50 states and can administer controlled substances in 49 states.
How much does an ACNP make?
Acute care nurse practitioners can expect to make an average annual salary of $112,634, according to the compensation data tracking website Salary.com. Even entry-level positions in this nursing specialty earn six figures at $100,382 (as of June 28, 2021). Some markets pay more than others for acute care nurse practitioners. The chart below outlines the top five cities and states to work in as an ACNP.
|LOCATION||PERCENTAGE ABOVE NATIONAL AVERAGE|
|San Francisco, CA||25%|
|New York, NY||20.3%|
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Are ACNPs in demand?
Like most nurses, acute care nurse practitioners are in high demand. The U.S. is in a healthcare crisis, with an increased need for acute care specialists. ACNPs are invaluable to healthcare facilities providing preventative and emergency care services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 45% increase in demand for ACNPs between now and 2029.
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