Greatest Need and Fastest Growing Nurse Specialty
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) are a sub-specialty of nurse practitioners providing mid-level care to adults in a variety of hospital-based departments. They are unique because they maintain a whole-person approach to treating patients and families who are coping with the stresses and strains of sudden and severe illness and hospitalization.
Even though they’re working with acutely ill patients with complex medical problems, ACNPs can connect the dots between the different clinical services that exist to treat various problems that a patient may have. This connection helps to create continuity of care for patients and families, so ACNPs are like the glue that binds the various clinical services together around the patient – to create seamless, well-coordinated care.
Areas of Expertise for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners are members of the healthcare team, providing skilled care to patients in almost any clinical area. Examples may include services such as cardiology, diabetes, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, pulmonary medicine, transplantation, and radiology.
Unlike other Adult NPs who may practice in either community settings or hospitals, ACNPs focus their education and training in hospitals, where patients today have ever more complex healthcare needs involving multiple medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, in addition to the acute problems causing hospitalization.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners are experts at assessing and managing acutely ill patients within a wide variety of clinical settings ranging from anesthesia services to neurology and radiology.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners can legally diagnose and treat patients’ diseases and conditions. In addition, some ACNPs direct patient care from the time of hospital admission to the time of discharge. Acute Care Nurse Practitioners collaborate with physicians and other members of the healthcare team to improve patient care in many ways. ACNPs also may track their patients into outpatient settings to ensure a successful transition from one setting to another. The exact structure of the role can vary and depends strongly upon the specific agreement an ACNP has with the physicians and other members of the healthcare team.
Options for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners
Some ACNPs choose to stick with one clinical area for their entire career, while others move around and work in different areas. The benefit of staying in one clinical area is a greater depth of knowledge and skill, which grows over time.
Nurses who choose to switch to different clinical areas develop a broader clinical base. Both kinds of career approaches are useful, and demonstrate the career flexibility that ACNPs have. The flexibility inherent in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner role creates job mobility, which generally means more options are open. Because of the variety of roles to choose from, ACNPs have a career that can change with them – throughout their lives.
ANPs may also conduct clinical research or manage research projects of all sizes. In these important roles a broad range of skills from history and physical taking to patient education, to data analysis and scientific writing may be put to use.