If you want to expand the scope of your practice and take the next step in your nursing career, consider becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). These nurses are the most highly trained and educated, holding either a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing (DNP) degree. APRNs perform similar functions to doctors and may even practice independently.
For individuals who want to focus their delivery of care on a particular population, there are numerous APRN specialties to choose from. One such specialization is the AG-ACNP. Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (AG-ACNPs) specialize in acute care for young adults, older adults and the elderly.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) estimates that just two percent of Nurse Practitioners are certified in Adult Gerontology Acute Care. This means there may be less competition and more opportunities for nurses who aspire to open their own practices.
In addition to the general functions performed by APRNs, AG-ACNPs may perform specific functions in delivering care of adult patients with acute, chronic and critical conditions. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), AG-ACNP competencies include:
- Identifying the presence of co-morbidities, age-related changes, their impact on presenting health problems, potential for rapid physiologic and mental health deterioration or life-threatening instability and the risk for iatrogenesis
- Assessing individuals with complex health issues and co-morbidities, including the interaction with aging and acute and chronic physical and mental health problems
- Analyzing the relationship among development, normal physiology, and specific system alterations that can be produced by aging and/or disease processes
- Planning and implementing interventions to support the patient to regain and maintain age-specific physiologic and psychological stability consistent with the patient’s goals of care
- Providing physical patient support such as manual lifting and movement while meeting safe patient handling guidelines
Complete a graduate nursing program
According to the AANP, 97.7 percent of NPs have graduate degrees. If you want to specialize in providing care for adults, look for a Master’s of Nursing (MSN) program with an emphasis on Adult Gerontology Acute Care. Online AG-ACNP degree programs generally require about two years of full-time participation to complete; part-time students may take three to four years to earn their degree.
AG-ACNP curriculum may include such topics as:
- Disease detection and diagnosis
- Health promotion and disease prevention
- Complex and chronic disease management
- Advanced pharmacotherapeutics
If you don’t yet have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you might consider an online RN to SMN bridge program that allows RNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to earn their master’s.
Earn Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification and/or license
After completing an online AG-ACNP degree program, Acute Care Nurse Practitioners must earn a national certification and/or be certified by the state’s board of nursing. Two organizations award the AG-ACNP certification: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
Both certifications will allow you to practice as an Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. You may also need to apply for an Advanced Practice License through your state’s board of nursing. Nurse practice laws, regulations and licensure requirement are specific to each state. Refer to the AANP’s interactive state practice map to see license requirements where you live or work.
If you’re thinking about becoming a Nurse Practitioner, the AG-ACNP is just one of many paths you can take if you want to focus your practice. Other NP specialties you might consider include:
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) – FNPs emphasize wellness and prevention, but are also able to provide treatment for everything from mild ailments to acute conditions affecting any member of the family across the entire continuum of care.
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) – WHNPs are experts in woman-focused health care and disease prevention, as well as managing chronic and acute health conditions affecting women of all ages.
- Nurse-Midwifery – Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) specialize in women’s reproductive health and childbirth, but may also serve as primary health care providers to women throughout the lifespan.
Ready to start comparing programs?
See which AG-ACNP program is right for you.