What is an Ambulatory Care Nurse?
An ambulatory care nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who primarily provides care to patients in a community-based outpatient facility. Like other RNs, the ambulatory care nurse uses critical and clinical thinking skills, as well as mastery of nursing fundamentals to determine and deliver the appropriate treatment for the patient. However, ambulatory care is somewhat distinct from traditional inpatient care in terms of its goals, setting, and services provided. As an ambulatory care nurse, you'll communicate with patients and families to help them understand and manage their conditions, access medical resources, explore healthcare options, reach rehabilitation goals and maintain good health for life. You'll also serve as an educator and advocate for patients and communities, as you continue to expand your own nursing knowledge and skills through continuing education.
Potential places for employment include hospital clinics, physician's offices, ambulatory surgery centers and rehabilitation centers. Other options include schools and universities, workplace and military clinics, or even private home settings. Patient encounters in most of these facilities are usually singular and brief, while others involve regular contact with patients or groups. To this end, an ambulatory care nurse may use telehealth nursing to observe patients remotely and provide follow-up care, assessments or advice.
|Educational Requirements||Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing|
|Job Skills||Mastery of basic nursing practices, knowledge of medical terminology and equipment (including computer software), critical thinking, organization skills, communication and teamwork|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$70,000 (for all registered nurses)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)**||15% (for all registered nurses)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Most ambulatory care nurse jobs require valid state RN licensure. The licensure requirements will vary from state to state, but usually require a diploma or degree in nursing plus a passing score on the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam. RNs may also earn specialized credentials for ambulatory care, from organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Ambulatory care is a field that requires a high degree of accuracy, especially in facilities with a large volume of patients. Therefore, a solid, working knowledge of nursing fundamentals is important in this position, as well as organizational skills and attention to detail. The ambulatory care nurse must be able to listen to and communicate with the patient to ensure that they receive appropriate and timely care. To that end, they must also be able to communicate effectively with other nurses and doctors. Like other nursing positions, this job requires compassion and sensitivity to the needs of each patient. While this job may not always be as stressful as other nursing jobs, complications and emergencies can still happen; an ambulatory care nurse needs physical and emotional stamina to provide effective care.
Career Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for registered nurses in general was $70,000 in 2017. The employment prospects for all registered nurses are expected to increase 15% from 2016 to 2026, says the BLS. This is faster than the national average for all occupations (7%). Demand for all kinds of nurses is expected to grow as our population continues to age. Outpatient, rehab and home care facilities are also becoming more viable alternatives to long-term hospital care. However, competition for these jobs is also expected to increase; you can improve your job prospects by earning a bachelor's or graduate degree in nursing, or by choosing a specialty area.