You don’t need a crystal ball to know that the global population is aging. According to the report, “Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective,” by the U.S. Department of State, by 2030 there will be one billion people who are 65 or older in the world, doubling in size since 2006.
This projection is troubling because as we age the risks of disability and chronic diseases are higher, which increases the need for medical intervention. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that there is an increased risk of heart attack for men after the age of 45 and for women after the age of 55; and the NIH also notes that the risk for stroke also increases with age.
As more adults reach old age, there will be a greater need for strategic management of health treatment for elderly individuals.
The aging population can present an opportunity to you if you’re a forward-thinking registered nurse with extensive treatment experience. If you want to move up in the world as a nurse practitioner or advance into leadership and expand your ability to treat older patients, consider an online Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) degree program. You’ll explore evidence-based care management and treatment techniques, as well as acute and chronic conditions that the elderly routinely face. As an AG-ACNP, you may:
- Integrate scientific evidence into practice
- Make strategic care decisions in acute and complex settings
- Direct patient care management for older patients and others
- Communicate with patients, families and care providers to facilitate ethical decisions
All Nurse Practitioners (NPs) share similar practice responsibilities, including the assessment, treatment and management of acute conditions and chronic illnesses, regardless of the patient population. AG-ACNPs, however, focus on caring for adults (teens, middle adults and older adults, including the elderly) with complex and often life-threatening illnesses and who require ongoing monitoring and intervention.
AG-ACNP Scope of Practice
But what does an AG-ACNP do? You can learn more about the role by looking at the Adult Gerontology Acute Care and Primary Care NP Competencies by the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Some of the competencies specific to the AG-ACNP include:
- Promotes safety and risk reduction for the adult gerontology population
- Provides age appropriate wellness promotion and disease prevention services
- Collaborates with the patient, family and others to provide palliative and end-of-life care
- Develops a plan for long-term management of chronic health care problems with the individual, family, and health care team
- Uses interventions to prevent or reduce risk factors for diverse and vulnerable adult populations, particularly adolescents and frail older adults
Gaining skills to lead in two different environments — the clinic’s floor and the clinic’s management office — requires a degree program that blends hands-on practice experience with advanced care techniques, scientific theory and research, as well as how to be an effective nurse leader. This blend of academia and clinical experience helps you gain confidence in making complex, strategic decisions in clinical situations for older patients who have acute or chronic health challenges.
Any online adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program you choose should balance academics with clinic hours to provide a solid foundation of knowledge and experience that translates into providing top-notch care for at-risk elderly patients. Here are some other factors to consider as you research online AG-ACNP degree programs.
AG-ACNP program accreditation
Accreditation indicates that a school and/or their degree program meets certain educational standards set by various accrediting bodies. For instance, nursing programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) have met standards established by the CCNE.
Accreditation can notably give you confidence in a particular school or program, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it will better prepare you to practice as an adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Some non-accredited programs may deliver the same quality but have simply not yet met all of the stringent requirements set forth by accrediting bodies.
AG-ACNP exam pass rates
A key element of an online AG-ACNP program is preparing students to sit for one of the the board certification exams to earn the AG-ACNP credential. Check to see if the college you are considering posts their graduates’ first-time pass rates. If this information is not available online, contact the school directly to see how well their AG-ACNP degree program prepares students to sit for certification exams.
Online AG-ACNP curriculum
Managing the care of gerontology patients as a nurse practitioner requires curriculum that combines academic study with clinical practice and faculty who can effectively teach both. Search for an online AGACNP degree program that includes clinical hours and immersion programs to ensure they have adequate hands-on experience. Collaborative learning will also help you integrate complex ideas and practical treatment techniques in real-world clinical settings.
AG-ACNP coursework may include topics such as:
- Disease detection and diagnosis
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Complex and chronic disease management
- Advanced pharmacotherapeutics
What’s it like to study to become an AG-ACNP? Curriculum may vary by program, but you can get an idea of what to expect by looking at this sample full-time AG-ACNP course schedule.
Online and on-campus students meet the same requirements in an AG-CANP program. However, online students have the flexibility to study on their own, where they want and when they want, as long as the course requirements are met.
AG-ACNP clinical hours
Even AG-ACNP programs that offer 100 percent online courses may still require clinical practice to graduate. Before enrolling in an online AG-ACNP program, check out the clinical practice requirements and see whether you can find a facility in your area that satisfies the program’s clinical component.
Immersion or intensives
Most online students are required to be on campus for occasional instructor meetings or to participate in in-person learning events. Degree programs value “immersion programs” or intensives because they help students integrate advanced techniques while allowing professors to evaluate their progress. Ask the schools you’re researching how many on-campus events you’ll have to attend to learn more about their program.
The average AGACNP program takes about two years of full-time participation; part-time students will take three to four years to complete the degree program. You may be able to find accelerated online programs, but be mindful to not overload yourself with too many classes, especially if you are working full time or have other personal/professional responsibilities outside of school.
If you are self-directed, disciplined and able to plan ahead and complete study assignments when they’re due, an online classroom environment may be exactly what you need.
However, if you’ve never taken an online class, then you may be surprised that the flexibility of an online education requires greater self-discipline to meet all of the requirements of an advanced degree. The ability to pre-plan is essential to online class success. Although the flexibility of studying anywhere and anytime may sound ideal, it can also be challenge if you enroll in a program that doesn’t offer a rich human component. Programs that feature live-streaming classes and group projects may feel more engaging, and depending on the type of student you are may also help hold you accountable.
As an online student, you should:
- Possess up-to-date technology (high-speed internet, software and hardware that’s compatible to the online class platform, etc.)
- Commit to studying about 10 hours per class per week
- Work independently to meet the program requirements
Online Doctor of Nursing Program
Build on your MSN with this terminal professional nursing degree.