As of January 2019, there were more than 270,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) working in the United States, according to the media outlet Health Leaders. This marks a significant climb from 2018, when there were just 248,000 NPs. Nurse practitioners are essential to today’s medical landscape, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) fill a particularly vital role as the population ages. Baby boomers are advancing in age, and in light of a shortage of medical doctors, AGACNPs are in high demand to manage the care of chronic and acute conditions. Key to learning what AGACNPs do is understanding the role that nurse practitioners fill, the world of adult-gerontology acute care, and the steps required to enter the profession.
Who Are Nurse Practitioners?
Nurse practitioners are medical professionals with the ability to assess, diagnose, and prescribe medication for patients with little or no supervision from a medical doctor, depending on the state. Nurse practitioners are different from registered nurses (RNs), who always work with patients under the supervision of a doctor. RNs need only an associate degree, while NPs must have a master’s degree in nursing, though some choose to earn a doctorate.
Though the specific requirements vary from state to state, nurse practitioners usually begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They then complete an exam to become a licensed RN and spend some time gaining hands-on experience. Nurses interested in stepping into the role of nurse practitioner pursue an advanced education and must pass another exam to earn licensure as an NP. States have different laws regarding how much autonomy NPs have in their practices. Currently, 22 states and Washington, D.C., allow full practice, in which NPs can order tests and prescribe medications. Other states allow only restricted practice, which requires that NPs work under the supervision of a medical doctor.
The number of practicing NPs has more than doubled in the last decade, reducing the strain of a nationwide shortage of certified doctors. Since NPs are able to fulfill many of the duties assumed by medical doctors, they will continue to be in high demand in the coming years.
Explore the World of Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
If you’re a student with a background in nursing, you may wonder about the possibilities offered in advanced practice nursing and what you can do as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Adult-gerontology acute care is a nursing specialty. AGACNPs can treat adults of all ages, from adolescents (ages 13 to 19) to the elderly, specifically focusing on patients who are sick or battling chronic illness. Adult-gerontology acute care is different from primary care adult-gerontology, which emphasizes general care for adults.
AGACNPs typically work in hospitals and acute care settings, such as emergency rooms, trauma units, and intensive care units. They are in charge of monitoring patient health, ordering and performing tests, and developing treatment plans for their patients. AGACNPs work directly with patients from initial intake to the discharge process and coordinate care from specialists along the way. Since they collaborate with a range of medical professionals, AGACNPs need to be effective communicators and skilled team players. They also must be organized and able to explain complex medical procedures to their patients in accessible language.
How to Become an AGACNP
If you have decided that a career as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner is for you, you’ll need a combination of education, experience, and certification. Here’s how you can get started.
Earn Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees
AGACNPs need both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Typically, those aspiring to become AGACNPs begin their career paths by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. A nursing program creates a foundational understanding of biology, anatomy, and medical ethics. Students then go on to earn an advanced degree, either a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice, with a focus on adult gerontology acute care. Coursework in these graduate programs usually includes pharmacology and physical assessment.
During undergraduate and graduate coursework, you’ll also need to complete clinical practicum hours to gain experience in the field. Most programs require 500 faculty-supervised hours related to the AGACNP role. This experience is invaluable, as students learn how to navigate common problems that arise on the floor and gain confidence in their skills with the support of experienced supervisors.
Obtain State Licensure and Certification
Before beginning to practice on your own, you’ll need to pass a certification exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. After this, you must apply for licensure in the state where you’re planning to practice. Once certified, you must renew this license every five years.
Study to Become a Nurse Practitioner at Maryville University
Because of their skills, experience, and credentials, AGACNPs are essential to the medical profession. They can work in a variety of settings, such as trauma units and emergency rooms, and lessen the load on doctors by coordinating patient care, ordering tests, and prescribing medications.
Now that you know what you can do as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, if a career as an AGACNP sounds interesting, discover more about Maryville University’s online adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner programs and see how these degrees can help you reach your professional goals.