Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Career and Education Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an acute care nurse practitioner. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about job duties and licensure, to find out if this is the career for you.

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Acute care nurse practitioners provide critical care and treatment for patients with serious medical conditions. They need a master's degree and a nursing license in the state in which they wish to work.

Essential Information

Acute care nurse practitioners work with patients who have serious conditions, often requiring surgery. These professionals' work environments vary from hospitals to nursing homes. Acute care nurse practitioners must hold both undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing as well as a state nursing license.

Required Education Master's degree
Additional Requirements Registered nursing license and nurse practitioner certification; specialty certification available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 35% for nurse practitioners
Median Salary (2015)* $98,190 annually for nurse practitioners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Acute Care Nurse Practitioners

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurse (RNs) is the largest occupation in the healthcare industry. They work in close proximity to patients, providing critical care and carrying out the treatment that a doctor has prescribed. RNs are also responsible for maintaining health records and performing diagnostic tests.

According to O*Net Online, acute care nurses are the branch of nursing that provides care for patients with advanced chronic conditions such as heart attacks or shock. These professionals often provide care before and after an operation. Due to the severity of the conditions they see, acute care nurses must be knowledgeable in life support skills. They must be able to make a diagnosis based on observations and data interpretation.

While acute care nurses mostly work in hospitals, they also work in physician's offices, nursing homes and outpatient care centers. The hours worked can vary, but many jobs require night shifts or periods of being on-call. Acute care nurse practitioners may have nursing aides and other nurses reporting to them.

Education Overview

In order to become an acute care nurse practitioner, individuals must first complete a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) program and then earn a master's degree in acute care nursing. BSN programs require students to be knowledge about the sciences, particularly biology, microbiology and anatomy. Many BSN curriculums require student to complete their sciences along with their general education coursework prior to beginning the nursing courses. The nursing track includes professional experience in addition to lecture-based learning.

Graduate programs in acute care nursing may require an applicant to be a licensed RN with the state in which the program is located or to have previous critical care experience. These programs include advanced scientific coursework in pharmacology, patho-physiology, epidemiology and practice-related topics like patient care management. Many programs include clinical training requirements in addition to the coursework.

Any prospective program should be accredited by a nationally-recognized accrediting agency such as the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission, Inc. or the American Association of Colleges of Nursing's Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. State boards require graduating from an accredited program to become licensed.

Licensing Requirements

Becoming a licensed nurse requires a BSN and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN), which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Individual states establish testing eligibility. Some state nursing boards may have additional requirements for licensure.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

The BLS reports that in 2015, nurse practitioners earned a median annual income of $98,190. In addition, the BLS noted that employment opportunities for nurse practitioners are expected to grow 35% from 2014-2024. Demand for nurse practitioners is predicted to be especially high in rural and urban areas of the country where adequate medical care is lacking.

Acute care nurse practitioners need a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing as well as a master's degree in acute care nursing. They must also meet testing eligibility requirements and pass required exams and procedures to obtain a license in their desired state. Acute care nursing practitioners care for patients, perform diagnostic tests, and maintain health records.

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