Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Schools: How to Choose

Acute care nurse practitioners care for patients with chronic and critical conditions. They work in a team with physicians and other nurses to identify, treat and restore a patient's health. The field is open to experienced and registered nurses. Master's degrees and post-master's certificate programs are available.

Experienced nurses can find several highly ranked schools that offer programs that enable them to redirect their careers toward the particular subfield of acute care nursing.

Top 10 Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Schools

According to the 2016 rankings of U.S. News and World Report, these are some of the best acute care nursing schools in the country:

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private $38,060
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private $1,568 per credit
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private $36,216
Rush University Chicago, IL 4-year, Private $947 per credit
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public $37,392 in-state, $43,290 out-of-state
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 4-year, Private $1,219 per credit
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private $1,408 per credit
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 4-year, Private $1,891 per credit
University of Maryland--Baltimore Baltimore, MD 4-year, Public $682 per credit in-state, $1,252 per credit out-of-state
University of California-San Francisco San Francisco, CA 4-year, Public $26,803 in-state, $39,048 out-of-state

Source: *U.S. News and World Report

School Selection Criteria

These are some things to consider as you choose a nursing school that offers programs in acute care nurse practitioner:

  • Acute care nurse practitioners must be certified, which can only be obtained by passing the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNPC) examination, so it is important to look for a program that prepares students for this exam.
  • Consider the program prerequisites for the different types of program: a post-master's certificate program requires that students be licensed registered nurses, possess a master's degree in nursing and have completed nursing experience of at least one year; a master's degree program requires students to possess a nursing bachelor's degree and have one year of experience.
  • Find out what proportion of the coursework is dedicated to clinical work.
  • Find a program that fits your schedule. The didactic portions of acute care nursing certificates and degrees are sometimes offered online, at night or on weekends and these alternative schedules may permit students to continue working while completing their classroom studies.

Master of Science in Nursing - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Students in these 2-year programs complete approximately 45-credit hours of courses. Clinical rotations may include oncology and neurosurgery. Students must also complete a comprehensive exam, research project or thesis paper.

Post-master's Certificate in Acute Care Nursing

Consisting of 27-45 credit hours, these programs require a year of study. Clinics are held in emergency rooms, intensive care units and rehab offices. Some programs allow learners to specialize in a specific area of acute nursing such as cardiology or digestive health. Students learn how to assess critically ill patients.

Aspiring acute care nurses can get the necessary training by enrolling in an accredited program that offers strong classroom-based training and hands-on clinical experience.

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